Described in the opening narration as a “psychoanalytical comedy”, “Surviving Life” is the latest film from Jan Svankmajer. The film is basically an animated film that uses paper cut-outs of the actors, which is also sprinkled with some actual live-action stuff.
The story is about an older man named Eugene. He is a man who is happy in his life, he’s been happily married for decades and has a good job, but one night he has a very vivid (and strange) dream where he falls in love with a younger woman who’s name begins with the letter “E”. He becomes obsessed with the dream and wants to find a way to get back into it. After seeing a number of people, he then meets a psychoanalyst who prescribes him a drug that will make him dream, but she also tries to work out exactly what the dreams mean using the theories of Freud and Jung. Each time he enters the dream it changes a little, not least of all the name of the girl he is falling in love with, although it always begins with the letter “E”. What does all this mean?
While the majority of this film is quite good and very funny at times, I feel that it was too long. The dream itself I believe is quite easy to decipher, yet it takes the man and his psychoanalyst forever to work it all out. The film is also very bizarre, but the animation style suits the strangeness as well as catering itself to it. What I did like and found most amusing was the interactions between Freud and Jung whenever the analyst used one of their theories. She has a picture of each on her wall next to each other, and the two always get involved, occasionally fighting with one another. It is all very funny.
I do like that the film does all come together at the end, but I believe that it was all a little obvious, so while the destination holds no surprises, I must say that for the majority of “Surviving Life”, I did enjoy the strange journey.