The Morbid Delights of Jan Švankmajer's 'Food'

It's a real gut-buster. In more ways than one. Here's a video essay on the absurdist short film's tonal tightrope walk.

Jidlo Food Jan Švankmajer
Koninck Studios

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about Jan Švankmajer’s short film Food.


If you grew up around the internet, I’d venture a guess that even if you’re unfamiliar with the name Jan Švankmajer, you’ve come across images of his work. His unholy tactility (or as the kids say, “nightmare fuel”) isn’t exactly something you’re liable to forget.

Švankmajer’s filmography reeks of the uncanny and an unplaceable sense of unease. Mixing stop-motion and live-action, the ambiguity of his work produces an eerie effect; a merging of clay, meat, bone, and found objects into machinations truly worthy of the moniker “dreamlike.”

His films are filled with powerful dichotomies: they’re wondrous and horrible, otherworldly and tangible, stark and excessive. And yet, while Švankmajer wears his morbid sensibility on his sleeve, the more comical aspects of his Surrealism are often under-discussed. Comedy is often a byproduct of discomfort. And in a territory as uncomfortable as Švankmajer’s, there are plenty of opportunities for a good, dark chuckle.

The video essay below focuses on Švankmajer’s Food, a 1993 short film that rebels (as Surrealism is wont to do) against that most basic of activities: eating. Destabilizing three essential meals through unnatural and often unpredictable means, Švankmajer finds an uncanny and at times delightful balance between humor and the grotesque.

Food (which you can stream here first) is a great place to start for those looking for an appetizer of Svankmajer’s work. But, fair warning: don’t eat while you watch.

Watch “Jan Švankmajer’s Food (Jídlo) – The Balance Of Surreal Humour And Morbid Shocks“:

Who made this?

You Have Been Watching Films is produced by United Kingdom-based writer Oliver Bagshaw. The channel provides video essays on an assortment of films including examples from cult, documentary, experimental, and classic strains of cinema history. You can subscribe to their YouTube channel here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

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(Senior contributor)

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