23 June 2010


This is the opening scene of Krysař, a renowned animated film directed by Jiří Barta (1986). In this version of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, it is not the rats that infest the town and it is not for the rats that the Piper comes to Hameln.
In the opening scene, Barta introduces the city of Hameln as a character in its own right. Hameln is a mythological, gothic Gormenghast, a one single jointed, twisted structure. It is a medieval town of blacksmiths and iron, without even a trace of trees, grass or birds. The underlying machines of the town set the sunrise in Hameln, and the risen sun is of dim quality that does not allow for a full palette of colours.
Townsmen - cubist puppets of dark walnut wood - are an integrated non-separable part of Hameln. Barta explained in an interview for Kinoeye that he wanted to show the townsmen as mere puppets, as wooden machines, in striking contrast to the emotional, dynamic and dramatic world of rats (also visually, since real dead rats were used to create the rat puppets).
"The puppets' world," explained Barta, "is one of horror."
Barta further dehumanized the townsmen as he made them squeak in unintelligible gibberish, while the Pied Piper, Agnes and the old fisherman remain markedly silent. The Pied Piper keeps his silence even when he is insulted by the townsmen and paid, mockingly, with a black button.
Barta's Pied Piper does not retaliate in the same way as Grimms' one. At sunrise, he stops the time in Hameln and begins to pipe.

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