The assumption of a clear demarcation and hierarchy between figure and ground has long informed key approaches in film studies to bodies and space. However, many filmmakers working in both animation and live cinema have confounded this hierarchy, working with an integration of figure and ground on equal terms to explore the full performative potential of the cinematic body. In the animation work of Einar Baldvin, this strategy is an Expressionist one, blurring the boundaries between figure and ground in order to project affective and psychic states onto the space around the body. In Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster
, this blurring of boundaries between figure and ground eschews an Expressionist mode, working instead to render, in aesthetic form, a biophilosophy that emphasizes the continuity between bodies and environment to explore the possibilities of non-anthropocentric cinematic modes. An experimental writing style here serves to trace the energetic unfolding of these strategies across both films in order to frame the question, ‘what is body here, what is space’, and to ask how we as viewers engage with this embodied mode.
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