Film-Philosophy

(ISSN 1466-4615)

Vol. 4 No. 16, June 2000

 

 

Louis Schwartz

Deleuze, Rodowick, and the Philosophy of Film

 

 

 

D. N. Rodowick

_Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine_

Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1997

ISBN: 0822319705

280 pp.

 

Gilles Deleuze's primary philosophical gesture combines empiricism and

taxonomy. He divides experience into categories that he in turn uses to

create concepts each of which has a name. When writing about a philosopher

who proceeds by creating a new vocabulary one is tempted simply to define

terms and then apply them to new analyses in order to show off the power of

the lexicon. So far most of those who have written on Deleuze have invoked

his concepts in relation to texts and social formations not considered in

the philosopher's extensive works. Deleuze is concerned with becoming

rather than being -- he thinks about what changes instead of thinking about

what stays the same. Deleuze's concern with becoming is expressed in the

way his philosophy is written as well as in the themes it takes up. It

produces quiet crises between his concepts and their names.

 

As opposed to the concepts of classical philosophy, which maintain

themselves through self-identity and are founded on being, Deleuze's

concepts are multiplicities subject to mutation and constant becomings. The

tide of his concern with becoming changes concepts, each time they surface.

With each use a concept becomes other than what is was before. Such thought

cannot serve as the methodological binding of a handy reference. In _Gilles

Deleuze's Time Machine_ David Rodowick differentiates himself from other

North American Deleuze scholars by carefully keeping the 'becoming-other'

of Deleuze's concepts alive when he puts them into play, so that they never

become fixed terms in a mechanical analysis.

 

In order to deal with the complexity of the concepts that Deleuze derives

from the cinema, and to navigate their becoming, Rodowick divides his book

into two parts. The first part lays out Deleuze's fundamental concepts and

vocabulary along with the thought flows of their creation, so that the

reader gets a sense of how they became. The second part puts the concepts

and their names to work in the analysis of films and audiovisual-culture in

a way that allows them to continue to change. As the analyses proceed

Rodowick finds opportunities to introduce other concepts from Deleuze, and

to create some of his own.

 

In his preface, Rodowick attributes North America's non-engagement with

Deleuze's books on cinema to the lack of interest in film among our

philosophical community, and to resistance against Deleuze's challenge to

what Rodowick has elsewhere called the 'discourse of political modernism'

among our film scholars. [1] He writes that his main objective is to

'demonstrate both the originality and consistency of Deleuze's

philosophical concepts in ways that [he hopes] will provoke further work in

contemporary visual studies from these perspectives' (xv).

 

Rodowick begins Chapter One with an explanation of Deleuze's division of

cinema into the two signifying regimes of the movement-image and the

time-image. Films of the movement-image are organized around the images of

movement in space while films of the time-image are organized around direct

images of time. Rodowick elaborates the difference between these two types

of cinema over the course of short analyses of Buster Keaton's _Sherlock

Jr_ (1924) and Chris Marker's _La Jetee_ (1962). Like all the examples in

Part I, these are very helpful; Keaton's film is a clear example of the

movement-image, and Marker's of the time-image. _Sherlock Jr_ repeatedly

uses matches on action to connect the protagonist's movements between shots

of otherwise unrelated spaces. That trope illustrates the rational

principal of the movement-image according to which the continuity of action

assures the continuity of spaces between. _La Jetee_ presents a circular

story of time travel almost exclusively through a series of still images.

Marker's film illustrates the time-image where movements are no longer

rational but aberrant. In the movement-image motion constitutes a rational

link between spaces, and time serves as the measure of movement. In the

other regime, time is no longer the measure of movement but the object of

the image -- motion can no longer be used to connect cinematic spaces into

a whole.

 

In articulating the break between the regimes of the movement-image and the

time-image Rodowick introduces the importance of C. S. Peirce's work for

Deleuze's argument. Peirce offers a semiotics that is not based on

linguistics and allows images to be analyzed as sets of logical relations

rather than as the quasi-utterances they become in Metz's semiology.

Peirce's work allows Deleuze and Rodowick to demonstrate that the

differences of signification between the regime of the movement-image and

that of the time-image is produced by the different logical relations

within each regime.

 

Rodowick develops this notion of the image as a set of relations by

analyzing Deleuze's description of the logic of the narrative time-image as

'an open totality in movement'. Deleuze borrows these terms from Bergson's

description of thought. Through the appropriation of this Bergsonian

language Deleuze is able to forge a link between cinema and thought so as

to be able to treat films as a form of thinking.

 

For Bergson, thought moves horizontally according to principles of

association whereby images are linked according to their similarities or

contrasts. Thought also moves vertically according to principles that

internalize images into conceptual wholes. The whole itself is constantly

being integrated into related sets and thus constantly expands. Time, which

Bergson calls the open, prevents the wholes from ever closing. [2] The

whole of the open totality in movement can expand infinitely so that image

world and spectator are identified through a grand image of truth. Deleuze

calls this form of organization organic and associates it with Hegel.

 

Rodowick explains that in Hollywood and early Soviet cinema the interval,

or interstice, between film elements has the same form, despite their

different editing styles. In both cases, and in the movement-image in

general, a schema of action and reaction determines the relation between

the intervals and the whole. In order to allow action and reaction,

intervals appear as the beginning of the coming image and as the end of the

passing one, or as both. Deleuze names the movement-image's interval after

the mathematical term 'rational'. The rationality of the intervals allows

movement to continue across them and thereby support the correlation of

cause and effect, action and reaction.

 

Having sketched out the basic qualities of the movement-image, Rodowick

takes up the time-image. Following Deleuze, he suggests that after the

Second World War reality fragmented and dispersed so that the

action-reaction schema no longer functioned. [3] Deleuze calls the

cinematic regime produced in this new reality the time-image, and he

describes it as crystalline in form. The logical relations between thought

and time changed during the war and the character of the cinematic interval

changed as well. In the crystalline cinema the interval is an irrational

division with an existence proper to itself. It no longer forms the

beginning or the end of shots. Now the passage from one image to another

becomes ambiguous and the images proceed serially rather than sequentially.

 

Chapter Two elaborates Deleuze's appropriation of concepts from Bergson and

Peirce. Rodowick argues that by moving away from the traditional Kantian

comparison between cinematic structures and mental acts, exemplified by the

work of Hugo Munsterberg, and in taking up the theory of images, Deleuze

challenges classical philosophical distinctions between subject and object,

interior and exterior, referent and image.

 

Deleuze's appropriation of Bergson for the cinema may at first seem

somewhat wilful, for Bergson stated that the cinema was incapable of

rendering time as invention, and invention was for him the essence of time.

He held that each of the frames on a filmstrip are instantaneously recorded

a precise fraction of a second after the last. Bergson uses the cinema as

an example of the reductionist scientific temporality that privileges

individual moments over continuous duration. Rodowick justifies Deleuze's

use of Bergson with an exegesis of Deleuze's argument that Bergson

misapprehended the cinema. Deleuze's interpretation of Bergson's philosophy

of movement results in the thesis that real movement produces concrete

duration rather than abstract time, and for Deleuze movement is immediately

part of the cinematic image. Following Bergson's argument, Deleuze

concludes that matter cannot be separated from movement and that the

cinematic image presents both actual movements and actual objects.

 

To explain Deleuze's reasoning Rodowick elaborates the argument that

qualitative changes in duration are changes in relations between parts and

wholes. A part, or set, is closed by definition; in the cinema sets are

spatial sections. The whole is open and temporal. Duration is a change in

the whole, and the whole is what endures change.

 

Deleuze defines the shot as an ensemble or provisionally closed set -- a

spatial section that can be decomposed into smaller sets. Camera movements,

shifts in angles of view, and montage transitions introduce relations not

immanent to the objects in the image. While the objects in shots are

spatial their relations are apprehended as temporal. Movements vary the

relative positions of the image's parts and incorporate them into a whole

that changes qualitatively. Thus, the image becomes a mobile section of

duration.

 

Rodowick then takes up Deleuze's use of Bergson's argument that matter and

movement are identical. Rather than conceiving images as a representation

of objects, Bergson argues that framing the image as a representation

requires the separation of mind from matter and time. Thus, by adopting

Bergson's identification of matter, movement, and image, Deleuze is able to

elide the problem of the psychological relationship between the film screen

and its spectator. According to these premises cinema presents objects and

movements directly as elements in the composition of signs and there is no

need for a theory explaining our credulity before its images.

 

For Bergson the body and brain are themselves images among others that have

the distinction of being centers of indetermination. While the movements of

matter pass through all other objects according to physical laws, the

correlation between action on a center of indetermination and its reaction

passes through a free will. In other words, living beings can choose

between several possible reactions. The images we apprehend are virtual

modulations of their objects insofar as the body places limits on what can

be apprehended in the image.

 

Bergson's equivalence between the image and matter implies a world of

universal variation where matter is the whole aggregate of images. Deleuze

calls this world the plane of immanence. For the movement-image, the plane

of immanence is flowing matter. Movement is a universal variation where

change at the smallest level affects the largest level. On this plane of

immanence matter is energy and hence luminous in and of itself.

 

Rodowick argues that the concept of the movement-image contains an implicit

critique of the optical metaphors of Western philosophy. Instead of

considering the photograph as the primordial case of the image, Deleuze and

Bergson want to start with a moving image.

 

For Deleuze the brain is a screen that stops the light of matter and allows

their image to be perceived. On the plane of immanence movement-images are

time itself as becoming-in-space. When movement-images are apprehended in

relation to the body as center of indetermination, they produce three

components of subjectivity: perception, affection, and action. According to

Deleuze, subjectivity is nothing but a montage of these three categories.

The temporal gap between action and reaction opened up by a center of

indetermination -- the interval -- produces an image with two sides, a

receptive side and an active side. Within the interval actions give

incoming movements new destinations and trajectories. Rodowick shows that

this figure for experience as action and reaction contests the status of

light as metaphor for consciousness in Western philosophy. Instead of

projecting an illumination into the world, consciousness receives its light.

 

Each link in this circuit produces an image specific to it. The

perception-image produces a subjective perception by centering all its

elements on the body in the midst of a mobile and indeterminate space. The

affection-image institutes a delay between action and reaction and thereby

expresses the subject's experience of itself from the inside. The

action-image arises along the horizon established by the perception-image.

 

In Chapter Three Rodowick considers Deleuze's appropriation of C. S.

Peirce's semiotics in order to show how the so called 'signs' in the

cinematic regime of the movement-image are deduced from the three images

derived and defined in Chapter Two. Deleuze produces two semiotics of film:

one for the movement-image, produced on the plane of universal variation,

and another for the time-image, produced on the plane of thought's duration.

 

Unlike Ferdinand de Saussure's semiology, which held sway over much film

theory written in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, Peirce's semiotics starts with

non-linguistic signs. Peirce's signs are made of the same substance as the

objects of the world. Like Bergson, Peirce sees thinking as behavioral

rather than speculative, implying that that thinking is a fundamentally

temporal act.

 

Deleuze rejects Christian Metz's construal of the shot as the minimal unit

of meaning in the cinema. For Metz the shot is an actual unit of

expression, like a sentence, rather than a virtual, or potential unit, like

a word, which does not have any meaning until it is used in a phrase.

Deleuze sees the shot not as utterance, but as utterable, because for him

language only exists in relation to nonlinguistic material and thus

enunciation depends on 'enunciables'.

 

Rodowick points out that Metz and Deleuze both construct the history of

cinema as the history of its narrative possibilities. But for Deleuze the

forms of cinematic narration must be deduced from cinema's materials rather

than from a pre-existing structure of narrative. The first regime of cinema

forges its signs from the luminous 'signaletic' material of the

movement-image.

 

For Peirce meaning results from the combinations of images and thus it is

not surprising to find an emphasis on montage in a semiotic of the cinema.

Deleuze uses 'montage' to mean both the style of cutting and the

compositional principle or controlling idea in a film. Understanding

duration means understanding the temporalization of space as change.

Understanding the idea of montage means finding the unity in all its parts

as a measure of the open whole. Deleuze deduces four styles of montage from

the movement-image: the organic montage of Hollywood, the dialectical

montage of the Soviets, the extensive or quantitative montage of the French

impressionists, and the intensive montage of the German expressionists.

 

Each form of montage is a variation of the two fundamental 'chronosigns'

derived by Deleuze from the movement-image by way of Peirce's semiotic. One

represents time as bridging a receding past to an expanding future, while

the other gives time as a number and presents the variability of the

present. In both of these signs, the measure of time in relation to the

open can be calculated in advance.

 

Peirce's semiotics allows Deleuze to deduce several other signs from the

chronosigns according to the arrangement of images and intervals with

respect to centers of indetermination. This deduction is the result of the

application of Peirce's three categories of consciousness -- 'firstness',

'secondness', and 'thirdness' -- to Bergson's conception of the

movement-image. Firstness refers to a pure quality independent of its

actualization, secondness to existence, and thirdness to laws. The

perception-image has two poles: one identifying it with movement, the other

with the interval. It becomes the baseline to which Peircean semiotics are

applied and the other forms of the movement-image are derived according to

what compliments perception in the sensory-motor whole.

 

Perception may lead to action (secondness). When it does not issue in an

action it stays within the interval as affect (firstness); when it

reconstitutes the whole of movement with respect to all aspects of the

interval it becomes relational (thirdness). These sign-types correspond to

the action-image, the affection-image, and the relation-image. These

movement-images each produce a genetic sign that allows the other signs of

that type to be deduced.

 

In what is perhaps the most helpful and brilliant part of his book,

Rodowick draws out each type of sign 'deduced' by Deleuze, either by way of

Deleuze's cinematic example or with one of his own. For example, he

elucidates the 'qualisign', which is deduced from the affection-image,

through a reading of Deleuze's analysis of Joris Ivens's _Rain_ (1929) as a

film unfettered by a unified conception of time and space. In order to

explain the icon, which follows from the qualisign, Rodowick compares

Deleuze's discussion of faciality in _A Thousand Plateaus_ to Bela Balazs's

discussion of the facial close-up as expression of affect in the cinema.

The icon is not strictly identified with the expressive power of the human

face or the magnifying power of the close-up but with certain movements and

series of shots. What counts is that unrealized affects are expressed as

reflecting unity or intensive series by virtue of a deterritorialization.

This elaboration of signs is quite extensive but Rodowick keeps the

reader's attention by making Deleuze's derivations clear and defining each

term with precision.

 

Rodowick develops the example of _Rear Window_ (1954) to explain what

Deleuze calls the crisis of the action-image. This crisis of the

action-image comes from the weakening and disintegration of the

sensory-motor schema, and is for Rodowick figured by Jimmy Stewart's

hobbled photographer in Hitchcock's film. The sensory-motor schema limits

images to physical trajectories, yet qualisigns and the special spaces they

produce prefigure other images of duration.

 

These spaces, named 'any-space-whatevers' by Deleuze, are shots that are

not resolved into a unified cinematic map of an area. They are linked

either by real connections or virtual conjunctions. The former relate to

the sensory-motor schema and call for actions. When the sensory-motor

schema breaks down and montage intervals become irrational rather than

rational, any-space-whatevers are no longer caught up in a temporal series

defined by action and reaction. The image becomes an amorphous set or a

disconnected space. Instead of being used-up in action, the image becomes

an emptied space.

 

Chapter Four starts tracing the effects of the crisis in the action-image

by analyzing what happens when duration is no longer measured by the

translation of movements into actions and the movement-image gives way to

the time-image. The analysis begins by considering Italian neo-realism as a

moment in the crisis in which the cinematic movement-image plays itself

out. Bazin claimed that neo-realism produced images of a new post-war

reality, but Deleuze goes further when he claims that neo-realist images

turn exteriority and extension in space into mental relations or time

breaching a passage beyond the real.

 

The time-image is not based on the image of the whole as extensiveness in

space but on an intuition of universal becoming. A new montage form based

on irrational intervals capable of rupturing links between images emerges

with neo-realism allowing any-space-whatevers to become autonomous images.

 

New signs emerge under these new conditions. The 'lectosign' is linked to

description, the 'chronosign' to narration, and the 'noosign' to thought.

The lectosign produces inorganic descriptions that are not concerned with

the spatial rendering of an object, these descriptions become the

replacements for their own objects. In the new regime, the relations of all

the visual and acoustical components of the image ask to be read no less

than seen. [4] The virtual and the real can no longer be discerned.

 

Chronosigns derive from pure optical and acoustic images. When the

sensory-motor link disappears, movement becomes a perspective on time. It

reveals becoming as the pure form of time-as-change. In the cinema time

becomes points of presence or layers of the past. These are topographies of

relations internal to time's passing. Truth and falsehood become

indiscernible here as do the actual and the virtual.

 

The noosign presents time as a series, a sequence of images tending towards

a limit. The image of time here is an image of potentialization and

questions the notion of the true. Movement is redefined as that which

subordinates descriptions of space to the function of thought.

 

Rodowick points out that although, for Deleuze, truth does not change

according to the passage of epochs, in the crystalline regime the

*conditions* for truth have changed. In the organic regime truth requires

the false as its negation in order to master it as unity and identity.

Organic narration thus refers to a system of judgement that discovers truth

(85). In the time-image truth is no longer found but created, and thinking

is no longer the discovery of concepts, but their creation. With the

time-image narration concerns inexplicable presents resulting from pasts

whose truth or falsity cannot be decided.

 

Deleuze calls the time-image crystalline because it is multi-faceted. It

always has an actual, limpid pole, and a virtual, opaque pole, but it is

difficult to decide which pole is which. At the level of description the

actual refers to the physical and the real, to states of things as

described in space and perception. The virtual refers to the imaginary. The

process whereby a virtual object becomes actual is one of increasing

clarity, whereas the process by which an actual object becomes virtual is

one of fading clarity. Rodowick's exegesis of the complex play of actuality

and the virtuality in Deleuze is extremely lucid. His readings of films by

Welles and Resnais at the end of this chapter are especially helpful. They

might, however, benefit from a note on the French word *actuelle*

(translated here as 'actual'), for the French word can be used to indicate

the temporal present, while currently the English word does not have this

meaning.

 

Part II of _Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine_ shifts from a definition of the

terms in Deleuze's taxonomy to a description of what time-images do. Here

Deleuze's discursive war machine is out to work, but, as it works, the very

terms upon which it is founded become other than what they were at the

moment of their definition. This discursive apparatus produces Rodowick's

original contributions to the conversation between philosophy and cinema

studies.

 

Rodowick begins Chapter Five with an invocation of Kant's rethinking of

time in his _Critique Of Pure Reason_. He writes: 'More than any other

philosopher before Bergson, Kant transformed how time is conceived in

relation to movement' (121). The First Critique thought movement in

relation to time, rather than thinking time in relation to movement, a

reversal that Deleuze calls the Kantian Revolution. Whereas the

movement-image presents time as the measure of movement in space, the

time-image presents time as a force that subordinates or disrupts movement

as spatial succession. Like The First Critique, the time-image reverses the

relations between time and movement obtained in an older regime. In both

cases an intuition of time's transcendental forms comes from the image of

time's displacement of space.

 

Rodowick shows that, to the extent that the time-image is a sign, it does

not represent; rather, it forces us to think. In that sense it can be

called the image of thought, so long as we remember that it is not the

expression of an interior process but a way of making time appear as a

thought-provoking force, rupturing the connection between thought and truth

conceptualized as being.

 

In Chapter Six Rodowick continues his analysis of Deleuze's Nietzschean

critique, arguing that the cinema books use the concept of the time-image

to restore life to philosophy. According to this argument, the

movement-image is aligned with dead totalities and the time-image with the

openness of life. This openness is associated with fabulation -- the form

of narration that treats time as a series.

 

This meditation begins with a passage on the lack of a Deleuzian theory of

the subject. Rodowick shows that since subjectivity is divided from itself

by time as a constant change, the structure of the subject is always in

flux. As a result, there is no one subject for Deleuze to theorize.

 

Next, Rodowick introduces Deleuze's appropriation of Maurice Blanchot's

writings on 'the outside'. Rodowick argues that in the regime of the

movement-image the whole is an open totality that merges with an indirect

representation of time, but in the regime of the time-image the whole is

the outside -- a possibility radically separate from anything in the image.

According to Rodowick's reading of Deleuze, the movement-image's powers of

thought are 'Hegelian in their logic and Platonic in their values', and

'they harbor the subject in an ideal world impermeable to change' (143).

The whole as 'outside' implies a different organization of images. With the

time-image the function of the interval is changed so that instead of a

rational interval insuring continuity, we get a series organized by

irrational intervals that produce dissociation rather than association. The

cinema of the time-image produces a point outside the world capable of

restoring our faith in the world. When the whole is conceptualized as

'outside', it is rendered as 'becoming other in thought and becoming other

in identity' (142). While this section of _Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine_

is powerfully persuasive, it should be noted that Deleuze and Rodowick's

notion of 'the outside' will seem unfamiliar to readers of Blanchot's _The

Space Of Literature_. In that work, and throughout Blanchot's writing, 'the

outside' is filled with the terror of a suffocating proximity. Deleuze and

Rodowick have attenuated the threat of its anonymity and come perilously

close to conceptualizing 'the outside' as a (non)-site liberated of the

dialectic. This needs to be thought through much more slowly than it is in

Rodowick's book, and by way of a much closer reading of Blanchot. Such a

reading however might not be congenial to Deleuzians, as it runs the risk

of revealing that in Blanchot the outside is not an absolutely non-Hegelian

*atopos*. In fact a reader might find that Blanchot's path to the outside

is a certain reading of Hegel and Rilke.

 

For Deleuze and Rodowick, the outside produces two genres of time-images:

the cinema of the body and the cinema of the brain. Rodowick argues that

this is a spatial production. The outside renders time as the 'virtual

unthought that haunts both the body and the brain in the cinema of the

time-image' (142), and that it 'might' be the body's relation to time as

exhaustion, waiting, mortality.

 

The 'genesign' of the time-image presents time as a series. Rodowick uses

the elaboration of the genesign as an opportunity that to discuss political

cinema. Postcolonial filmmakers turn serial cinema into a 'hybrid'.

Rodowick argues that this is the articulation of a minor cinema according

to the definition of minor literature posited by Deleuze and Guattari in

their book _Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature_ (1975). The task of the

filmmaker in a minor cinema is to call a people into becoming, for minor

arts in this sense arise in conditions where a population has not yet

become a people, or is no longer one. The absent people requires 'an

enabling image that can summon it into existence as identity becoming

other' (141). In the minor cinema, the 'not yet' existence of thought

summons the 'not yet existence' of a people.

 

According to Deleuze and Rodowick, historical imagination in fabulation is

the key to modern political cinema. Seriality turns narration into

fabulation which makes of the subject a 'realizing fabrication capable of

bringing forth such historical events as the creation of a people' (141).

Series require an act of historical imagination.

 

This historical imagination produces the new. In the series, identity

itself and the politics of identity as self-same are falsified. While

classical cinema represents 'the people' as already existing in a

teleological becoming identical to the ineluctable unfolding of history,

the people called forth in modern political cinema are not yet and their

becoming has no telos. For Rodowick, the creation of a people as collective

subject is a desirable political goal because their collective becoming is

the basis on which a people can invent themselves.

 

As an example of the modern political cinema Rodowick offers a reading of

Ousmane Sembene's _Borom Sarret_ (1963). _Borom Sarret_ presents a day in

the life of a Dakar cart driver. It is series of vignettes of Dakar's

working poor. Rodowick makes much of the film's use of use of

post-synchronized sound. While the image has a documentary quality, the

sound does not. It is neither naturalistic, nor does its acoustic space

correspond to the space of the images. There is a layering of voice,

effects, and music, each of which are used as compositional blocks. This

produces a stratification of the film text.

 

The voice shifts between inner speech and dialogue as in free-indirect

narration. Stories are related in two songs on the music track. The address

is also split: the French of the cart driver can be understood by Europeans

and Senegalese. The Wolof songs can only be understood by those who know

that language. These combine with the 'visual address of the film itself'

to produce a triple enunciation. The cart driver and his interlocutors all

seem to be speaking 'in quotes'. Many of them are dubbed in by the same

voice, which Rodowick says he believes to be Sembene's. The narration seems

to come from outside the image.

 

In _Borom Sarret_ the people are shown as serialized and becoming real

while showing how they are linked in a collective situation. By giving his

voice to the actor playing the car driver, Rodowick claims that Sembene has

established a circuit 'between the organic intellectual and the worker, but

not in the usual sense of identification' (166). For Rodowick the cart

driver's body changes Sembene as much as Sembene's voice affects the cart

driver. One might wonder why the cart driver's own voice cannot be allowed

to emerge here, but according to the Deleuzian analysis, 'each is brought

out of their position to become other' (166). The characters cannot yet

recognize the collective that they are being brought into but the audience

might be able to.

 

Chapter Seven starts by citing Deleuze's idea that a philosopher is some

one who has died and returned to life only to die again. According to this

conception (the point where Deleuze's language is closest to Heidegger's)

death marks the horizons of thought and existence. In a particularly

un-Heideggerian turn, Deleuze's philosopher returns from beyond those

horizons with new possibilities of life, where life is what opposes

repetition without difference. If, for Heidegger, death is one's own most

proper possibility, the famous 'possibility of impossibility', it cannot be

so for Deleuze. For a death which can be returned from is not a form of the

impossible, and since the philosopher dies at least twice, we must ask

which of the two is the most proper.

 

The rhetoric of death and re-animation articulates the politics of _Gilles

Deleuze's Time Machine_. Rodowick argues that film theory is an especially

relevant part of philosophy in the contemporary world because our culture

is an audio-visual culture. According to him the concept is not almost dead

in the era of audio-visual culture and needs philosophy, the concept

machine to revive it. Philosophy is the creation of new concepts for

Deleuze, and film theory is a group of concepts created in the history of

moving images. Thus the history of cinema becomes part of the history of

philosophy.

 

Despite the fact that Deleuze is known as the thinker of

'deterritorialization', Rodowick correctly identifies a certain

philosophical protectionism in his work without naming it thus. Rodowick

writes that Deleuze wants to fend off the human sciences as poor rivals to

philosophical thinking. Even more important defenses need to be put up

against the disciplines of mass marketing and communications that now claim

to develop concepts -- disciplines in which critique is replaced by

marketing.

 

Rodowick describes a battle over the fate of the image and the concept in

audio-visual culture. This battle is a struggle against information and the

information society. The concept is, according to Rodowick, without

informational value. The nature of the concept is not linguistic nor is it

reducible to symbolic logic. It is not a pre-given knowledge that can be

the basis of judgements. It is a self-positing creation. The cinema lets us

think the autonomy of movement in the creation of concepts. If movement is

automatized in each movement-image, in the time-image the image is

auto-temporalized.

 

The two regimes provide concepts articulated as what Spinoza called

'spiritual automata', 'mental cartographies', and 'noosigns'. Spiritual

automata are concatenations of ideas that produce one another, not a form

of psychological consciousness, nor can they be described in terms of

identity. Mental cartographies are accords between thoughts and signs.

Rodowick distinguishes these two concepts from apparatus theory, which he

says is haunted by its Hegelian origins from Vertov to Baudry. At this

point in Rodowick's argument the absence of a serious reading of Hegel

becomes a problem. He is clearly referring to Jean Hyppolite's

understanding of Hegel as the philosopher of the closed dialectic that

necessarily leads to the triumph of the spirit and absolute knowledge. [5]

However this is not the understanding of Hegel given to us by Theodor

Adorno, Georges Bataille, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, or Blanchot to

name but five of his major twentieth-century readers. These thinkers are

each able to read the Hegelian text in different ways, all of which resist

the closure imputed to it by Deleuze and Rodowick. We should note that such

close attention to Hegel, like a close reading of Blanchot, presents a risk

to committed Deleuzians, for they might discover that becoming is already

inscribed as an interminable moment in _The Phenomenology of Spirit_.

 

For Deleuze and Rodowick, philosophy is both a construction of concepts and

a cartography of their relations. Concepts are concrete assemblages and the

plane of immanence is the abstract machine of which the concepts are the

working parts. According to Rodowick, in the movement-image thought is

commensurate with the dialectical expansion of the image, but in the

time-image time and thought become a force of difference interrupting

repetition.

 

Rodowick develops an analysis of Eisenstein in order to show the limits of

the time-image by showing its highest expression and categorizing it as

determined by his reading of Hegel. In Eisenstein, the great practitioner

and theorist of cinematic ecstasy, there is no distinction between the

cinema of the body and the cinema of the brain. The identity between

concept and image formed in Eisenstein is the final step in what is

supposedly a Hegelian dialectic. Deleuze calls this an action-thought. This

requires a teleological orientation that goes along with the organic will

to truth. The truth here expands horizontally and vertically. The spectator

of this cinema believes in the world it presents not only because of its

internal consistency, but because he is included in the image of the whole.

 

The time-image requires the obliteration of the whole in favor of the

outside that is inserted between its elements, as well as between the

screen and its spectators. Sensory-motor situations are displaced by

visualizations of the force of time based on the passive synthesis of time.

The psychological automaton of the time-image is only 'the image of a

divided psyche that speaks or moves according to a force that does not

belong to it' (188). Force here is time as an affirmative will to power

that transforms identity.

 

In Chapter Eight Rodowick relates Deleuze's two volumes on cinema to the

rest of his work. He shows that they develop concepts with and arguments

from _A Thousand Plateaus_, _Foucault_, and _What is Philosophy?_, and that

they anticipate much of the thought in _The Fold_. He reads the cinema

books as a retrospective of Deleuze's philosophical career.

 

This retrospective leads us to philosophy proper. The unthought presented

by the time-image forces us to become philosophers and to unfold the world

of difference implicated in its paradox. These texts perform the double

task of inventing a perspectival truth and exploring the virtual domain of

difference. Deleuze uses the Bergsonian identity between matter and

movement and Nietzsche's eternal recurrence as ways of starting to think

'the outside', which is at once a plane of universal variation and pure

virtuality in the form of time-as-change.

 

Rodowick uses this chapter to develop the concept of virtuality as absolute

memory and as the memory of resistance. The logic of the irrational

interval is non-spatial, irreducible to any set, and cannot be incorporated

into any whole. In the movement-image the outside is the referent against

which the image measures itself, but in the time-image it gives us a theory

of thought without image. Established powers organize horizons of seeing

and speaking and the modern cinema works to explode them. It surpasses the

audiovisual a priori that each audiovisual formation presupposes and

becomes 'the outside' of such formations.

 

Power splits into a force that acts and one that is acted upon. This split

corresponds to the stratification of the time-image into the visible and

the utterable. Thus Rodowick claims that the series of time is always a

multiplicity and not a dialectical unity. Furthermore he states that

time-as-series is incommunicable. Power and resistance are coupled

incommensurably. Power anchors itself in relations of forces that it

transforms into territories, while resistance restores their fluidity. The

outside as an absolute relation is a non-relation. In other words, it is

pure virtuality.

 

Life is the will to power that acknowledges change and becoming as forces.

For Rodowick, resistance is the awakening of more affirmative forces than

those of the life we now live. To think is to invent the future. The

aesthetic problem relevant to philosophy is the relation of art to everyday

life. By 'everyday life' is meant the consumption of mass-produced goods as

the return of the same. The role of art is to point out the limits of this

return and to thereby gradually produce difference. Thus, finding the

subtle way out of our current conditions requires us to think cinema's

history of images and signs, because for Rodowick cinema is the source of

audiovisual culture.

 

Yet sometimes there is no way out, and for some the everyday cannot be said

to take the form of life. In an earlier chapter, Rodowick says that _Shoah_

(1985) refers to the slow 'annihilation of history and memory' by the

passage of time (145). He reads the verdant fields that have grown over

charnel grounds as the past that has temporarily been lost. This reading

misses the outrage that the film expresses at the fact that the world goes

on after the Shoah, even in the very sites where it took place. [6]

Rodowick is correct to observe that the land buries the past beneath its

fertility, but the insult of its fecundity is never mentioned. Here the

vitalism of Deleuze's Nietzsche and Bergson need to be questioned. Perhaps

life should not always go on, perhaps it should not be upheld as the

highest or only value.

 

Continuing his reading along the same lines, Rodowick interprets the song

sung by Simon Srebnick, a survivor of Chelmo, as the resistance to the loss

of memory by time since he sings on a small boat rowing past the killing

fields. According to this reading, the shock produced by the discrepancy

between the description of places in the testimony and the images of those

places as they looked when Lanzmann shot them becomes a force capable of

recovering the past. Lanzmann and Phillip Muller, a survivor of the death

camps, are said to communicate in a language that belongs to neither image

nor sound and to forge a historical relation without having us experience

what Muller lived through by means of a visual recreation. For Rodowick,

Muller's account is corroborated by shots of contemporary Auschwitz.

Corroboration is not, however, one of _Shoah_'s textual operations. The

film is structured so that its truth effects are produced by the act of

testifying itself.

 

Contrary to Rodowick's argument that 'the millions of lives lost to the

past are nonetheless redeemed in the act of historical imagination that

arises from the autonomy of speech in relation to the image' (147-8),

_Shoah_ does not seek to release any kind of redemptive force. Such

redemption is only thinkable if one holds that forgetting the relation

between present and past is a more profound catastrophe than the

disappearance of present and past. Such a perspective assumes that the

Holocaust is over, that it was an event linking up to a time that comes

after it. Only then can the juxtaposition of autonomous text, image, and

speech be said to overcome the difference between past and present by

giving form to that very difference.

 

Moreover, any possibility of redemption is foreclosed by _Shoah_'s

insistence on the impossibility of communicating the experience of the

camps. The film's testimonial scenes might be said to be organized figures

of meutophrasis, whereby the speaker's words are palpably incomprehensible

to those to whom they are addressed. Again and again victims tell their

stories before audiences for whom, for reasons of language or culture,

their words strike deaf ears like silence. The holocaust was not an event,

it did not take place in the kind of time within which things begin and

end, for, from the moment of their deportation, the inmates of the camps

were already dead. One of the things that _Shoah_ gives us to see and hear

is that in some way even the survivors are dead. As a member of the Jewish

resistance in Warsaw says to Lanzmann near the end of the film: 'Claude, if

you could lick my heart it would poison you.'

 

Such disagreements from a reader are signs of the power and importance of

Rodowick's account of Deleuze. Many of my objections are against Deleuze

rather than Rodowick, and all of them have been expressed in order to keep

the conversation opened by _Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine_ going.

 

University of Iowa, USA

 

 

Footnotes

 

1. See, for example, Rodowick's _The Crisis Of Political Modernism_.

 

2. Though Rodowick does not mention this, it is important to note that

Deleuze's use of the phrase 'the open' is inflected by Rilke's work. For

example, see Rilke's Letter of February 25, 1926. He writes: 'By Open we do

not mean the sky, the air, space -- which for the observer are still

objects, and thus opaque. The animal the flower is all that without

realizing it, and has thus before itself, beyond itself, that indescribably

open freedom, which, for us only exists in its extremely short lived

equivalents perhaps only in the first instants of love.' Quoted in Maurice

Blanchot, _The Space Of Literature_, trans. Ann Smock (Lincoln: University

of Nebraska Press, 1982).

 

3. Deleuze is himself following Andre Bazin in this argument. See Bazin's

essay, 'The Evolution of Cinematic Language', in _What is Cinema?_, vol. I,

trans. Hugh Grey (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967).

 

4. Although it is beyond the scope of this review, one must note the

tension between Deleuze's refusal of a linguistic semiotic of film and his

insistence that, in what he calls the modern cinema, the image needs to be

read in order to be understood. One cannot suppress language from the

semantic field of reading, or from the metaphorical chains established by

that word, without reduplicating Saussure's problematic exclusion of

writing from language proper.

 

5. The young Deleuze, like many of the important French philosophers of the

1960s and 1970s, attended Jean Hyppolite's seminars at L'ecole Normal

Superieure in Paris.

 

6. On this point see Carolyn Forche's poem, 'The Angel of History', in her

_The Angel Of History_ (New York: Harper Collins, 1994). In particular, see

page 12.

 

Copyright © Louis Schwartz 2000

 

Louis Schwartz, 'Deleuze, Rodowick, and the Philosophy of Film',

_Film-Philosophy_, vol. 4 no. 16 June 2000

<http://www.film-philosophy.com/vol4-2000/n16schwartz>.

 

  

 

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