When I first watched Jan Švankmajer’s Conspirators of Pleasure I didn’t even notice there was no dialogue. It so effectively overwhelms your senses, there isn’t much to be said anyway.
The film follows a group of individuals in Prague, each engrossed in a tedious process of creating the conditions for their erotic desire.
One man begins the process of creating an elaborate chicken costume. Another, engineers a machine with fake hands. A mailwoman uses her saliva to furtively mold bread balls in a stairwell. And that’s just the beginning.
Švankmajer knows that arousal (meaning in simple terms, heightened stimulation) comes from a combination of touch and imagination. When he was blacklisted as a filmmaker during Communist rule in Prague, he wrote a book about it, Touching and Imagining: An Introduction to Tactile Art.
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Švankmajer makes use of both touch and imagination to build context and storytelling around objects and characters without the support of dialogue.
In cinema we can technically only experience two senses, sound and sight. But Švankmajer uses extreme close-ups and heightened sound editing to bring a sense of tactility to objects…