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Andrea Polywka
Doctoral Candidate

Hybrid configurations: The status of the hybrid image in contemporary mainstream cinema

My dissertation project addresses the format and combination of live-action and animated film elements found in contemporary mainstream cinema. The secondary literature tends to maintain a very strict and problematic dichotomy of categories for such films, preventing a broader consideration of their complex medial composition and history. This project investigates and problematizes the existing conceptual models used to understand these films, such as hybridity, digital realism, and certain concepts of realism, and explores other alternatives for theorizing, ordering, and historicizing these objects of film and media culture. By examining, for instance, when and under what circumstances the interaction between computer-generated and live-action actors occurs, this project provides a deeper understanding of the properties of photorealistic images in such films, proposing new aesthetic possibilities for animation and live-action cinema. Objects of investigation include classical films such as King Kong (USA 1933), frequently summed up as a stop-motion picture, as well as its more recent adaptations, and popular blockbusters such as Lord of the Rings (USA 2001 – 2003), noted for its motion capture techniques and hyperrealistic depictions. This project will ultimately reconsider the role of body politics, animation, moving image technology, and special effects (e.g., motion capture, rotoscope and stop motion) in these films that demonstrate complex interactions between film and other media.

Fig. 1: Lee Harrison III’s „Animac“ Apparatus, in: Smith, Ernie: “This is what 1970s Motion Capture Tech Looked Like”, 20th of March 2017, Motherboard@Vice, last accessed on the 8th of May 2018.


Fig. 2: Publicity still for King Kong (Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack, USA 1933) in, Woods, Paul A.: King Kong Cometh!: The evolution of the great ape, London: Plexus, 2005, p. 56.


Andrea Polywka is a PhD candidate in the Graduiertenkolleg “Configurations of Film.” In 2012, she received her B.A. in art history, musicology, and media studies at the Philipps University Marburg. In 2016, she completed her M.A. in Audiovisual Media and Cinema Studies (IMACS) at the Goethe University, Frankfurt, the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense and the University of Montreal. As part of her work in the department of film literacy at the German Film Institute, she also helped develop the project From Young People, For Young People: Multimedia Guide Through the German Film Museum Permanent Exhibition.