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Grotesque Metamorphoses and Creative Practices in Jan Svankmajer

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Irida Zhonga


This paper explores stop motion puppetry films through the lens of the grotesque, to see how this aesthetic category helps in understanding the medium and its appeals. Noel Carroll describes the grotesque as, a “departure from the ordinary” whereas Wolfgang Kayser tries to explain its nature as that of an “estranged world”. The animated works of pioneering filmmaker Jan Svankmajer have been pivotal when it comes to visual manifestations of hybrid forms and the formation of illusory supernatural life by merging objects of animate and inanimate simulacra. I will discuss in which ways the grotesque is portrayed in Svankmajer’s films by examining manifestations of grotesque in the bodies of the puppets as well as in the filmmaker’s creative process. When going into a more in-depth analysis, Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the ‘grotesque body’ and its relationship to the earth as an unfinished metamorphosis of existence and Wolfgang Kayser’s writings on the grotesque as an alienated world created through the practices of the artist will also be used to identify how Svankmajer mixes and alters the biological and ontological categories of everyday objects.


Jan Svankmajer; grotesque; aesthetics; Kayser; Bakhtin; stop motion; animation; hybrids

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