JC: What made you decide on making things which were both two and three-dimensional? You mentioned cubism, which is one of the elements which comes to mind watching the film. What made you want to go for that kind of style and look?
JB: For the stylization there are two sources of inspiration. One is the spirit of German Expressionism. Cubism is, after all, a certain artistic expression, a certain way of seeing things which is transposed both into painting and elsewhere. The other source is the German Mediaeval Spirit, German Medievalism. This element has actually solved certain spatial problems in that part of the mediaeval canon is that the important figures are big, and secondary figures are small. So it has solved the whole problem of space, and justifies an illogicality – a lack of logic – about the world of the film.
JC: I was particularly impressed by the way you told the story purely in pictures. I’m not sure how far this is attributable to the screenplay or to you as director. The print we have over here isn’t subtitled – and for me, unable to speak a word of Czech – I found I understood it perfectly purely from the images and the sounds, which I consider a remarkable achievement.
JB: I’m pleased to hear that. The language in The Pied Piper was a completely invented, fictitious language which was somewhat based on German, but the main emphasis was on the rhythm and the onomatopoeic quality of the language. Presumably it produced the right impact.
JC: I was also very impressed with the sound effects. Were these done prior to shooting as is more usual? I would guess that these were added after shooting, and with a great deal of care.
JB: Yes, they were post-synchronised.
JC: Were there any elements of the sound particularly pleased you?
JB: I should emphasise the name of the music composer, Michal Kocab, with whom I collaborated.
JC: Did he also play an instrument? I found particularly effective the whining electric guitar when he approaches the figure of Saturn in the tower, with all the mechanisms and things.
JB: No, this was a very intense sequence composed by Kocab, and played by a seven-piece band.
JC: They’re really good. I was also impressed by the little painting sequence in the forest, the bird flying above the forest and the man walking into the forest at the end which were stylistically very different from the rest of the film, almost like a mediaeval painting on wood.
JB: I am pleased you ask this most perceptive question. This was exactly what we had in mind. It was meant to be a mediaeval painting; the model we had in mind was in fact Van Eyck, and it was stylised so as to imitate the spirit of his painting.
JC: Now that you mention Van Eyck, I can see the connection, and it works. I’d also like to ask about the religious element in the film – was that in the Dyk novel?
JB: What you have in Dyk is the Leitmotif of the love between Anges and the Pied Piper, but of course Dyk operates in words and I operate in images, so I had to transpose it to film.
JC: What inspired you to make The Extinct World of Gloves?
JB: The first idea for a film is cardinally important, and that first idea was something that I elaborated in collaboration with a friend of mine, Boris Hubner, an actor and mime artist. We simply decided to think up something new, and that is the result.
JC: From a technical standpoint, what was the most difficult shot you’ve ever taken?
JB: With regard to The Pied Piper, I can’t recall any single shot, but there were many difficult technical situations because of the juxtaposition of several difficult exposures in one shot, also the large size of the sets and the puppets.
JC: How large were they?
JB: The smallest puppets were one centimetre, and the largest were sixty centimetres.
JC: Which were one centimetre?
JB: The crowd in the square seen from above.
JC: That is amazing.
JB: One could talk about this for hours and hours, for instance, the film made on location was a constant struggle with nature in general and the sun in particular, because the intensity of radiation kept changing all the time, and so therefore everything else follows.
IC: Did you win?
JB: No struggle is ever completely won.
IC: It’s been fascinating talking to you. Thank you very much.
My thanks to Jayne Pilling and the tireless Ania Witkowska of the British Film Institute, without whom the above three-way London-Prague telephone conversation would never have taken place. My further thanks to Ava Sharp, my more than competent interpreter (on the third telephone) on this occasion. J.C.
Printed in Animator Issue 23 (Summer 1988)