Archive for December 16th, 2010

(Czechoslovakia 1965 18 minutes)

Director Jiri Trnka; Screenplay Jiri Trnka; Music Vaclav Trojan; Cinematography Jiri Safar; Editing Hana Walachova; Animators Jan Adam, Bohuslav Sramek

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

Jiri Trnka, the grandfather of Czech stop-motion puppetry, wasn’t known for making films with a political slant until he made his final film – The Hand. Trnka took advantage of a reforming, relatively relaxed, period in the Communist Czechoslovakia of the mid-1960s (President Novotny rolled back censorship and encouraged the creative arts) to make a cri-de-coeur against authoritarianism.

The Hand is about an artistic, sharp-nosed and sensitive looking man living in a one-room flat. He spends his time making pots in which to arrange his plants. His life is soon disrupted, however, by a giant hand. The hand pokes through his window and walks through his door. It towers down from his ceiling and smashes his pots.

The hand encourages him to mould the clay into the shape of a hand. It encourages him to think only of the hand. The television beams images of hands that are powerful, strong and righteous. We see the Statue of Liberty’s hand holding the torch aloft and we see the hand that holds the scales of justice. Tellingly a pair of hands form the silhouette of a rabbit, well known to all children. The hand, therefore, is capable of illusion. It can appear to be something that it is not.


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