Skip to main content

'A Mirror Image of Ourself'? The Technological Uncanny and the Representation of the Body in Early and Digital Cinema

Kamm, Frances Alice (2015) 'A Mirror Image of Ourself'? The Technological Uncanny and the Representation of the Body in Early and Digital Cinema. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (KAR id:59386)

Language: English
Download (3MB) Preview


This thesis argues that there exists an analogous position in how the human body is represented on the cinema screen, and the response of spectators to this, within two key turning points in film history: the technological advancements made during the late 19th Century (what is commonly referred to as 'early cinema'), and the move away from analogue techniques in the rising dominance of digital filmmaking practices at the turn of the last century (in what can be broadly termed the 'digital age'). In both instances the filmic human body is used as a central spectacular attraction in the promotion of new and novel technologies intended to entertain, startle and challenge audiences. In particular, the use of trick photography in the late 1890s and the popularisation of motion-capture technology at the beginning of the 21st Century are comparable in the way these special effects technologies draw on the aesthetics of photographic realism and the idea of cinematic indexicality, whilst simultaneously rendering their depiction of the human body as unstable and transformative. An analysis of audience reactions to these technologies reveals how spectators from both eras have found these bodies strange, compelling and eerie: these filmic humans are uncanny. This thesis compares the technologies of early and digital cinema and their representation of the human form under the theoretical framework of the uncanny. Inspired by Freud's argument for the unheimlich, this investigation argues for the presence of a technological uncanny: an experience of the uncanny which has been provoked by the experience and direct contemplation of cinematic technology in its mediation, simulation and representation of human bodies.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Jeffers McDonald, Tamar
Thesis advisor: Sayad, Cecilia
Uncontrolled keywords: Uncanny, Digital, Early Cinema, Visual Effects, Technology, Motion-capture, Automaton, Body
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of Arts
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2016 16:00 UTC
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2020 04:15 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
  • Depositors only (login required):


Downloads per month over past year