Faust

97 minutes

A weary middle-aged man in Prague (Petr Cepek) picks up a map in the street and follows it to a puppet theater, where he finds himself enacting the Faust legend with a troupe of life-size marionettes. Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer quotes freely from Goethe, Marlowe, and Gounod in this 1994 fantasia on illusory reality and manipulation (of actors, puppets, and clay figures). Using a multitude of media, he and his team (including cinematographer Svatopluk Maly) mount dazzling sequences in which men assume puppetlike traits and vice versa, but some of his fanciful juxtapositions backfire (I had to laugh when the protagonist, dressed as Faust, began humping a puppet Marguerite). This deliberately enigmatic feature is a lot like a Rube Goldberg device—you may marvel at its machinations without really understanding their purpose. In Czech with subtitles.

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