Svankmajer sets out to make a horror film full of the 'degeneracy peculiar to that genre' with a nod to Poe and the 'blasphemy and subversiveness' of Sade. Unfortunately the film fails on these goals and the bloated but ambitious grotesque beats the viewer over the head with its overlong runtime. Compared to earlier works such as 'Alice' or 'Faust' this comes up very short.
While I love Jan Svankmajer's animation (used to grotesque effect here) this film further proves my adversity to Marquis De Sade. I'm fascinated by his ideas, but almost never can stomach watching them demonstrated. Perhaps that's the point.
To say that the film is difficult to watch is an understatement. The narrative twists and turns, but is one of the easier aspects to the film. The sound to the film is a challenge. The most off putting aspect though were the visual asides that did not have a connection to the plot. This absurdism does have its appeal, but it did not work for me in this film. The film felt like a mess, but not in a good way.
Throughout the film I kept reminding myself "this is a complicated film". It's too easy, and maybe a little enticing, to dismiss it. It's easy because of how contradictory the filmmaker starts his film. The introductory commentary by a director is not new, a pessimist, nihilistic one isn't either. Nevertheless this one is particularly striking because of how it built such a destructive view of the film.