Jan Svankmajer was born in 1934 in Prague and was grew up in what was a hostile and repressive environment, due to the political turmoil Czechoslovakia had to endure during 1939 until The Velvet Revolution in 1989. In 1939 Czechoslovakia was invaded by Nazi Germany up until 1944 where Czech soldiers fighting alongside the Russian army liberated Czechoslovakia, after the second world war the restored Czechoslovakia Republic became part of the Soviet power and experienced a limited period of democracy but eventually ended in 1948 by a Communist takeover and Czechoslovakia became a communist-ruled state, where industry was nationalized and political and human rights were suppressed.
Svankmajer was introduced to puppetry when he was given a puppet theatre in his early childhood years, and first discovered surrealism whilst studying at the college of Applied Arts in Prague in 1950, where he was introduced to Karel Teige’s work, who was a member of the Czech Surrealist Group. Svankmajer later went onto to study the art of puppetry and became strongly influenced by Soviet avant-garde theatre and film.
Svankmajer later became involved in the Theatre of Masks and the black theatre, and moved onto the Laterna Magika Theatre in Prague where he got his first taste of film and his experiences from the Theatre later influenced his first film in 1964, The Last trick. Throughout his career Svankmajer has directed a total of 26 short films and 5 feature length films.