Little Otik

2000 horror comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Bozena and Karel want a child more than anything else in the world. They receive some upsetting news when a doctor tells them they'll never have a child. To cheer his wife up, Bozena unearths a tree root that's kind of in the shape of a human baby and presents it to his wife. They pretend it's real and play parent at their weekend house, and nine months later, with the aid of some faux stomachs, fool their neighbors and friends into thinking they have had a child. Problems arise when the wooden baby develops an impossible appetite.

This doesn't have as much animation as Jan Svankmajer's Alice or Faust. When you finally get to see the root baby come to life, it's truly horrifying and very realistic. The breast-feeding and temper tantrum scenes manage to be even more terrifying than watching a real-life baby. Otik is based on a Czech folk tale, a story learned when a neighbor girl reads from a picture book, and like the best folk tales, this has its share of gruesome moments. It's particularly gruesome when the titular child eats, of course, but watching the other characters eat isn't much better. And they certainly enjoy an interesting array of soups. But Otik isn't all horror. It's also very humorous. A scene where a guy on the street fishes babies out of a tub with a net and wraps them in newspaper is very funny, and as disturbing as it is, a scene featuring a pedophile's crotch hand made me laugh. That pedophile's crotch is the first animation you see in this movie, by the way. The funniest bit is when the husband brings the root to his wife and says, "Guess what I've got for you." It just seems like such a cruel thing to do to a woman who can't have a child, but I laughed and laughed anyway. I really enjoy this movie, but I wonder if Svankmajer had trouble with funding. There are parts of the movie that seem incomplete, especially the ending, and I really wish there could have been more animation, even if was just surreal vignettes that had nothing to do with the main conflicts. Like crotch hand! I imagine the film's theme has to do with human greed, especially since an alternate title is Greedy Guts.

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