Jan Švankmajer was born in 1934 in Prague, where he still lives.
He trained at the Institute of Applied Arts (1950-1954) and at the Prague Academy of Performing Arts, in the Department of Puppetry. He soon became involved in the Theatre of Masks, then in the famous Black Theatre, and finally in the Laterna Magika Puppet Theatre, where he first encountered film. In 1970, he met his wife, surrealist painter Eva Švankmajerova, and the late Vratislav Effenberger, leading theoretician of the Czech Surrealist Group, of which Švankmajer still remains a member. He made his first short film in 1964 and, for the past thirty years, he has made some of the most memorable and unique animated films ever made, gaining a reputation as one of the world’s foremost animators. In 1987, he completed his first feature film, Alice, a characteristically witty and subversive adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. With the ensuing feature films Faust (1994), Conspirators of Pleasure (1996), Little Otik (2000) and his newest film Surviving Life (2010), Švankmajer has moved further away from his roots in animation towards live-action filmmaking, though his vision remains as strikingly surreal and uncannily inventive as ever.