Database for Animation Studies


Jan Švankmajer’s Don Šajn (1970): Puppets as intimate objects

The puppet form has caught the imagination of many artists and writers. However, coming to terms with this riddling figuration is difficult. As a configuration characterized by tensions and conflicts, it eludes easy determination. This article focuses on the paradoxical nature of the puppet form: the tension in between the external bodily existence and the internal dramatic life of the puppet – two existential states that invest the puppet form with a perplexing double life. The paradox of renegotiating communicative flows between interior and exterior worlds is examined in relation to the phenomenon of intermediality. Amidst the intermedial concatenation of different modes of expression – puppetry, theatre, cinema and object animation – the puppet form acts as an intimate space. Concrete instances of medial interchanges carry metaphorically a long way towards the most intimate relation of knowing and feeling in resonance with the puppet form. Working with one of the finest examples of the use of puppetry in film, Jan Švankmajer’s Don Šajn (1970), these thoughts are developed through a series of readings ranging from the film critic Michael O’Pray’s view of the film, André Breton’s notion of communicating vessels, Deleuze’s concept of the baroque fold and Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutic phenomenology.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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