The Puppet Master: The Films of Jiří Trnka

JULY 19, 21, 26-29

“Trnka — the name is the sum of childhood and poetry.”

“Genius ... Trnka’s legacy ultimately rests on his gifts as a world-builder and fabulist. At that, he’s simply nonpareil.”

“Glorious ... A giant in the history of animation.”

“Not a single screening should be missed.”

The Cinematheque is pleased to present a major retrospective (the first ever offered in Vancouver) of the works of Czech animation maestro Jiří Trnka (1912-1969).

Revered as the pioneer of a remarkable new genre of animation that utilized puppets, Trnka conveyed the drama and psychology of his characters through his figures’ body language, expressive lighting, and camera movement. His approach to puppet film as a serious art form was born out of the lively Czech puppet-theatre tradition, which had played an important role in preserving the Czech language during centuries of Hapsburg rule. A prolific artist and author and a beloved book illustrator before making his first movie, Trnka had enormous impact on the development of Czech animation. His puppet animation studio, founded in 1946, helped lay the groundwork for Czech animation predominance alongside stop-motion masters Karel Zeman, Hermína Týrlová, Jan Švankmajer, and Jiří Barta. His substantial body of work as an animation director, rivaled only by Walt Disney Studios in output, brought him international acclaim and inspired filmmakers around the globe. The likes of Tim Burton and the Brothers Quay have been influenced by Trnka and his collaborators and compatriots.

This essential series comprises 15 Trnka wonders — five feature films and ten shorts — and includes new digital restorations of The Czech Year and Old Czech Legends, a number of archival 35mm prints, and several newly-translated works.

Please note: While some of Trnka’s film may be appropriate for children, most are intended for more mature or adult audiences.


Acknowledgments: This touring exhibition is produced by Comeback Company and curated by Irena Kovarova. It originated at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (New York) in April. Films provided by the Czech National Film Archive (Prague). Series introduction adapted from Film Society of Lincoln Center. Film descriptions courtesy Film Society of Lincoln Center and written by Andy Lauer and Irena Kovarova.


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Recent Showings

Trnka established his reputation as a world-renowned master of puppet animation with his first feature. Preceded by The Animals and the Brigands.
Trnka’s adaptation of a classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale is an enchanting animated jewel box. Preceded by Springman and the SS.
Trnka’s magical puppet work brings a treasure trove of Bohemian myths to life in this folkloric hymn. Preceded by The Gift.
Richard Burton narrates this bewitching adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic fairy tale. Preceded by Merry Circus.
Based on the anti-war classic, this satirical farce charts the exploits of the eponymous World War I infantryman. Preceded by Cybernetic Grandma.
Jiří Trnka’s final film, one of his finest, anchors this program of five outstanding shorts by the great Czech animator.