World Festival of Animated Film /
short and feature edition 4 to 9 June 2018
World Festival of Animated Film / short and feature edition 4 to 9 June 2018
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The Chamber Escapes – Horror as a Matter of Light and Space – Martina Tritthart (University of Applied Sciences FH Burgenland and University of Applied Sciences FH Joanneum, Vienna, Austria)

Spatial perception is of particular importance in horror films; this applies to animated stories the same way as it does to live-action movies. When discussing the experience of horror in any audio-visual medium, it makes sense to look at animation from a broader, more structural point of view. On the one hand, the metaphor of the haunted house, the horror in a confined space, frequently stands for one's own state of mind and psyche – so architectural elements become a symbol of a constructed mental structure. On the other hand, the viewer's imagination is stimulated by principles of Gestalt psychology, and this is often comparable to the perception of a hallucination, questioning the boundaries of our reality. The visible space is extended with a virtual ‘dark’ space that directly touches the viewer. In this presentation examples in animation that extend and sharpen the possibilities in filmmaking are analysed concerning the inherent use of light and darkness, used to evoke alarming spatial sensations. A cramped space, a chamber that collapses, a room that loses its depth, is an intimidating space. But even an empty large place without things in it can be and frightening and unsettling.
 Light creates space. Light establishes a distance between the spectator and the objects he sees, as well as between the elements themselves, thus defining room depth for the possibility to act. We experience spaces through light, and this same light can trigger the sensation of fear and horror. In particular, the light design in the early expressionist German films had a lasting effect on films and animation. Using selected historical examples, the application of their visual language and its tools can be traced in animated work up to the present times.

To understand the roots and conditions of the aesthetic methods it helps to look at paradigmatic examples of classic films in relation to animation. The use of darkness and structural setting of the light indicate something that the viewer does not fully understand. An already dark room, which in itself has a disturbing effect, is being extended by another frightening dimension, the existence of a possible external threat. Conversely, "picture-objects lose themselves not only in the dark but also in the bright white." (Rudolf Arnheim) Based on the phenomenological philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the architectural and pictorial theory of Juhani Pallasmaa, this paper discusses the meaning, symbolism, and effect of light and space as generators of moods, feelings, and fears. The possibilities for the construction of screen-space as a trigger for horror are particularly strong in animated films. In this applied context strategies to amplify and accentuate such effects will be demonstrated in various historical and contemporary examples.

Martina Tritthart, PhD studied architecture at the University of Technology Graz. Ph.D. on "Light Spaces - Spatial Models of Perception". She was an assistant professor at the Institute for Spatial Design at the TU Graz and in the program Space and Design Strategies at the University of Art and Design Linz. Currently, she is teaching as a lecturer for lighting and media design at the University of Applied Sciences FH Joanneum and the University of  Applied Sciences FH Burgenland. In addition, she works as an artist, filmmaker, and curator at the interface of media, architecture and visual arts.