The Czech government refused to distribute Jiří Trnka’ s short film “The Hand” (1965). Why do you think the film was seen as subversive by the communist government at the time?
The film was seen as subversive by the communist government at that time because it strongly alluded to the government’s subjugation of creative expression and how the government would force artists to only create work for them at the time. Anything created that was unrelated to the government or didn’t portray the government in a positive light was crushed and restricted. Obviously, due to this mindset and the government’s desire for unshakable control, the government banned the distribution of an animation that challenged their views and could inspire people to think differently. In the animation, the puppet represents the artist himself (Jiří Trnka), and the hand represents the Czech government. The plant represents to the original artistic visions that the artist is desperately trying to kindle and keep alive; meanwhile, “the hand” keeps trying to stamp it out and force the artist to create art of the “hand” only (aka only creating depictions of the government unconditionally and completely.) The symbol of the communist party itself is even directly referenced when the hand brings in the television — at some point, we see an image of a hand on the screen holding a scale.
The artist continues trying to make a pot, over and over again, as the hand keeps crushing it and insisting it should be made into another hand — we see that the reason why the artist is making so many pots is because the plant keeps being toppled by the hand and therefore the plant continues having to be placed in a new pot.
The animation gets darker and darker as it goes on, which can obviously further the empathy that viewers feel towards the main character — as well as the fear that the viewers feel towards “the hand” (a.k.a the government.) And the government couldn’t allow this fear to be kindled. In fact, the fear was already there, but the government couldn’t allow the flame to grow — The government knew 100 percent what they were doing, and 100 percent what this was alluding to, otherwise, they wouldn’t have banned the animation (or there was a better chance they wouldn’t — after all, they restricted freedom of expression no matter what the subject matter was).
I find it to be very jarring that once the puppet is finally just completely dead at the end of the animation, the hand places him in his OWN CLOSET as a casket, puts the candles that were there previously next to him as decorations, crosses the arms of his dead body over each other as if he were in a peaceful pose (and puts rosy makeup on him TO EMPHASISE THAT) — closes the casket, puts his hat over it, puts a laurel of a “hero” or “peace” (ironic) over the casket, and finally places the flower pot that the artist was trying so desperately to protect in front of the casket — and only then does the flower bloom. And at the end, the hand, clad in a black glove, SALUTES.
A.k.a, once the artist has been silenced, the government covers it up and only NOW will they say through fake tears that he was a “great man”.
And so by banning this animation, the government displayed a reaction to the animation that was the same reaction the animation was trying to protest.
(Also, I find it to be very tragic that apparently the artist who created this animation died only a few years after he created it… could it be a coincidence, or…?)