VICE Shorts

I'm Short, Not Stupid Presents: 'Food'

By Jeffrey Bowers

I know you've woken up before and thought to yourself, I’m hungry, I should eat breakfast. But you wait too long to eat and go the whole day starving, thinking to yourself, I’m so hungry now, I could devour a small child or an old lady. Crazy Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer must have felt the same way when he completed this three-part short film entitled Food, which tells gastronomic allegories of "Breakfast," "Lunch," and "Dinner" in his trademark surrealist style.

Considering “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” it goes without saying that the first segment is the most powerful in the trilogy. "Breakfast" begins with an older gentleman entering a decrepit room where another man is sitting at a table with worn out directions hanging around his neck. The diner carefully reads the directions on the other’s neck, pulls out some change from his pocket, and inserts it into the man’s mouth like a vending machine. The man pops, creaks, chugs, and “turns on,” before a dumbwaiter rises from the depths of his innards, bringing with it a vaguely appetizing breakfast of sausage and toast. "Breakfast" dismantles and reassembles the notion of an assembly line and ends with a haunting sentiment. In creating this dystopian food farm of a film, Svankmajer uses a combination of live action with human actors and stop motion with clay prosthetics, aided by a discomforting sound design filled with slurps, grunts, and groans.

"Lunch" comes after "Breakfast," as it should, and finds two men again waiting for food to be served, but they are unable to get a hold of the waiter. Instead, the older man takes initiative and starts eating everything things in sight, like flowers, a napkin, a plate, table, his clothing, and—in a nod to Charlie Chaplin—his shoes. The younger gentleman follows suit and eats his suit. When nothing is left to eat and the two are both completely naked, the true nature of hunger comes out. 

"Dinner," the final film in the series, is the simplest and the shortest. It displays a bourgeois group practicing a form of self-mutilation, where everything from your severed limb to your family jewels can end up on the end of a fork. This segment is not a pretty sight, but it epitomizes Jan's grotesque and satiric view of the how we consume food and what that actually means.

Watch Food below and lose your appetite.

Jan is our greatest living surrealist director. Firmly established as cinema’s go-to-guru for the grotesque and perverse, his feature films such as Lunacy and Conspirators of Pleasure have introduced audiences to a singular, slanted world of European decay. His films twist the familiar (body parts, food, household objects) to reveal the absurdities of modern life. He started from behind the Iron Curtain in the late 60s, even being censored and banned from working for seven years by his government. His best known films are Little OtikJabberwockyFaust, and the best version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice

Jeffrey Bowers is a tall mustached guy from Ohio who's seen too many weird movies. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working as an art and film curator. He is a programmer at the Hamptons International Film Festival and screens for the Tribeca Film Festival. He also self-publishes a super fancy mixed-media art serial called PRISM index.

@PRISMindex

Previously - 'I, an Actress'

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