Karel Zeman Museum of Film Special Effects, Prague

If the idea of a film of special effects museum had not already peaked my interested, then the fact they had props outside to play out dramatic scenes definitely would have. I went to this museum on a whim, only to discover a complete little gem.

I’m ashamed to say I did not know who Karel Zeman was before my visit, but wandering around this little museum I found that his animation and filming style was verging on Tim Burton and definitely very Terry Gilliam. It turns out the work of this Czech animator and film maker influenced them both.

Each room has footage of different films he had worked on, but it then goes one further to analyse how he had actually animated the footage. Via optical illusions, puppetry and prop work he was able to create magical worlds. But the display is not simply static. When you enter you are encouraged to interact. You can ride on a flying machine, turn cogs and press buttons to activate a robotic dragonfly.

A highlight for me was a clip where the viewer travels through beautifully decorated corridors to finally watch a dancing woman in a distant room. But you’re then granted a behind the scenes shot, in the form of a black and white photograph, of what the set actually looked like in order to get this footage. The next corridor in the exhibition itself was then decorated in the style of the corridors from the footage, an example of a very cohesive use of a small exhibition space.

Karel Zeman Optical Illusion Exhibition layout

There is an interactive that allows you to be a part of an optical illusion yourself, thus allowing you to have a go at one of the key aspects used in some of Zeman’s films and have some fun at the same time. At the end of the exhibition there is even a green screen, allowing you to put yourself into one of his films and then send the produced video to yourself . . . the result was by no means a masterpiece, but extremely amusing to make.

See more of Prague’s Museums here.

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