Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Animation Timeline: Jiri Barta (born in 1968)

Jiri Barta is a Czech stop motion animator famous for his use of wood carved characters and settings in his animations. He is one of the greatest inspiring personalities of both Czech and world animated film. His work has regularly taken Grand Prize at prestigious film festivals with The Pied Piper of Hamelin (FIG.2)(1985) which stands out as one of his greatest artworks. Mixing the aesthetic traditions of Gaudi, Poe, The Brothers Quay and Svankmajer, Jiri Barta has made wonderous creations which are far from the well known fairytales and expose a gothic sensation of fantasy and dreamlands. Like Svankmajer, his work leans towards the grotesque in his imagery.   

As mentioned one of his best known animations is The Pied Piper of Hamelin which is based on the well known fairy tale. The story takes place in a peculiar world, a world which looks like it burst out of the work of Expressionist and Cubist painters. The small town looks like no other, with crooked buildings made out of meticulously carved wood. The detail on each house is extraordinary; which makes it a great reason to observe the amount of effort which has been put into them. The town could somehow be considered as an outocome of the village in Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari(1920) which share the same idea of a town which has no logic in its layout or structure with a distorted perspective..  "This distinctly individual world bears little to no resemblance to any genuine location or time, and yet ties into varying myths and familiar lore, particularly connecting to Barta’s preoccupation with materialism and its consequences." (Jediny.2007)
Although the characters are quite weird looking Cubist inspired figures with puzzling facial features, they appear to act like normal townsmen who feast on food, haggle over market places and frustrate with their veins popping out. One thing Jiri Barta succeeds in this film is to make his characters characters believable out of a totally made up world inspired by painters. The rest of the puppets differ from the protagonist which is The Pied Piper. He looks rather normal looking with softer features, unlike the rest with their over stretched chins and bodies. The wooden puppets also make a striking contrast with the realistic, fury rats that invade the town. There is also a great us of sound effects and music in the film which reflects the grotesque mood of the film. Jiri Barta chose not to give this film a dialogue but to make the villagers speak an alien language.  "The absence of understandable dialogue—a distinct feature of Barta's cinematic style—expresses the dehumanization of the townsfolk as well as the universality and continued topicality of the story. The townsfolk "speak" in a "language" that resembles the squeak of rats and foreshadows their future metamorphosis. The innocent characters, such as the piped piper, Agnes, and the old fisherman, remain significantly silent." (Kosulicova.2002)

In conclusion. Jiri Barta has been included in the list of the most inspiring nimators of the 20th century. His gothic and strange artwork is still being inspirational to modern animators and artists and will continue to be. His detailed artwork will still be admired and mybe some day will make artists give another go to materialised animation and leave the computer generated ones to the side.


Jedini, Jenny(2007) The Animation of Jiri Barta At:  (accessed on 26/3/2011)
Kosulicova, Ivana (2002) The morality of horror At: (accessed on 26/3/2011)
List of Illustrations

FIG.1: Jiri Barta At: (accessed on 26/3/2011)
FIG.2: Film Still At:  (accessed on 26/3/2011)
FIG.3: Film Still At:  (accessed on 26/3/2011)

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