Next Meeting (and first of 2013!): Anat Pick speaks on ‘Animal Life in the Cinematic “Umwelt”‘



From the beginning, we have no doubt that an enclosing world is present, out of which each animal cuts its dwelling-world. As superficial appearance teaches us, each animal encounters in its dwelling-world certain objects with which it has a closer or more distant relationship. —Jakob von Uexküll

A system does not regulate everything. It is a bait for something. — Robert Bresson

This paper explores the idea of cinematic dwelling-worlds in which human and nonhuman animal lives unfold. Thinking André Bazin’s cinematic realism along with Jakob von Uexküll’s biological theory, I explore two very different cinematic environments: Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped (1956), and Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou’s insect documentary Microcosmos (1996). Uexküll named the relationship between an animal and its environment the Umwelt, a concept that speaks not only to film theory, especially realism, but also to our thinking about animal, by which I also mean human, life on screen. Under the rubric of “zoomorphic realism,” each bio-cinematic enclosure raises questions about what it means for a being to have and to fashion its world. My comparison between the two animal Umwelten—of human beings, and of insects—grapples with questions about determinism and freedom as they appear through the prism of cinema.

Microcosmos   Microcosmos (1996)

Man Escaped  A Man Escaped (1956)

This meeting will take place on Thursday 7th March at 5.30pm in G34 Arts One (as always!), with Anat’s paper followed by drinks, snacks and chats!

Hopefully see you all there!

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