Trnka Shorts: Early Years

  • Fri Oct 5
Trnka Shorts: Early Years
The Good Soldier Svejk (courtesy of Czech National Film Archive)
Jiří Trnka

Trnka proved himself to be a master animator from the very beginning, as evidenced by the formally inventive, wittily offbeat works in this program, which includes the filmmaker’s earliest experiments in the art form: a modernist tour-de-force of surrealist invention and a 2D/collage combo that’s an anti-Nazi lampoon. Complete line-up follows:

  • The Gift/Dárek (1946, 15 mins)
    Trnka reached new heights of modernist abstraction with this innovative, surrealist mini-masterwork, which critic Jean-Pierre Coursodon likened to the Citizen Kane of animation.
  • Springman and the SS/Pérák a SS (1946, 13 mins)
    Trnka combines 2D and collage animation to striking effect in this zanily offbeat, anti-Nazi lampoon, which crosses Max Fleischer-like absurdism with a biting satirical edge. His first collaboration with Jiří Brdečka.
  • Song of the Prairie/Arie prerie (1949, 20 mins)
    One of Trnka’s most delightfully silly efforts is a slapstick spoof of John Ford’s Stagecoach and Hollywood singing cowboy Westerns based on a popular novel by Jiří Brdečka, who would later direct his own adaptation, the cult favorite Lemonade Joe.
  • Merry Circus/Veselý cirkus (1951, 12 mins)
    Trnka brings to life a surrealist circus of tightrope-walking fish, musical monkeys, balancing bears, and high-flying acrobatics in this whimsical feat of cut-out animation made in collaboration with leading Czech painters of the era. No dialogue.
  • The Good Soldier Svejk, Part III/Osudy dobrého vojáka Švejka part III (1954, 29 mins)
    This riotous anti-authoritarian satire—based on the scathingly funny, hugely influential anti-war classic of Czech literature—charts the exploits of a hapless World War I infantryman with biting, subversive wit.

Cosponsored with the Cornell Institute for European Studies.
The touring retrospective THE PUPPET MASTER: THE FILMS OF JIŘÍ TRNKA is produced by Comeback Company, originated at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Curated by Irena Kovarova. Films provided by the Czech National Film Archive.


DCP color
1 hour 29 minutes
release year/country