Gilles Deleuze on Framing


Deleuze does not see the cinematic image as something that should praised for its ability to create reality resembling illusion. On the contrary he sees the frame as essentially ensuring “the deterritorialisation of the image” (1986:15) because images with very different measurements get eventually projected on the same screen, in the same frame. Extreme close-ups and long shots are accommodated in the same measurements and that changes their relationship to each other. This ends up in creating a distinct images specific of the film-world.


For me the most interesting function of the frame that Deleuze talks about is the creation of the relationship with the out-of-field. He explains its functioning on two levels. Firstly in the way a framed set is creating and delimiting its own out-of-field sets and establishes relationships with them. This could happen either by literal framing that leaves elements and actions partly out of the frame and implying their continuation or by self-contained framing that nevertheless refers to the out-of-field – to the sets that are not included in the apparently closed frame. The second level of the frame’s out-of-field is its reference to a whole, which is not just the conglomeration of all the sets of framed elements in the film. The whole is rather something that is passing into each of the sets, each of the frames. (1986:17)

In Deleuze’s take the distinction of the framed elements from the out-of-field is not a parallel to the distinction between concrete space and imaginary space because the out-of-field can easily be turning into the elements in the frame. It is more like his distinction between actual and virtual where one is always becoming the other. As he says about the out-of-field, it “refers to what is neither seen nor understood, but is nevertheless perfectly present”(1986: 16)


Deleuze’s emphasis on the out-of-field allows a greater attention to the potential of the framed image. Even an apparently closed set must find an openness to something outside it. To look at each image then not as a self-contained unit of information, and not even as building relationships with other shots in a sequence, but rather as something always in relation to what is outside its limits, the framed image becomes much more dynamic. Furthermore the connection to the whole means that something that the film does, its most fundamental ability to affect must be present in each frame. An image can thus no longer be just a narrative continuation from what preceded it, but rather an element that encompasses the whole in some way.

Piibe Kolka


Deleuze, Gilles. 1986. Cinema I. The Movement-Image. London: The Athlone Press




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