This chapter considers the fiction of Rikki Ducornet from an ecocritical
perspective. Focusing in particular on the novels The Stain (1984), Entering
Fire (1986), The Jade Cabinet (1993), and Phosphor in Dreamland (1995), this
chapter argues that Ducornet’s writings engage occult knowledge systems in
order to present an ecological and non-anthropocentric worldview in which
nature and different lifeforms are deeply interconnected. Positioning
Ducornet’s narratives in the context of surrealism’s ecological imperative,
this chapter urges us, through Ducornet, to turn our careful attention to
the interplay and language of humans, animals, and nature in a broader
Nelly Kaplan, Jan Švankmajer, and the revolt of animals
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.
Surrealism and film after 1945 is the only available volume devoted to the diverse permutations of international surrealist cinema after the canonical inter-war period. The collection features eleven essays by prominent scholars such as Tom Gunning, Michael Löwy, Gavin Parkinson, and Michael Richardson. An introductory chapter offers a historical overview of this period as well as a theoretical framework for new methodological approaches. Taken as a whole, the collection demonstrates that renowned figures such as Maya Deren, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Jan Švankmajer took part in shaping a vibrant and distinctive surrealist film culture following World War II. Interdisciplinary, intermedial, and international in scope, the volume follows upon recent advances in art history, which have demonstrated that surrealism’s post-war existence has been dynamic, vivid, and adventurous. Beyond the canonical inter-war period, surrealism immersed itself in myth and occultism, participated in anti-colonial struggles, influenced the rise of a youth counterculture, and presented new perspectives on sexuality and eroticism, all of which feed into the permutations of surrealist cinema. Addressing highly influential films and directors related to international surrealism during the second half of the twentieth century, this collection expands the purview of both surrealism and film studies by situating surrealism as a major force in post-war cinema.
The early surrealist writings on film have secured their place in film history and the history of film theory, but the surrealist movement’s presence in post-war film culture remains a blind spot in film studies. The Introduction describes how surrealists turned to film criticism and film-making with renewed vigour following World War II, before discussing the methodological challenges involved in expanding the study of surrealist film to the post-World War II period. It argues that surrealist cinema and its widespread impact cannot be fully understood unless its drastically understudied post-war history is consistently acknowledged and charted. Discussing the post-war reception of surrealism, its political pursuits, and its widened interests generally, the Introduction sets out specific examples of how the history of surrealist film intersects with the movement’s broader history and outlook.