Friday A/V Club: The Totalitarian Hand

An aging Eastern European animator's protest against Stalinism


Here is The Hand, the final film of the legendary Czech animator Jirí Trnka. It's about a potter who wants to express himself through his art but is constantly interrupted by a giant hand, which keeps insisting he transform his work into something gorifying…well, glorifying the hand:

It works as a metaphor for all kinds of authoritarian situations. But since it was made in a Communist country in 1965, I don't think it's hard to imagine what specific forces the filmmaker had on his mind.

And how did those forces react to the short? In an essay on Trnka, Peter Hames notes that when the director "died in 1969, the year after the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, he was awarded a state funeral. But when a retrospective of his work was held a year later at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, The Hand was omitted. As late as the 1980s, an exhibit featuring The Hand even mysteriously disappeared from a 1980s Prague exhibition on the history of cinema."

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)