Jan Švankmajer‘s Historia Naturae Suita showcase various species in eight categories, ranging from crustaceans to humans. Each category’s presentation is set to a track in a certain genre of music. Beautiful visuals are provided in the form of live and preserved specimens, skeletons, vintage images, and life sized 3D models with the use of stop motion techniques. It’s an engaging trip back to biology class.
This short could be considered on the tamer end on the unusual scale of Švankmajer’s work–although insectophobes may be a tad grossed out of the close ups. Aside from this, the close up shots are truly remarkable and show the beauty and detail of each specimen on display. Contrast between color and monochrome is easy on the eyes and creates a first class mini exhibit. The stop motion animation makes for a nice transition to each scene, one noteworthy sequence being the montage of bird eyes. Transition speed is at a comfortable pace, so the film isn’t dizzying like The Last Trick–every scene is easy to take in.
The variety in the music fits the characteristics of each category, with bolero being used for insects and their hurried movements (the creepy vibe of the track is relative to the disgust most humans show for insects) and polka for the apes because of their playful and inquisitive nature. Every species is arranged in a certain perspective, depicting the progression of evolution; from sea to land–water organisms to land-sea hybrid creatures, and eventually humans.
A male’s mouth is shown consuming a steak throughout the film with an unimpressed expression, perhaps a critique of how the average person has become out of sync with nature and overlooks the wonders of the organisms that form the animal kingdoms.
Watching Švankmajer’s Historia Natura, Suita is an intriguing visual experience that come highly recommended.
Jan Švankmajer (born 4 September 1934 in Prague) is a Czech surrealist artist. His work spans several media. He is known for his surreal animations and features, which have greatly influenced other artists such as Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, The Brothers Quay and many others.