Adventures In Movie Magic - The Karel Zeman Museum

   As Karel Zeman dropped a splash of red paint into a fish tank full of water, children across Czechoslovakia dreamed to fly.

   His camera whirred and clicked, capturing, at a rate of twenty four pictures per second, abstract forms which came into being as the two liquids weaved, swayed and palpitated into one another. A weightless tango, caught forever on celluloid was delicately spliced by Zeman into his latest film and projected onto screens in Prague and across the Republic - as the dance of colour and shapes became replicated as electric shadown in theatres throughout the land, young imaginations looked on in awe as their hearts filled with fantastic substance.

   The communist government may have decreed that no man, woman or child may escape the nation's rigid borders but, for those who sought solace, poetry and adventure at the movies, Zeman was able to provide fleeting, if immutable, access to new universes within and without. His Jules Verne-inspired adventures showed us new worlds on the big screen and, of equal importance, introduced us to new ones in our souls and minds.

   Located in the heart of a post-communist Prague now stands an institution - the Karel Zeman Museum - dedicated to the film director who provided flights of fancy and whimsical escapism for many and, crucially too, inspiration for movie icons across the world. From Tim Burton to Terry Gilliam, Wes Anderson to Michel Gondry, Zeman's hand crafted and ingenious special effects provided inspirations for generations and generations of cinephiles and auteurs.

   I had, it should be noted, previously worked in a museum which was bequeathed the entirety of the Ray Harryhausen collection on long-term loan. A lack of imagination and a political clash over how to best display these iconic works of art, however, meant that I have first hand experience at just how wrong an exhibition relating to such an extraordinary and singular pioneer could go. Thankfully, then, my heart filled with glee upon entry to the Zeman Museum - this was a place crafted out of love and awe rather than perfunctory bureaucracy.

   Over the course of my trip, I was taking on a journey spanning Zeman's career - storyboards and costumes from his groundbreaking movies were presented alongside clips and demonstrations.

   The aforementioned drops of paint, I learnt, were super imposed over live action adventure footage to represent billowing clouds of red smoke enveloping our heroes. I saw, too, how stop motion model work was utilised in a similar manner to Harryhausen's own experiments in the field - display boards and videos showed, in depth, how Zeman brought a gargantuan mammoth to life on the big screen through pain-staking model work and double-exposed choreography. I often felt like a magician was revealing his greatest tricks to me but in a way which added to, rather than subtracted from, the remarkable achievements on screen.

   Wonderfully, too, this was a museum which encouraged us to film and video as we explored - we're invited to board a flying, cycle-like contraption and post in replicated film sets. Like his awe-inspiring adventures, Zeman is still inspiring those who engaged with his work to tap into our creativity and become photographers and film-makers or, ultimately, whatever vocation may take our fancy. An astronomer or a deep-sea diver perhaps? Whilst there I felt like each of these, so immersed was I into the wonder here.

   Decades after his death, Zeman is still giving us the gift of dreams, of wonder and of soaring imagination. This may well now be my personal favourite museum I have ever attended and, as I lay half-awake at night thinking about cycling to the stars, I don't think I'll ever truly leave regardless of the borders in my life which keep me grounded.

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