It's a pity that whereas most of Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer's works employ animation, relatively few of them use it as the sole or main medium, which disqualifies most of his best films from inclusion here. This is one of Svankmajer's earliest shorts (1966), and one of the ones which is almost completelty stop-motion animation.
'A Game With Stones' was made before two significant events. Before he was banned from making films by the authorities (this lasted for most of the 70's), and before he became a 'card-carrying' member of the Czech surrealist movement in 1970. His films made before this time tend towards the symbolic, and are a bit easier to 'analyse'.
Here we have a contraption made up out of a clock, a music box, and a bucket. When the clock reaches a certain time, a tap squeezes out a group of rocks into a tin bucket. The rocks go through a series of transformations, until they are eventually tipped out on the floor when the bucket overturns. Then the process repeats, until finally the last lot of rocks fall straight through the bottom of the bucket, destroying it.
The transformations which happen to the stones begin as simulations of simple cell division, and progress into what you could probably regard as social interactions, which become progressively more violent. The message seems depressingly simple. Human progress, perhaps even evolution, is ultimately pointless and ends in destruction. The concept of mortality looms over almost all of Svankmajer's films, but here (as in 'Et Cetera' from around the same period) it's linked to the fate of the species.
It's a good film, and an obvious influence on The Quay Brothers, even if their best work probably surpasses this. Svankmajer has also been named as an influence by Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton. His work is definately worth chasing down, though obviously this is 'arthouse' stuff which will leave the majority of people cold.