Kristoffer Noheden
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Surrealist cinema in the Anthropocene
Nelly Kaplan, Jan Švankmajer, and the revolt of animals
in Surrealism and film after 1945
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Following World War II, surrealism turned to myth and magic in its pursuit of new ways of changing the world, but its activities were also shaped by an overriding conviction that anthropocentrism and notions of human exceptionalism were responsible for the catastrophic state of the world. This chapter examines how the filmmakers Nelly Kaplan and Jan Švankmajer have furthered this surrealist critique. In Kaplan’s La Fiancée du pirate (1969) and Néa (1976), the female protagonists form alliances with their cat and goat companions against a repressive world, as Kaplan draws on surrealism’s critique of Western modernity to imagine possibilities of interspecies revolt. In several of his films, Švankmajer animates animal body parts into new energetic patterns of behaviour, and so enables them to revolt against human domination. Švankmajer’s outlook may appear bleaker than Kaplan’s, but their films converge in a shared pursuit of alternatives to a civilisation predicated on the exploitation of other animals. Much as André Breton turned to occultism for new ways of conceiving of the world, Kaplan and Švankmajer draw on magic in order to imagine alternatives to the Anthropocene, and to create new myths in which humanity is displaced from its privileged position.

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