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Little Otik (Otesanek)

4.4 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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(Jan 21, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

Surrealist master Jan Svankmajer (FAUST, ALICE) brings a famous Czech legend eerily to life in the darkly hilarious cautionary tale of LITTLE OTIK. An ordinary couple, Karel and Bozena, are unable to conceive a child. When Karel digs up a tree root and whittles something vaguely resembling a human baby, Bozena's maternal longings transform the stump into a living creature with a (literally) monstrous appetite that can't be met with baby formula. Svankmajer brilliantly mixes his wicked humor with his subversive politics and love of mythology into a stunning live-action fable for our times. This Edition also features Svankmajer's surrealist THE FLAT

Special Features

  • THE FLAT (BYT), a 1969 short film by Jan Svankmajer
  • "Bringing Up Baby": An interview with Svankmajer from Sight and Sound
  • Excerpts from Svankmajer's production diary
  • Behind-the-scenes photo archive
  • Original theatrical trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Veronika Zilková, Jan Hartl, Jaroslava Kretschmerová, Pavel Nový, Kristina Adamcová
  • Directors: Jan Svankmajer
  • Writers: Jan Svankmajer, Karel Jaromír Erben
  • Producers: Jan Svankmajer, Erna Kmínková, Jaromír Kallista, Jirí Vanek, Keith Griffiths
  • Format: Color, Full Screen, Special Edition, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: January 21, 2003
  • Run Time: 126 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000077VS5
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,120 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Little Otik (Otesanek)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
"Once upon a time there lived a woodcutter and his wife who longed for a little baby..." That's how so many fairytales start and in this extraordinary, disturbing and witty film the fairytale is brought to life not in some suitably fairy-tale setting (as was the case in e.g. Cocteau's "La Belle et La Bete" or Jordan's "Company of Wolves") but in a dingy block of urban flats in central Europe. Here we find the childless, no longer so young, Bozena and Karel who are both hopelessly infertile and wholly in despair. But Karel digs up an old tree stump which looks a bit like a baby, cuts it up a bit to make the resemblance closer and gives it to his wife as a rather sick joke. Immediately, to his horror, she sets about loving it. She even sets up an elaborate fake pregnancy for herself so she can present it in public as her baby - though she soon learns that, given its appearance, she can't very easily do any such thing. Then after she has "given birth", Karel returns home to find the tree stump, named Otik, has somehow become alive and is hungrily suckling at his wife's breast. He wants to cut it to pieces with an axe but she desperately prevents him and they continue to feed it. It grows rapidly bigger and bigger and hungrier and hungrier. In a wonderfully horrible scene it attacks Bozena by grabbing her hair in its teeth. Then it eats their cat. Then it eats the postman. A social worker is sent round and asks to see the baby. "Don't be afraid, I'm not going to eat him", she says. Indeed, au contraire...
The dramatic centre of the film is not any of the characters so far mentioned so much as it is Alzbetka, the little girl next door, beautifully played by Kristina Adamcova.
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A Czech folk tale is given a psychological and socially satirical slant in this twisted and highly humorous piece of Euro-Cinema. Childless couple Karel and Bozena are given a shot at parenthood when hubby Karel presents his despondent wife with a (sort of) human-shaped tree root, in an attempt to amuse her. He regrets the act almost immediately when she snatches the gift, dresses it up, and begins to treat it like a real infant. In the time that follows, she stages an elaborate fake pregnancy, culminating in a ritualized "birth", and the little one is given the name Otik.
To his horror, Bozena's husband arrives one evening to find her nursing the child, which has actually come to life. And it is very, insatiably hungry. A neighbor's daughter, inquisitive Alzbekta, knows something is up from the couple's strange behavior, and from the way visitors begin to mysteriously disappear. Amongst the books on human development and sexuality she peruses, she finds in a book of Fairy Tales the fable of Otesanek, a hungry tree monster, and ends up being the only character in the developing, horrific scenario who has a clue what is going on, as well as what is to ensue.
This movie has been compared to The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby and Eraserhead; I would have to throw in nods to It's Alive, Little Shop of Horrors ('61) and maybe Delicatessen. Despite the overly broad humor, somewhat primitive, jerky animation style and a rather unsatisfying ending, Little Otik delivers some good sick fun in this sidewise view of parenting and consumerism. One may never look at food quite the same way again.
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Format: DVD
It's based on a Czech fairy tale called "Greedy Guts". A woman badly wants a baby but both she and her husband are sterile. One day her husband digs up a tree root and it looked a little like a person. So he carved it to make it look more like a baby as a joke (seems like a sick one to me) and gave it to her. The mentally unbalanced wife immediately fell in love with the ugly piece of wood and treated as a baby. This "baby" comes to life and boy is it hungry! The little girl who lives in the same building notices stuff going on and finds the truth in a book of fairy tales. She wants to save little Otik and does her darnedest.

I don't want to give away too much of this movie. It's in Czech so you have to read the subtitles (unless you know Czech!). It's very good. Even the little girl's family is somewhat funny. My only complain is it could have been made shorter with good editing. I felt it got bogged down with prolonged scenes.
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Format: DVD
LITTLE OTIK, or OTESÁNEK, is a feature length movie by Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer. With plot synopses using phrases like `bizarre fantasy' and considering Svankmajer's creds - he's been a member of the Prague Surrealist Group since 1969 - I'm not sure what I expected, or what I should have expected. Razor-sliced eyeballs and people tumbling through mirrors, the typical surrealist stuff, might have been a start. Or maybe something a little closer in spirit to a Svankmajer 1969 short (THE FLAT) that's included on this dvd. That one is about a young fellow in a humble hut who's trying to eat a meal while rocks tumble out of the faucet and his hands melt through the top of a wooden table.

What I didn't quite expect was a coherent narrative dressed here and there with stop-action and traditional, albeit somewhat choppy, flat animation. In an on-line interview with Svankmajer the director describes Otesánek as "a topical version of the Faust myth: a rebellion against nature and the tragic dimension of that rebellion." Okay. Maybe. Whatever. LITTLE OTIK introduces us to a typical middle-class couple who, unfortunately, are both infertile. One day the husband unearths a tree root, notes its resemblance to a human figure, and soon the wife is ungoing a false pregnancy and making sure that Little Otik is swaddled, powdered, and varnished periodically.

I suppose an American movie would try to give us a why, but this movie is content to accept without question that after nine months Little Otik is suddenly very much alive - and voraciously hungry. Besides the parents, who are cleverly able to hide the `newborn' in plain sight, precocious 10-year-old Alzbeta (Kristina Adamcová) is the only other person who seems to realize what's going on.
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