Studies in Literature, Film and New Media
Edited By Anna Kędra-Kardela and Andrzej Sławomir Kowalczyk
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Gothic Automata and the Kunstkammer Island: The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes by Quay Brothers
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Gothic Automata and the Kunstkammer Island: The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes by Quay Brothers
This article seeks to show how in the film The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2005) directed by Stephen and Timothy Quay the (neo)baroque spectacle of the kunst- or wunderkammer intersects with the Gothic convention, and the ways in which the film, situated on the cusp of the Gothic and the (neo)baroque paradigms, explores what can be regarded as the “aesthetic unconscious” (Rancière 2009: 43-45) of modernity; a concept which will be discussed in detail later on.
Set on a remote island, The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes presents the entangled fates of Malvina von Stille, an opera singer with a magnetic personality, and Felisberto, who is a double of Malvina’s true love, Adolfo. Abducted in the middle of her wedding and separated from her fiancée Adolfo by one Dr Emmanuel Droz, Malvina, an opera singer, is pronounced dead by the doctor. Yet, she is resuscitated and put into a necromantic trance on an uncanny island over which he wields power; an island whose landscapes are reminiscent of a cabinet of curiosities, or, kunst- or wunderkammer. He does this in order to imprison her voice in one of his seven ocean-tide-triggered automata. Dr Droz hires Felisberto, a hyper-sensitive piano tuner, who remarks that he “can hear anything between a sneeze and infinity,” to maintain the automata that are so...
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