Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

DELEUZE – CINEMA 2: The Time Image, Conclusions

DELEUZE – CINEMA 2: The Time Image, Conclusions

A theory of cinema is not ‘about’ cinema, but about the concepts that cinema gives rise to and which are themselves related to other concepts corresponding to other practices, the practice of concepts in general having no privilege over others, any more than one object has over others. It is at the level of the interference of many practices that things happen, beings, images, concepts, all the kinds of events.
…For no technical determination, whether applied (psychoanalysis, linguistics) or reflexive, is sufficient to constitute the concepts of cinema itself. [p280]

The previous statements are taken from the concluding paragraph of Deleuze’s Cinema 2; they function as both an apology and a challenge to film theorists, staking final philosophical claim to film analysis. I put these here, because I find it essential in reading Deleuze to expect his writing to be contradictory, expansive, and confusing, but also fertile ground for thought. Deleuze seems to embody the dialectic down to his very language, constantly exhausting his terminology and developing new terms.

He begins his conclusion with the statement that cinema is neither langue nor language, and its study neither Semiotics or Semiology. This is the essential assertion of Cinema 1 and Cinema 2—and the concept which places his analysis in the realm of philosophy—that film is not made up of signs, but instead a pre-linguistic automaton: a brain. It is the bold assertion that film is not representation but actual content. It is based in part on his reading of Bergson, and the idea that both object and perceiver are essentially and indistinguishably images. This thinking of the screen is referred to at times as: “psychomechanical,” “utterable,” the “signifiable” (a “pure semiotics”), “spiritual” or “psychological automaton,” “the way thought thinks.”

This special automata nature of cinema, Deleuze sees as confronting the man-machine assemblage. Historically, with both the collapse of the age of the Hitler mythic ideology, the rise of a cliché ideology as that against which to rebel, and the increase in mediated spaces, cinema has reacted in the post war period with a new type of “thinking,” moving from a Movement Image based cinema to one that strives for a Time Image. The Time Image mimics some characteristics of information technology, the screen becomes not eye/perspective centered, but a screen-plane of information, existing in interchanging layers, and the sound divorced from the image. This concept of the screen as database of information, ever-available to be related and presented in new ways, morphing and peeling layers away, resonates with our other readings in new media and animation. What is interesting is that here Deleuze finds it in the structure of the technologically standard film cut. He asserts that the screen is now not eye based, but brain based… giving an experience of time. Again, this is a particular view of time, inspired by his reading of Bergson: time as changing qualitative succession… becoming: “aberrant movement.”

The screen no longer refers itself to our perspective—or any perspective—but to its own “thoughts.” The hope is this new image, combined with the “will to art”—which I take to mean an intuitive (or “involuntary”) creative force, without ideology, that can give force to the interchangeable, apathetically equal information—can create a cinema without ideology, that inspires self-awareness, and the realization, “we are not yet thinking.” The point of inspiration is the Time Image, created by the irrational interval cut (see figures). Deleuze uses the term “irrational” after its mathematical usage, to note something coming from outside of the rational set, such that the irrational interval comes between juxtaposed images that form a “non-representable multiplicity”—they cannot be reconciled. This Time Image gives a direct representation of time.

The Movement Image results in an indirect representation of time, where time is subordinated and communicated through movement (here, again, we see a correlation to Bergson’s assertion that time cannot be spatialized, and the equation of time as something to be charted against space to describe movement is in error). Time is in relation to movement either as its minimal unit or as the whole through which it travels. The totality of time (that whole through which it moves) is only communicated through montage. Here I can venture a visualization as time is in relationship to movement as the synchronized clocks of the film camera and the projector reconstruct the movement of the representation through their perfect rendering of 24fps; this is perceived by us with our equivalent clocks (our “sensory motor schema,” again, like Bergson’s concept of instants and perception), but it is only at the moment of the cut (the “noosign” that signifies without being embodied in an image) that we must make closure to a whole that is changing. In these intervals we narrate, we perceive the changing whole that movement results in.

In the Time Image, “time is out of joint;” movement subordinates itself to time: time causes aberration or normalization in movement, the objects are not acting to cause change, but time inflicts change on them. The images are experienced as pure “opsigns” and “sonsigns,” images that are not going anywhere, but “empty, disconnected, abandoned spaces” that instead of inspiring the question “what is there to see in the next image,” make us ask, “what is there to see in the image?” These disconnected images link up (or “re-link”) with “recollection images” and “dream images” unlike the “action images” and “affection images” of the Movement Image. Again, Deleuze’s concepts for the new cinema resonate with those developed in new media. For Deleuze, these images are moving towards a more open whole: recollection images expand the present (through metonymy), dream images expand the whole or world (through metamorphosis or metaphor). These images embody both the actual and virtual, and make indiscernable the real from the imaginary, the outside and inside, the out of set/frame and in set. This shock or confusion inspires around our perceiving senory-motor schema (which Deleuze sees as the seat of ideology) to create new thought:

A cliché is a sensory-motor image of the thing. As Bergson says, we do not perceive the thing or the image in its entirety, we always perceive less of it, we perceive only what we are interested in perceiving, or rather what it is in our interest to perceive, by virtue of our economic interests, ideological beliefs, and psychological demands. We therefore normally perceive only clichés. But, if our sensory-motor schemata jam or break, then a different type of image can appear: a pure optical-sound image, the whole image without metaphor, brings out the thing in itself, literally, in its excess of horror or beauty, in its radical or unjustifiable character, because it no longer has to be ‘justified’, for better or for worse… [Cinema 2, p20]

When Deleuze speaks of bringing about a direct representation of time, he seems to be speaking about realization beyond the pro-filmic world, but a realization of time within the audience, an experience of stepping out of language and actually experiencing a duration. Deleuze describes the Time Image as something which may not exist in perfection (or even abundance) within cinema, but a limit that cinema can approach. I find it useful to imagine the Time Image in relationship to movement image, as a tear in a film, a point where the shot comes from outside of the filmic world, and into this moment, we are able to entrust all of the excess emotion and ideas that have been built to that point, like a direct circuit between two pre-linguistic utterances. It is, perhaps, a similar experience as to that relief of absurdity, or gestalt of humor, a whole that is realized in the process of perceiving an incommensurable gap.


Henri Bergson; Creative Evolution, Dover Publications Inc., Mineola, NY 1998; Republish of Henry Holt & Co., NY 1911

Ronald Bogue; Deleuze on Cinema, Routledge, New York & London, © 2003 Taylor & Francis Books Inc.

Giles Deleuze, Bergsonism Transl. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, Zone Books, NY, 1991

Gilles Deleuze, CINEMA 2: The Time Image, Transl. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta; Univ. Minnesota Press, 1989.

D.N. Rodowick; Gilles Deleuze’s Time Machine Duke University Press; Durham & London 1997.

Thu, November 3 2005 » Future Cinema, outline