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Cybernetic Grandma, The

Entry updated 16 January 2023. Tagged: Film.

Czechoslovakian animated stop-motion film (1962; original title Kybernetická babička). Louthovy Film Praha. Studia Kreslencho a Loutkoveho Filmu. Directed and written by Jiří Trnka. 28 minutes. Colour.

In the future a young girl is staying with her grandma in the country, when a flying device delivers a telegram which is played like a vinyl record (see Communications). It is from her father, saying she can now return as their new house is finished. Grandma and child walk across the countryside, through an area of abandoned, now redundant, Technology, until they reach a futuristic building; here the girl is put into a glass egg to fly to her new home (see Transportation). To pass the time she watches the landscape below, other glass eggs flying by (their blurred, distant contents the only other people we see) and classical music played by Machines on the egg's television. Eventually she reaches a futuristic City and, in transit to her home, sees an automated funeral pass by.

Though luxurious, with a large painting of a guardian angel watching over children (whose scene was mirrored earlier with the grandma), the home is empty – the parents, both astronauts (see Space Flight), are temporarily away. They have left a Robot grandma to look after their child, a combination of moth and chair whose words are friendly but strident and dogmatic ("Exercise to health!"). It tells a fairy story of three friends who build a fire when winter comes, but use each other to fuel it ("The fire is rejoicing"), scaring the girl further. The robot now warns of a stranger in the house as a shadow looms over the traumatized child ... it is her grandma – who hugs her and turns off the robot. Though Satires on humanity's reliance on machines and the resulting loss of human contact are a Cliché, this is a visually imaginative version of the trope, usually charming but tinged with darkness (see Horror).

Jiří Trnka (1912-1969) was an acclaimed Czechoslovakian creator of animated films, usually involving stop-motion puppetry. Other genre-related works, mainly fantasy, include: Animals and Bandits (1946; original title Zvířátka a Petrovští), which won the first Cannes Film Festival's Short Film of the Year award; The Emperor's Nightingale (1949; original title Cisaruv Slavik), based on a Hans Christian Andersen story (see Denmark); Bajaja (1950; original title The Prince Bayaya), based on two stories by Božena Němcová; A Midsummer Night's Dream (1959; original title Sen noci svatojánské), based on the Shakespeare play; The Archangel Gabriel and Ms Goose (1964; original title Archanděl Gabriel a paní Husa), based on a story from Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron (circa 1372) and the allegorical The Hand (1965; original title Ruka), about an artist who finds himself forcibly directed by a giant hand as he works, driving him to Suicide. Trnka also created Illustrations for children's stories, including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll, receiving the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration in 1968. His animation and illustrations are impressive and often beautiful. [SP]


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