Before the Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream That One Calls Human Life, the Quays explored the world of Robert Walser several times – in Stille Nacht I (Dramolet), Stille Nacht III (Tales from the Vienna Woods) and The Comb. The latter was their trial run for Jakob von Gunten (in the late 1980s the Quays were not sure whether they could make the full-length version, they also considered a mix of puppets and live action). They stressed here the basic, fairy-tale-like pattern of relationships between the main characters of Walser’s novel – Jakub as the prince, Lisa as the sleeping beauty and Johannes Benjamenta (here: ogre, guardian of the princess, who shakes his knotty finger at the prince). The score includes, along with music by Lech Janowski, a whispered multi-language “narration” by Witold Szejbal. As Laura U. Marks notes: “In this the Quays share much with Walser, whose attitude toward objects was not so much fetishistic as animistic. That is, objects in his writings have a life of their own not by virtue of their contact with humans, but for their own sake”. Who, then, is dreaming in The Comb? “The sleeping beauty” or the comb of the title?
Twins, born in 1947. They studied in Philadelphia and continued their education at the Royal College of Art in London, where in the 1970s they directed their first short films. In the 1980s, they made commercials (for Honeywell, Walkers Crisps, and Dulux Wood Protection), music videos (the most famous one - for Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer), and animations which made them popular – The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, Street of Crocodiles. In 1995, their first feature film premiered: Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream That One Calls Human Life, winner of the Bronze Horse in Stockholm and the jury’s award at the Fantasporto festival. Another full-length live acting film by the brothers is The PianoTuner of EarthQuakes. Their art is inspired by literature, especially by prose by Bruno Schulz and lately - Stanisław Lem.