Movement and Time Images (Deleuze) (Cinema 1 Cinema 2)


I am trying to get a handle on the two primary types of image, the “movement image” and the “time image” in Deleuze two books on cinema. Each with their own specific variations, these two primary topoi are the respective subjects of Cinema 1 and Cinema 2. What follows is my digest of what I think are the most important features of both, and then some brief comments about Deleuze, these two books, and “religion.”

The overarching conceptual apparatus to the two books on film is metaphysical in design –the circuits created between virtual and actual, dovetailing with other sets of non-oppositional, polar distinctions (the imagined and the real [his term], the mental and the physical, the objective and the subjective). Following Bergson, the philosophical starting point is that the image that appears to consciousness or as consciousness, on the one hand, and the life of flowing matter, on the other hand, are to be understood as univocal, both composed, ultimately of light at their highest pitch or acceleration (Cinema 1, pp. 56, 59-61)

Life or the virtual is univocal. Actualized, there are two basic types of image: the Movement Image (explored in Cinema 1) and the Time-Image (explored in Cinema 2).

The Movement Image (Cinema 1)

By Image, Deleuze follows Bergson to mean something both very simple and very broad — “the set of what appears,” how this set appears in constant flux between intersecting parts in relation to a whole. An image for Deleuze is just about anything. It is not to be confused with only that which is “inside” my consciousness since I myself am an image (i.e. movement). As movements of matter, images act on other images and react to them. Deleuze identifies the infinite set of images with that familiar Deleuzian doxa “the plane of immanence” (p.58). What Deleuze intends here is primarily the Movement-Image Itself (Pure Movement-Image) from which are cut three distinct variations, to be discussed below. The movements of the material universe are themselves simultaneously movement-images. Deleuze will be concerned ultimately with a primary apprehension of the pure Movement-Image, which is the plane of immanence.

Chapters 1-3 of Cinema 1 are devoted to [1] “The Whole,” understood in relation to the Bergsonian durée, world and time as a living and constantly changing plenum out of which parts are abstractly cut (chapter 1). [2] The “Frame,” “Shot,” “Framing,” and “Cutting,” in particular the relation between what occupies a place inside the frame and that which is “out of field” (chapter 2). The shot is a determination of movement inside a closed system or frame (p.18). It divides, subdivides, reunites into a single duration by tracing movements in a whole that is itself constantly dividing and reconnecting. Movement itself is decomposed and recomposed (p.20). The Shot is the Movement-Image, relating movement to a whole that is change and constantly changes (pp.22, 27-8). [3] “Montage” understood as a determination of a whole by means of continuity, cuts, and false continuity. Deleuze identifies four types of montage in the history of cinema: organic montage (in early American film), dialectical montage (Soviet film), quantitative montage (pre-war French film), and intensive montage (German Expressionism). The discussion of specific films and film styles here, as  throughout these two volumes, is especially invaluable. Readers for religion, take note. The discussion of expressionist montage is brought clearly to bear by Deleuze on what Kandinsky called “the spiritual in art.”

The Movement-Image has 2 aspect or orientations, one directed towards the parts and relations contained within the closed set or frame, the other directed towards the open whole that keeps the set from closing in on itself (p.55). We will learn in Cinema 2 that the Direct Movement-Image and its apprehension is the first dimension in an ever-growing image-complex (Cinema 2, p.22).

Types of movement-image:

To begin with, there is the Instantaneous-Image, which Deleuze pretty much ignores. Following Bergson’s rejection of a model of time based on the chronotype, a sequencing of discrete moments, it is dismissed by Deleuze as an “immobile section of movement,” in contrast to the Movement-Image (which is a “mobile section of duration”) (p.11).

Deleuze identifies 3 main types of Movement-Image with a 4th transitional type. The Perception-Image relates to the linguistic form of the noun, the Affection-Images relates to the powers and qualities inherent in the adjective, and the Action-Image relates to the verb. The Impulse-Image is a transitional one between the Affection-Image and the Action-Image. A 5th type of image explored by way of epilogue is the Mental-Image.

[1] The Perception-Image: There are 2 aspects to the Perception-Image, the subjective view of a thing seen from within a set and the objective view of the thing seen from outside the set. On the one hand, the subjective perception-image is centered, privileged around the fixed point of view of the subject in relation to which images vary (p.71). (Deleuzian philosophy is dedicated to surpassing the fixed point of view of the subject.) In contrast, with the objective perception-image the center is put into movement. Examples of the latter include acentric images of watery, gaseous, and molecular movements, luminous waves in which a fixed point will vanish from view (cf. pp.71, 76, 80); and then the screen goes blank (p.86).

[2] The Affection-Image. Deleuze relates the affection-image to the concept of “firstness” in the semiotics of C.S. Peirce. The affect expressed, primarily by the close-up of a face (which is the affection-image par excellence) is marked by intensive potentialization. It is composed of two parts: an impassible unity and expressive movement (reflecting surface and intensive micro-movements). As potential, the affection image registers the quality of a possible sensation before being actualized (p.98). The affection image alienates its primary object, from spatial and temporal coordinates, abstracting the face from person to which it belongs in “the state of things” (p.97). The affection-image is not sensation or feeling as actual. At first impersonal, non-individuated, indivisible (without parts), it is only then actualized either in a state of things or as expressed by a face (98). Films by Bergman are key to this analysis of the inhuman and phantom-like quality of the affection-image, in which characters lose social roles, the ability to communicate, or anything else relating to individuation (pp.99-100).

Note here and throughout the importance of place or setting in Deleuze’s theory of the image. The image is always situated either in place or out of place. The affection-image relates to any-space-whatever, the non-determined disconnected, featureless no-spaces suggested by the post-war landscapes and cityscape, but also in color, shadows and whites (pp.111-121). It is not immediately clear why Deleuze is already talking about postwar film (Antonioni, Fassbinder, Godard) in Cinema 1, which is devoted to the movement-image in prewar cinema and why he did not content himself with the affection-image of faces in Eisenstein, expressionist film, or Chaplin from the 1920s (Cinema 1, p.119-21). The answer may very well lie in the fact that already in the discussion of the affection-image in Cinema 1, Deleuze is anticipating features of an image (e.g. the pure optical and sound situation) that will reappear as a time-image in Cinema 2. As affect, Deleuze is talking about pure potential, pure powers and qualities independent of the state of things or milieu (setting) (p.120).

[3] The Action-Image. We have now we have entered into the oppositional form, the duel of forces, or what Peirce called “secondness.” Characters act and react in relation to each other and in relation to their situation. In the action-image, qualities and powers (i.e. affect) no longer appear in the any-space-whatsoever of the affection-image or in what we will see below to be the originary world of the impulse-image. The situation is now actualized in a determinate, geographical, historical, social, spatial and temporal world (p.141). In what Deleuze calls the “large form” of the action-image (SAS’ or situation-action-situation), the image moves from situation to action to new situations. This large form of the action-image depends upon gaps between actual situations and the action to come, situations permeating more and more the characters who then burst into action like in the Western or in films by Kazan and the Actors Studio (p.155). In the “small form” of the action-image (ASA’), the image moves from action to situation to new action. Particularly pronounced in comedy (Chaplin), the small form of action discloses larger situations, which emerge and vary in the gap between one action and the next (p.160).

[4] The Impulse-Image is a transitional image between the affection-image and the action-image. The impulse-image is the embryonic form of the first action-image. It combines what Deleuze calls the realism of the action-image and the idealism of the affection-image (p.123). Again, place is central to Deleuzian film theory. The place or setting of the impulse-image is an “originary world” which appears in the depths or in the ruins of a determined milieu. In this way, the impulse-image depends upon the sense of an actual historical and geographical world. But this originary world of the impulse-image is not itself fully realized or actually determined. The originary world remains, in this sense, formless or pure background. Examples include the outline of deserts and forests, disconnected worlds gathered into rubbish dumps made up of fragments (pp.123-4), studio jungles, rock gardens, a desert of columns, or a drawing room or church in film by Buñuel. These are key visual guides to what Deleuze means by an “originary world” (p.125).

Set in an originary world, the impulse-image assumes bizarre and complex, unusual configurations, including, again with an eye on Buñuel, spiritual perversions. The impulse-image is defined by its object, which is always a partial object, e.g. a fetish, some raw morsel, a woman’s underwear, etc. The “destiny” of the impulse-image is the taking possession through guile and violence everything that it can in a given milieu, to pass between one milieu and another, to explore and exhaust a milieu. There is the vampire or seducer who moves from victim to victim, but also the holy good and holy men, breeding on scraps and stuck to fragments which they carry away, impulses of the soul stronger than hunger and sex that give perversion a spiritual cast (pp.127-30). Again anticipating the Time-Image in Cinema 2, Deleuze says of Buñuel that he steps beyond the “naturalism” of the impulse-image to knock on the doors of time and to free it from the repetition of dead content. He steps beyond “naturalism” without ever renouncing it (p.132).

[5] The Mental-Image reflects what Peirce calls thirdness, in which two are linked together through the medium of a third relation such as symbol and law. The Marx Brothers are exemplary. Harpo represents firstness, “a representative of celestial affects…, infernal impulses, voraciousness, sexuality, destruction,” hiding in his raincoat all kinds of objects, “bits and pieces which can used for any kind of action,” but which he can only use in an affective or “fetishistic” way. Harpo is always in closest proximity to Chico, who “takes on action, the initiative, the duel with the milieu, the strategy of effort and resistance.” Groucho enters in as “thirdness,” “the man of interpretations, of symbolic acts, and abstract relations,” the master of nonsensical reasoning, arguments, and syllogisms (p.199). Just as important to Deleuze is Hitchcock who works in relations, mathematical or abstract necessity that emerge despite the “improbabilities of the plot and the action” (p.202).

At the end of Cinema 1, Deleuze concludes with a call for more thought and for new images in cinema. The denouement of Cinema 1 is the collapse of the action-image into Cliché, which only the new type of the time-image can shatter. The time-image will cut perception from action and determinate situation, will cut affect from character, forming a “new substance” that looks “beyond movement” (Cinema 1, pp.208, 215). The cliché is in alliance with the conventional image in which the viewer selects out by way of subtraction only those aspects of a thing that is of direct conventional or ideological interest to us. That conventionality is the fundamental subjectivity of the action-image, from which the time-image will free thought and perception (Cinema 2, p.20).

The Time-Image (Cinema 2)

Beyond the movement-image, the Time-Image no longer links perceptions and action (p.40). Central to its constitution is the simultaneous coexistence of distinct durations, distinct temporal modes (past, present, future) (p.ix). In the time-image, Deleuze sees the restoration to the object of that quality that was lost in the cliché of the movement-image.

There seem to be two types of Time-Image: the Op-son Image (the pure optical and sound Image) and the Crystal-Image. In the op-son we perceive pure change, which is the form of change that does not itself change (p.17). In the crystal-image, we see time itself, by which is meant the non-organic life that grips the world (p.81)

The Op-Son Image (the pure optical and sound image) is a contemplative mode in which what matters are two things: the image of a pure optical or aural sensation divorced from action or situation, and the transformation of the viewer into a pure “seer.” Deleuze will also refer to the direct time-image, by which I think he means the same thing. Again, the importance of place is central to Deleuzian thinking, except that now, in the op-son image, object and milieu/setting are autonomous, allowing action to float in the situation (p.4). The object can be banal or extraordinary. It does not matter which. Here the image of an actual object passes into the virtual. In the virtual state, the subjective perception of the object is destroyed and replaced. The op-sign image brings out the reality of the object, which is now recreated (pp.7, 9). What the direct time image reveals is change itself, the form of change that doesn’t change, like  in the enduring image of a vase in a long cut, ten second cut in a film by Ozu in which the everyday object is transformed into something permanent (p.17). The pure op-son image brings out the object’s essential singularity (p.45).

The material on the Recollection-Image is not clearly worked out, nor is the material on the Dream-Image. What I got from the recollection-image was the representation of a present that the past “was” (p.54). Neither image seems to carry much weight in the discussion of the Time-Image.

The Crystal-Image is the crystallization of the op-son image, the heart of the op-son image that is a sliver of the crystal-image (p.169). The clearest exposition of the crystal-image and its dual aspect as actual and virtual is by way of the mirror. The image of a person or object in a mirror is virtual in relation to the physical or actual person or object. Physically out of field and not visible, the virtual person or object is now visible in the mirror, and thus is rendered actual. At the very same time, the image of the person or object as actual in the mirror pushes the person or object out of field, which render the person or object virtual. Now virtual in the mirror, the actual person or object is referred to elsewhere and rendered invisible (p.70). In this way, the actual image and the virtual image coalesce and coexist in the crystal-image, and it is through this circuit between the two that a new Real comes out that is beyond the virtual and actual (pp.83-4).

What is seen in the crystal-image is time, in particular, the splitting of time into two. In the crystal-image in films by Renoir, the past falls into the virtual and stays there, frozen and fixed, overconforming to past roles that the character had tried on, while the future escapes the crystal into freedom (p.87). But how does a person or object enter into a crystal-image in the first place? To answer this, the lion’s share of attention goes to Fellini. Deleuze sees the crystal-image forming around a seed or an entrance. These entrances can be geographical, psychic, historical, or archaeological. (Ancient Rome and the world of clowns as crystal-images are very much in mind here). We enter into these crystal images by way of fantasy, déjà vu, recollection, nightmare, dreaming. In the spectacle of the crystal-image, there is no distinction between watching and being watched. Deleuze compares it to a Luna Park in which we pass from one shop window to the next, one entrance to another, through all the cubicles (pp.88-90).

These are undoubtedly Deleuze’s most interesting reflections on time, bending only so slightly towards a religious/spiritual conception. What he himself sees in the crystal-image is a bursting out of life, a bursting out of time in its two-fold division between past and future. Unlike the crystal-image in Renoir, for Deleuze, nothing leaves the crystal, which keeps growing out of the past towards an open future. Here Deleuze writes soteriologically. Salvation from the monsters that form in the present comes from the pasts that are preserved in the crystal-image (not from the future, which is an emblem of death). In pure recollection, we remain contemporary with the child we were, just like, says Deleuze, the believer feels contemporary with Christ. Citing Fellini more than once, the adult who is the old man who is the adolescent who is the child are all of them contemporary with each other in the crustal-image. (It could just as well have been Kubrick in 2001.) Echoing themes from Difference & Repetition, Deleuze makes the claim that the past is preserved in the beginning again, holding inside the surge of a new reality (Cinema 2, pp.91-2).

Whereas an organic-image presumes the independent existence of an object external to the image, the crystal-image replaces the objects for which it stands. In works by Robbe-Grillet, for instance, descriptions give way to descriptions which give way to descriptions, in which the previous description is continuously contracted, displaced, or modified (p.126). In the crustal-image, the actual object is cut off from its motor linkages, which entails that the virtual starts to become valid for itself (p.127). The movement-image has been left behind. For the seer, the character and the shot are now rendered immobile. Intent only on seeing, the seer no longer acts and reacts in a world, which is now no longer seen in terms of tensions and resolutions according to ends and means (pp.128-9). No longer interested in action, no longer interested in judgement that discerns the truth, the seer gives way to “the power of the false,” posing the potential simultaneity of incompossible presents or the coexistence of not-necessarily true pasts. The power of the false is equated with the power of life in which lies the principle for the production of images. (pp.129-30; cf. p.135)

The whole in the time-image is unlike the whole in the movement-image. In the movement-image, out of field, there was a changing whole open somewhere. In the time-image, images are not arranged by way of the association or attraction between images, but in the gap or interstice between radically dissociative images. Given one image, another image has to be chosen which is what creates the interstice between them. This is a logic of differentiation. The fissure between images grows larger and larger, breaking chains of association. The whole is no longer the One-Being (p.179-80).

That’s basically my digest of the material in Cinema 1 and Cinema 2. The usefulness of these models for a study of religion is something I am trying to show in my current research. It has nothing to do with dogmatic content as much as form. If religion or spiritual life or whatever you want to call it is bound up in the imagination, then this philosophy of cinema is very much to the point as to delineating structures of religious consciousness. Religion is not entirely unlike film, assuming that the purpose of religion is not to settle thought and resolve perplexity, to assuage and to pacify. Deleuze’s own atheism is here utterly beside the point. A contemplative thinker, Deleuze makes sense of religion in its capacity to open up and intensify disturbances in thought, to open thinking to an “outside” beyond psychology and sociology, to tensions between the thought and the unthought, the visible and invisible (Cinema 2, 177, 168).

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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