The incomparable Jan Svankmajer has created yet another fantastical surrealistic
journey into an imaginary world parallel to reality. This story of Otesánek
has elements found in such tales as Adam & Eve, Faust, Jonas & the whale, and
Shockheaded Peter strewn throughout.
© Koninck Studios/Illuminations/Jan Svankmajer
photo courtesy International Film Festival Rotterdam
Do what they may, Mr. and Mrs. Horák have remained childless. Though they try
everything, nothing seems to work. Many of the neighbors, often with their noses in
other peoples' business, talk about this situation incessantly. Even Alzbetka, the little
girl next door won't eat any chocolates offered to her by Mrs. Horák, feeling that
"Maybe it's contagious."
One day Mr. Horák digs a multi-limbed tree trunk and root out of the garden and,
noticing that it resembles an odd creature somewhat like a human baby, varnishes it,
takes it home, and places it in a crib. Mrs. Horák takes her newfound child willingly to
her breast and becomes obsessed with its care. She even begins wearing pillows in
order to fool the neighbors and prepare them for a new arrival. Naturally, with all this
love and care, the tree trunk comes to life and demands the things that such
newborns need. There's nothing like a good feed. Otik has a voracious appetite that
stretches way beyond mother's daily milk and pap to soon include the cat, a social
worker, and several other unexpectant citizens of Prague.
Only Alzbetka, with her childlike openness, curious eye, and belief in the
extraordinary, is clever enough to realize that the odd activities next door and in the
basement are extremely similar to those foretold in "Otesánek," a famous legend and
gruesome fairy tale. She befriends Otik, who some might consider a monster,
because she realizes he is only an overgrown child. She must try to save him from
the threat of the monstrous adults surrounding him.
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett