Journal Article

The Imagination of Touch: Surrealist Tactility in the Films of Jan Švankmajer



This article is a theoretical examination of tactility in the Czech surrealist filmmaker Jan Švankmajer’s film Down to the Cellar (1983). Švankmajer’s deployment of tactile images in a surrealist context shows the need for a discussion of the imagination’s role in the embodied film experience. Departing from Laura Marks’s The Skin of the Film, this article seeks to explore the surrealist embodied imagination through surrealist poetics of analogy, as defined by Andre´ Breton, and the link between these and Walter Benjamin’s writings on mimesis. Finally, the film is viewed from the perspective of Gaston Bachelard’s ideas of ‘‘the imagination of matter,’’ where matter is seen as a highly potent stimulant for the imagination. Bachelard’s notion of the imagination’s multisensory properties further lends credence to Švankmajer’s aims to liberate the imagination of the spectator through images that invoke touch.

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  • Type:
    Journal Article (peer reviewed)
  • Journal:
    Journal of Aesthetics and Culture, Vol 5, Issue 1.
  • Pages:
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About the Author

Kristoffer Noheden

Kristoffer Noheden is a research fellow in cinema studies in the Department of Media Studies. He holds a PhD in cinema studies from Stockholm University, and an MA in film studies and a BA in cultural studies from the University of Gothenburg. He ... Read more


Noheden, K. (2013). The Imagination of Touch: Surrealist Tactility in the Films of Jan Švankmajer. Journal of Aesthetics and Culture, 5(1), pp. 1-14. Available at: [Accessed 12 Aug. 2022]. doi: 10.3402/jac.v5i0.21111.