If it was possible for collaboration between Luis Buñuel and Terry Gilliam the result might look something like Lunacy, the latest oddity from Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer. This bizarre "horror film," as the director simply labels it, is a vile and depraved examination of mental illness and the methods used to treat it. Wickedly funny and astonishingly conceived, the film is a nonstop cavalcade of shocks, surprises and enchantments. I loved every minute of it, and I can honestly state that I won't see a more brilliant picture at Tribeca this year.
Based loosely on writings by Edgar Allen Poe and inspired by the Marquis de Sade, Lunacy exists in a kind of overlap of present and past, seemingly set in 19th century France but anachronistically punctuated with modern inclusions like automobiles and bluejeans. It tells the ironically tragic story of Jean Berlot (Pavel Liska), a troubled young man on his way home from his mother's funeral. During his stopover at a country inn, he meets The Marquis (Jan Triska), a wealthy nobleman who invites Jan to come and stay with him on his estate. There, Jan witnesses a blasphemous ritual and an eccentric form of therapy, which The Marquis imagines may be helpful in the healing of Jan's own psychological ailments.