Eszter Polónyi

Eszter PolonyiE-mail address:
Home institution:
Columbia University
Academic position:
PhD Candidate
Areas of research:
Early 20th century Central-Eastern European Aesthetics
Title of the presentation: Invisible Man: Microcinematography in early 20th century Europe



Starting in 1918, the Romanian studio of Eugene Janovics began work on a series of medical melodramas. The only extant film in the series, Világrém/Menace (1920) is organized around the medical diagnosis of syphilis, as articulated partially by shots of microcinematography. The centrality of the diagnostic images to the development of the emotions of the drama invests microcinematography with an affective dimension. Following on historical accounts of microcinematography such as that of Lisa Cartwright and Hannah Landecker, this paper explores the particular purchase of such scientific images on notions of individual subjectivity.

Basing the analysis on the works of theory written by Béla Balázs and Jean Epstein in the early 1920s, the paper points to certain formal, terminological and structural similarities in the aesthetic investigation of cinematic medium specificity and early 20th century scientific imaging practices. Notably, it will focus on claims of objectivity and affective immediacy in what might be called a discourse of an ?invisible man”.

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