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Ina Karkani

Betwixt and Between: Ontological Drifting

It can be observed that animal cinema of recent years of various genres are interested in reformulating ontological as well as epistemological norms of physical reality within their aesthetic, dramatic and narrative framework. In doing so, they express a need for a “forward-looking film-language” that addresses our contemporary encounters with the world, a new corporeal language that sets in motion new possibilities and that responds to the repercussions of lived experiences. As such, films that think in a co-evolutionary way have emerged during the last decade in the midst of the economic crisis, environmental risks, and more recently, (post-)isolation trauma. What separates them from previous animal cinema is their interest to radically instigate a break with ontological boundaries as we know them. This materialises through enactments of “creaturely inbetweenness” that blur the boundary between what is considered human and animal. Existing norms in relation to viewer expectation, identity concepts, genre patterns as well as para-textual information are undergoing the dynamics of normativity by being questioned and ultimately repositioned. On Body And Soul (Ildiko Enyedi, 2017) The Square (Ruben Östlund, 2017) The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015) Border (Ali Abbasi, 2018) and Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016) belong to an ever growing group of cinema that reinvents constitutive elements of cinematic form to reveal new possibilities within the representational order of the image. Audio-visual positioning of socalled “passage scenes,” alternative forms of performativity, the questioning of species hierarchies, asymmetrical viewing positions and complication of conventions of story telling do not only complicate our expectations of the human - animal relation but, more so, by pushing boundaries, impose themselves as the new “status quo” of aesthetic and narrative parataxis, irritation and “falseness.” In this sense, aesthetic as well as onto-epistemological “norm-breaking” that reflects upon how the viewing synaesthetic subject experiences these films becomes not merely one among many aesthetic features to navigate the films, but more so, a persistent commonality that invites us to reflect on the sustainability of established standards on embodied perception and to account for the praxis of applying them.

Freie Universität Berlin
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
Universität der Künste Berlin