Karel Zeman was a Czechoslovakian filmmaker in the post-war years of the last century, who worked under the reign of a Communist government; at the same time, he made some incredible and unique films that are now available through KDL.
Before viewing these films, I was unfamiliar with Zeman’s work, but his influence was there on filmmakers whose work I had seen, such as Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton, both of whom have used the technique of stop-motion animation in their work, and both of whom appear on one of the documentaries also included in this set.
The three major works here are particularly well-chosen, in that each embodies a different approach to storytelling but are united in the fact that all showcase the amazing talents of this filmmaker and animator: “Journey to the Beginning of Time” is a children’s adventure story that is also clearly educational, in that it shows the various evolutionary eras as three boys search for the elusive trilobite; “Invention for Destruction,” based on the work of Jules Verne, is an enchantingly constructed, collage-like film in which Zeman combined 19th-century black and white engravings with live-action actors, all within the setting of an anti-war, Cold War-era theme; in “The Fabulous Baron Munchausen” Zamen again took an old source and wittily combined it with science fiction, expanding even further his repertoire of techniques and adding a good dose of humor as well.
I heartily recommend this set, both for the beauty and talent on display in its animation but also for the unique atmosphere and approach of its stories. And, as usual, this set comes with a bevy of special features, including several of Zamen's short films.