Jan Svankmajer, whose name is almost always mentioned in the same breath as the Brothers Quay, is an animator with a deeply philosophical, psychological bent whose mode de employ is the infinite variety of the grotesque. If you appreciate Joel-Peter Whitkin’s stills, you will love Svankmajers films. Objects of animation are people, tubers, taxidermilogical failures, etc. Svankmajer takes a thousand separate, horrific little pieces and combines them into a sublimely shocking whole. The end product is always bafflingly surreal and so over the top as to be beatific. His filmography is made up mostly of shorts, and two other feature length films, Alice (1988) and Faust (1996); all would be worth some footwork to catch a glimpse of his intricately wrought madness.
“Conspirators” is a cohesive series of vignettes about obsessive-compulsive fetishists whose paths cross, in so doing sparking a series of respective erotic destinies that are fulfilled via a spiralling puzzle-like path. The movie itself defines fetishism, turning the everyday object or occurrence into a meaning laden ritual; in these cases lives are compelled by a collection of huge fetish projects: the porno stand engineer who is so in love with images that he constructs a television that can be made to love him back; the mail carrier who maniacally turns loaves of bread into compact little balls that she delivers to the news anchor who feeds them to carp who live in a bucket under her desk and get her off on camera (as part of the engineer’s project); her husband who hears symphonies in pursuit of junk he later constructs tools that de Sade would have cried over; and a pair of neighbors who obsess over each other’s murders, whose will finds a magical way. This film is a must-see just for the exquisite detail with which the nameless protagonist constructs the piece de triumph of all fetish objects- it cannot be hinted at in less than a volume.
Conspirators could be seen as a sort of “The Making Of” a Jan Svankmajer animation- the sympathetic voodoo magic worked by a team of discreet players so intense that genius is sparked and makes vital and gorgeous the previously inert and obscene. I’d give this film one star for each story’s achievement, plus one for the opening sequence of *truly* bizarre 17th Century porno woodcuts. A must see.