JC: How interesting. I didn’t pick that up. I assumed they were drinking blood, which of course made them worse.
JB: No, no, no. When it came to the banquet, it was really wine. Blood came only with the animals – it was really wine. But of course the analogy was intentional, and that is why it was cut in such a way that you had to see how the one thing turns into the other.
JC: Perhaps, because of the kind of film you are making, because it is models, puppets and animation and so on, it’s not like a live action film of a cow’s head being split open where you would see blood and know it to be blood, and then wine would be clearly seen as wine. Here, you see fluid coming out of a cow’s bead, so you think, “oh, it must be blood”.
JB: Yes, of course, in animated films stylization is very important, and it is perhaps less easily understandable than more naturalistic films with people.
IC: What drew you to animation originally? You’re obviously very fond of it, and your films show a remarkable grasp of the medium.
JB: I was drawn to animation precisely because it is a world that has many possibilities, because it is a world of magic, a world of the imagination, a world of many as yet unexplored spheres.
JC: Unexplored spheres – do you, at this stage have other spheres that you wish to explore with animation?
JB: For each film I’ve taken a different technical approach. The screenplay is important to me. In each of my films I’ve used a different technique or a different stylization.
JC: What techniques have you used so far?
TB: I started off with the simpler techniques such as cut-out animation, which you shoot under glass with the classical conventional technology. Then I explored other possibilities, I made The Extinct World of Gloves, then The Pied Piper, then I went on to Slavonic mythology, which was animated on location.
JC: With objects?
JB: Yes, conventional animation techniques were used, but because it was filmed on location the lighting conditions were more difficult. The natural light changes, say, every three minutes, yet one shot took about three hours or so. Now I have a film ready called The Last Robbery. Again I’ve used a new approach. I shot it first with actors, then transposed it into an animated film.
JC: Was this by means of rotoscoping (tracing off live-action film frames to produce animated drawings)?
JB: I’m using Front Projection. In this instance, I project the previously shot footage, and then phase colour into it. Does that make any sense to you?
JC: I can imagine it – it sounds quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen anyone do with front projection.
JB: I’ve never heard of anyone else doing it either.
JC: Are you working on anything after The Last Robbery?
JB: Yes, a new film where I’m working with the mannequins you find in shop display windows. It’s going to be called Cast-off Club – you know, like the clothes you no longer have any use for. They are a group of outmoded thirties mannequins who live as a kind of community in a basement storeroom. After this my next project is to be a version of The Golem, which will be more along the lines of The Pied Piper.
JC: Will this be anything like the 1920 German Expressionist film Der Golem?
JB: There is the novel by Gustav Mayerling, called simply Golem, that would be closest to the version I’m going to use.
JC: I know a great deal of interesting material, like your films, comes out of Czechoslovakia. What is the situation for an animated film maker such as yourself? Is there any state funding?
JB: The bulk of the animated film production is orientated towards films for children, and a more complex film like The Pied Piper is something of an exception. If we’re doing something more involved or demanding such as The Pied Piper, then my company, ‘Short Film’ (Kratky Film) would tend to seek support and co-production with a foreign partner.
JC: So is Kratky Film a company which also produces a lot of children’s material?
JB: Yes, the bulk of our productions are five-minute television films for children – the evening slot sort of thing.
JC: What about these more complex films – do they appear on Czech television, or are they shown in the cinemas?
JB: Most of the time they are shown as the first short film preceding a full length feature. Lately they’ve also been shown on television.
JC: How long did it take you to make The Pied Piper, which is effectively a full length feature slot using stop frame?
JB: The preparation including the technical screenplay took a year, shooting another year – and of course the very first part, namely the initial literary research, took about half a year, so you’re talking about two-and-a-half years in all. But of course I have collaborators, I am not the only one working on the film, I just couldn’t manage it on my own within that deadline.
JC: I thought the puppets themselves amazing – particularly in terms of their construction. I’ve never seen anything quite like them. How were they made?
JB: I designed both the puppets and the sets myself.
JC: On paper? Or do you use little models?
JB: At first I used drawings, but then, because this cubistic approach required space, we arrived at the conclusion that these were not really adequate, and I used three-dimensional models.