Helga Mitterbauer

Panel 2E: Cinematic Transcodifications/1
Session 2 – July 1, 15:30 – 17:00

 Kafka’s Country Doctor Amplified: Koji Yamamura’s Anime Adaptation

Franz Kafka’s short story Ein Landarzt/A Country Doctor (1918) itself is an example of inter-medial transposition: With characters and objects changing sizes and movements changing speed, the text creates moving pictures in the reader’s mind. In this way, it reflects the medium of film that was gaining momentum in this time, as well as new trends in fine arts (e.g. Duchamp or cubist paintings). In literary scholarship, this cryptical text has been interpreted as a representation of the dissociation of the subject, of a questioning of identity and sense, of the dynamics of the unconsciousness and their creative potential in the arts. Dislocation and condensation nearly gain the quality of leitmotives in this literary text and predestine it for transcodification. 

The anime Kafka Inaka Isha (カフカ 田舎医者), directed and written by Japanese animator Koji Yamamura (2007), picks up precisely on these elements: In his multi award-winning, nearly black and white anime, he „amplifies“ the dislocations and condensations sketched out in the literary original: As he adapts the story into the different medium the animator increases the uncanny, surrealist atmosphere by anthropomorphizing landscapes and objects, by multiplying the character of the doctor, by physically transforming the characters (e.g. in one scene he shows the doctor from a very top view which increases the size of his head until it nearly fills the whole screen), by the use of music and sound, and by integrating a children’s choir which serves like an ancient chorus commenting on the situation. Multimedial references to the original text are very present as Yamamura integrates the visual form of Kafka’s handwriting and an audible voice over of the text. 


Helga Mitterbauer holds the of German literature at the Université libre de Bruxelles.  She has published about 20 volumes and numerous articles on German language literature and culture in its transnational context from 19th to 21st century, on the theory of cultural transfers, and on transcultural studies.  Recent Book Publications: Crossing Central Europe: Continuities and Transformations, 1900 and 2000 (co-ed., Toronto, 2017); Brussels : 1900 : Vienna (co-ed., Amsterdam, 2020); Elfriede Gerstl und die Wiener Gruppe (co-author, Berlin, forthcoming); Migration and Religion (co-ed., Amsterdam, forthcoming); Trans-Culture: Literature and Migration in Europe since the 1950s (co-ed., Amsterdam, forthcoming).