The movie trailer itself can be a form of art, as witnessed by the just-released mega-trailer for Cloud Atlas, the forthcoming new film from the Wachowskis. Trailers not only advertise a film but, in some cases, can present and possess their own inherent logic, flow, and narrative arc, and can generate a memorable viewing experience in their own right.
This principle is illustrated by the trailer for The Tragedy of Man (2011), a Hungarian animated film written and directed by Marcell Jankovics and adapted by him from the play by Imre Madách. Jankovics spent nearly 20 years (!) making the film, and the fruits of his labor are quite visible in the trailer itself.
Here it is, followed by details about the film’s origin, plot, and production.
Cannes Palm D’Or winner and Oscar-nominated Hungarian legend of animation Marcell Jankovics adapted the script of The Tragedy of Man in 1983 from Imre Madách’s play. The production of the film started in 1988 but only concluded at the end of 2011 after two and a half decades of struggle. The most acclaimed Hungarian play was written 150 years ago, it was translated to 90 languages, being constantly compared to Goethe’s Faust or Dante’s Divina Comedia not only because of its theme but also due to its qualities. The play still lives its life in the European cultural sphere: it has been recently translated to Russian and Italian for the umpteenth time. The film follows the structure of the play: it consists of 15 acts that guide us through the past and the future of mankind.
Greek film reviewer Vassilis Kroustallis gives this informative description and reaction:
[The Tragedy of Man tells] the epic and bleak story of human civilisation, from the Garden of Eden to the chilling humanoid future. Lucifer, the co-creator of the world (according to his statement) tests Adam and puts him to sleep to see his destiny through the ages. The trip is interesting, visually stimulating (but never pretty), and relentlessly repeating. Not a single note of happiness or laughter enters The Tragedy of Man, which proceeds from the Garden of Eden to Egypt and then to classical Greece, Rome, Christianity and beyond. At the some time, even the most shocking scenes (decapitation for instance) are given almost philosophically calm, as a result of the inevitable recurring world press. The choice of the stories to tell is varied and remarkable. Along with the usual historical suspects (Danton and the French Revolution, Hitler and Stalin), the Miltiades story from Greece (a general who becomes a traitor), and the Tancred and Crusades segment — along with the battles on the Filioque — are a treat to watch in this context. Yet, the most dramatic story is the one of Copernicus. In a film that utilizes an impressive array of visual styles, the almost simplistic black-and-white story of a genius who lives by telling the daily horoscope is fascinating and ironic enough to give credit to the insatiable but dooming need of the man to knowledge.
As a bonus, here Jankovics’ complete short film “Sisyphus,” which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1975.