The Time-Image and Crystal-Image

While Tarkovsky is a great example of the time-image, Bela Tarr is in some ways even more extreme in his long-take aesthetic choices.  As these 2 shots from Damnation (1988) illustrate, his ability to incorporate concrete time and movement into how his stories are told is masterful.  While Tarkovsky often paints his images with a romantic sense of color and movement, Bela Tarr’s images are Black and White, stark, artificial, and bleak, infused with an existential malaise that feels straight out of a Film Noir at times.  While Deleuze’s examples of Time-Images are almost counter intuitive to his arguments, many examples found in the films of Tarr and Tarkovsky illustrate supreme examples of the combination of concrete time and movement within a shot.  In arguing for a Cinema of Time-Images in which the images and movement unfold over concrete time, Tarkovsky illustrates an alternative sense of montage in which the link between frames can be made within the frame as well.  Bela Tarr’s supreme example of a Time-Image found within his masterpiece Damnation is, for me, a slightly better example than the one from class and infinitely better than the Ozu shot referenced in Deleuze’s book.  In fact, the example from class, taken from Tarkovsky’s Mirror (1975), feels to me more of an example of Crystal-Images due to Tarkovsky’s layering of his personal, virtual memories over actualities from the present such as his mother’s voice.  Tarkovsky made 2 films about the virtual and actual colliding (Mirror and Solaris) in the way that Deleuze describes the Crystal-Image as virtual being made explicit within the actual.  When Kelvin finds himself on Solaris at the end of the film, this is the epitome of the Crystal-Image as his memories have been made explicitly actual on another planet.  The whole film is about the virtual becoming actual, and the film is sometimes interpreted as about Schizophrenia, which it could very well be.  Mirror is the same way, but exists in a film world between Documentary and Fiction.

In Pervert’s Guide To The Cinema Slavoj Zizek deconstructs this scene through a Lacanian interpretation, essentially concluding that once Judy is transformed into the figure of Scotty’s lack, he satisfies his desire so that the second loss of Judy/Madeleine is a true loss.  While the interpretation, for me, was quite interesting and actually makes sense when I heard it a year ago, to think of the film in a Deleuzian sense opens it up to infinite possibilities.  Hitchcock’s films, and especially Vertigo (1958), are often interpreted in a Psychoanalytic light, and they also signify the link between the two semiotic systems of cinematic expression that Deleuze examines in his books on Cinema.  His films without a doubt hold a very important place in the history of Cinema.  While I would argue that Time-Images and Crystal-Images probably sprung up before the split Deleuze discusses in his books (Man Ray films are all about Actualizing the Virtual and deterretorializing the image), Hitchock’s supreme Crystal-Image in this clip from vertigo stands for me as one of the few good examples Deleuze gives of the virtual being made explicit in the actual.  Scotty’s virtual memories of Madeleine are made explicitly actual as the camera whirls around them when they kiss.  In this sense, Scotty is not trying to satisfy a lack or obtain the figure of the Other or any of that, his quest to reattain Madeleine is more about escaping the restrictions of time and memory, and essentially the very Freudian/Lacanian psychoanalytic system Hitchcock is often examined with.  It is strange that Vertigo is not associated with Schizophrenia as much as it is with Psychoanalysis.

It seems to me that, from Deleuze’s examples and his description of it, in order to achieve a crystal image, semiotic structures must be created over time within the film’s own system and manipulated so as to represent virtual or actual elements that are ultimately connected, layered, and made explicit within/over one another.  My question is can there be an immediately given Crystal-Image?  Does one need to establish a structure of significance in order to manipulate it into a Crystal Image or can one just be plucked out of or appropriated from the mileau?  Within a single autonomous Time/Movement-Image, can a Crystal-Image be created?  What does this image where virtual and actual collide imply for media that has become assimilated into cultural consciousness and has essentially become shared cultural memory, which would be rather high up Bergson’s cone of pure memory, such as the Zapruder Film or images of the atomic bomb blasts?  Are these immediately given Crystal-Images based on their combination of virtual memory and actual event?  Would that mean that Crystal-Images depend on our cultural sense of semiotic images, memory, and the virtual/actual?


Tarkovsky, Andrei. Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987. Print.

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 2: The Time Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1989. Print.


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