Animate Dissent: The Political Objects of Czech Stop-Motion and Animated Film (1946-2012)
Whybray, Adam Gerald
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
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Reason for embargo
A monograph drawn from the contents of this thesis is to be published. As a condition of publication, the thesis has been embargoed in ORE.
Czech animated allegories of the period of 1946 to 2012 encode their political ideas in objects and things, rather than through conventional narrative techniques such as voice-over or dialogue. The existence of these objects in cinematic time and space is integral to this process of political encoding, which is achieved through the selection of objects, cinematography and editing. In some of these films, time and space themselves are politically encoded. Materialist critical approaches to the film texts can help illuminate these latent political meanings. 'Thing theory', which puts a critical emphasis upon reading objects and things, exposes the politically resistant role of simple, domestic objects in the films of Jiří Trnka and Hermína Týrlová. Trnka's cinema in particular defends traditional, pastoral modes of being in which the individual is rooted within their environment. 'Actor-network-theory', a means of interrogating the relationship between actors in networks, resonates with the political ideas present in the cinema of Surrealist artist Jan Švankmajer. Švankmajer's central political project is an interrogation of anthropocentrism and attempts by humans to exert systems of control and order upon non-human actors. Rather than celebrating functional, domestic objects like Trnka or Týrlová, Švankmajer's cinema is radically anti-utilitarian. Objects are depicted as things that resist categorisation. 'Rhythmanalysis' – a mode of poetic-scientific investigation developed by philosopher Henri Lefebvre – can be used to unpick the rhythms in the animations of Jirí Barta. Barta's films critique rational clock time and the design of urban spaces through the use of editing patterns and repetition. Finally, all three materialist approaches in combination help illustrate the political content of animated films (and live-action films with significant passages of animation) produced in the wake of the Velvet Revolution. Such films often question the relationship between the individual Czech citizen and the Czech capital city of Prague. The animated films of the aforementioned directors and historical periods, tend to give precedence to the material world of objects over the semiotic world of humans, though these two realms are often shown to be inter-dependent. To this end, the political messages of the films are conveyed not through language, but through images and things.
PhD in Film