The film then proceeds to illustrate these ideas in an often very obvious way, and for all its bizarre and shocking moments, is little more than an explication of the point that Svankmajer makes at the beginning. He follows naïve young Jean (Liska), who, on the way back from his mother's funeral, makes the acquaintance of a man called the Marquis (Triska). The Marquis dresses like an 18th-century nobleman and is pretty much a lunatic, and he eventually traps Jean at his secluded home and later in an asylum literally run by the inmates.
Svankmajer has an often inspired sense of the grotesque, and the narrative is interspersed with stop-motion animation of tongues, brains and various viscera slithering about maniacally. The depravity is sometimes entertaining, but the political allegory is simplistic and the plot, adapted very loosely from the works of Edgar Allan Poe and the Marquis de Sade, drags on way too long.