Archive for Bergson

I Don’t Want to be a Spaghetti

Posted in Bergson, Body and Affect, Deleuze, Film, Immanence with tags , , , , , on April 17, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Lately, I have been obsessed with the concept of suspension of disbelief. To fully enjoy a movie, we must suspend our disbelief to a certain extent. If we sit there thinking, “this is only a movie,” we will not become immersed and the experience will not be as meaningful. To me, watching a good film is very much like being in a dream. In my dreams, sometimes bizarre events occur (and sometimes I even find them bizarre as I’m dreaming) but I never stop to analyze them – I just continue on with my actions. Also, transmogrification is a big part of dreaming. Throughout a dream, I might be in several radically different locations without any explanation as to how I got there. In dreams (and to a certain extent in films), time can be nonlinear and rapid changes need no explanation.

While watching the second half of Tropical Malady in class, it wasn’t until after the film had ended that I wondered, “what exactly did I just watch?” As the action was occurring on the screen, I was watching intently, curious to see what would happen next. Weerasethakul ended part one of his film without any resolution. Tong finishes licking Keng’s (potentially) urined-stained fingers and then walks away. When the second part of the film starts, it becomes clear that we are following a different narrative. While the same actors pop up, it is unclear to the viewer whether or not they are the same characters in part one. The fact that films like this exist (and are able to win the Jury Prize at Cannes) excites me. If viewers are becoming advanced enough to watch and enjoy films like Tropical Malady, the art of filmmaking will surely advance to new and exciting territories.

So, how does all of this apply to Gilles Deleuze? From what I understand thus far, Deleuze holds cinema in very high regard. Unlike other art (painting, sculpture, dance, etc.) it is not merely a means for communicating a message or an aesthetic device. Instead, cinema is pure immanence and sensation; cinema is its own reality. It’s also important to note that as a film is being made, it’s already a memory. While a painter can see what is he is working on as he works, a filmmaker cannot. Sure, he can edit and re-watch material thousands of times; however, memory plays a big role in the filmmaking process (after all, cinema is movement in time, so it’s not something that can be immediately absorbed all at once). At this point, Deleuze’s writings on memory and sensation are what most interest me most and have helped me to understand why he’s an important philosopher. Deleuze’s body of work seems to build toward a radically different film theory.

If we go back to Uexküll and the tick, we remember that the only way that tick knows of its existence is when it comes into contact with a warm blooded animal or the sun; the tick’s entire life revolves around these two sensations. For humans, life is different because there are larger external forces, more things to influence and to be influenced by. Sitting in a dark movie theater, watching a movie like Tropical Malady, my life becomes more like that of the tick because I am entering into a whole new existence, a new reality, a place that is “between art and life” (according to Godard) and seems more like a dream than being awake. When other elements are combined with the moving image, I think it becomes harder to become absorbed and experience a film the way a tick would sunlight. When I am just faced with the moving image and nothing more, I am given the opportunity to notice new things and to let my mind run wild. In movies without dialogue, I often find myself thinking incredibly random thoughts that don’t directly have anything to do with the film. Because I don’t have any dialogue to follow, I’m letting my eyes absorb the images and my mind run wild. When I watch films multiple times, I never experience them in the same exact way – it all depends on my mood, what I had been thinking about previous to the film screening, etc. Although the same images are repeating themselves, every single viewing is unique.

Since watching a movie is like dreaming, when we see a dream in a movie it is like having a dream within a dream. For example, the final scene of Ingmar Bergman’s Shame feels like a dream although it is not blatantly identified as such. Although I can’t find a clip of the final scene, here is the trailer for those who haven’t seen it:

To make a long analysis short, Bergman does many things in this final scene in order to make it feel dreamlike to the audience. In the beginning of the film, a character name Fillip is introduced as an acquaintance of the two main characters, Jan and Eva. When we see him again, he seems to have no memory of the couple – he doesn’t show any sort of recognition or compassion towards them when he sees them during war. Another character, Mrs. Jacobi, also goes unrecognized at the end of the film. In real life, people remember one another and even if they’re pretending not to, we can see glimmers of recognition in their eyes or on their faces. When watching the film, I Jan, Eva, and Fillip to remember one another; however, when they did not, I accepted it and did not question it until after the fact. In real life, I would find this lack of recognition strange and unacceptable; in cinema life (or cinema reality) I don’t really question anything until the film is over and the lights are turned on.

Recently, there have been many films about dreams. In Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep, Stephane’s father has just died and he’s moved back to France to live in his childhood apartment. While his mother has promised him a creative job, he realizes from the first day that he is just a cog in the wheel, copying and pasting text that he himself has not created. As the film progresses, the images on the screen become less easy to identify. Is this a dream? Is this really happening? As film progresses, I accept the images as the reality of the cinema – what is happening on the screen is, in some way, actually happening to Stephane. After the film is over and I actually try to decide what were Stephane’s dream and what was his reality, I realize that it is impossible to do. Gondry has created a film that is an combination of dream and reality – it’s a dream reality that we see on a screen (if that makes sense). Without artificial constructions, our minds are haphazard… filled with unconnected, delirious thoughts. In Gondry’s film, there are no artificial constructions and we are able to experience a mind unbound. The following is one of my favorite scenes from the movie:

Movies like The Science of Sleep are important because they provide a starting point for discussing philosophical ideas. As long as filmmakers keep creating works like Tropical Malady, people will continue to respond in new ways…there will be more opportunities for them to affect and be affected.

— Kilgore Trout

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Reorientation of Time and Space: A Study of Narrative, Painting and Film

Posted in Art and Philosophy, Bergson, Deleuze, Film, Subjectivity with tags , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Deleuze’s interest in the relationship between time and space resonates through his work. Recent course readings have coalesced around ideas of rhythm and milieu along with the dynamic relationships they allow, setting groundwork, in a sense, for his treatise on the spatiotemporal, relating time to movement and image in film in Cinema I and Cinema II.  The texts have engaged my interest in a study of  how relationships of time and space have been employed artistically across various forms of media to evoke deterritorializing, intensive effects serving as a push toward a reorientation of values.

Kafka’s work serves as a Deleuzian model of print narrative as plots twist into and out of themselves creating intensive narrative connected to its own dissolution. Kafka’s use of temporality can be understood as a component of minor literature that deterritorializes the reader.

The short story A Country Doctor melds ideas of temporality and space in a way that divorces the reader from previously held valuations of such ideas. It is easily illustrated in a synopsis of the work in which entities are unreliably referred to by pronouns as the narrative oscillates between past and present. The country doctor is awakened to attend to a patient he does not know, on horses that mysteriously appear in his stable, likely at the price of his maid’s safety. He is whisked from the scene of the maid’s peril to the sick man’s bedside. Time and space mutate simultaneously. With little use of narrative transition, the doctor is transferred from place to place, but always needs to be somewhere else.

Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor 2007/21 min. Yamamura Animation

Kafka creates a world of components which appear recognizable, yet work outside our experience, so that all understanding of their familiar characteristics and uses will not help us decipher their new relationships and values. If our seemingly stable and autonomous universe can possibly serve as  foundation for such a reality and can be extended and transformed in such a manner, its stability becomes problematic—the disturbing potential once acknowledged can no longer be dismissed.

Moving from spatiotemporal constructions generated by texts on the page to two-dimensional images, Francis Bacon’s work is exemplar of blurred time and space—streaked with smears, globs and scratches—indicative of a passage of time in a painted version of a photographic frame, suggestive the progression of time as the work itself was created. The works are intentionally finished complete with accidents and imperfections. Bacon’s work, as the work of those such as Cezanne and Braque nearly a century before, is an abstraction echoing the daily visual encounter with the world, with enough aberration to haunt our idea of reality and cause an affective deterritorialization.

In Study of a Baboon, a work housed in MoMA’s permanent collection, Bacon’s intense brushstrokes, wiped out and repainted at the focal point, evoke a moment in a seemingly furious movement or transition frozen for an eternity. Combined with the dry-brushed crossed lines, the image could be understood to include a cage, but one is unable to discern whether the figure is inside or outside of it. If inside, does it imply the spectator inside as well?

  Study of a Baboon, 1953. Francis Bacon

The image is familiar, yet foreign. The spectator learns from the title of the painting that the image could be interpreted as a baboon. The face of the baboon figure turns towards the spectator from a place of visual indiscernability and screams.  The viewer is once again implicated by this image frozen in time, causing an identification with feelings of intensive space and time, as well as deterritorialization.

As the discussion transitions from the still image of paint and canvas to the moving image of film, Tarkovsky stands out as one who takes seriously the relationship between time and image. Temporal deterritorialization could be said to be the main tenet of Tarkovsky’s cinema. His use of long takes, surreal settings and plot that typically resembles a type of science fiction engages the spectator in a sometimes excruciating and often futile attempt to follow or create a narrative. Any meaning that could be drawn from the work, comes not neatly in understanding ordered plot elements, but after reflecting on the film as a whole, both in form and in content.

This is true of Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker. The film follows the journey of three men: the stalker leads a writer and a scientist through the Zone, a hazy post-apocalyptic landscape, in search of the Room, a place the stalker has never seen but supposedly lies hidden in the deep tangled passages within the Zone. The Room is rumored to have the power to fulfill entrants’ innermost desires. Their quest ends as they finally arrive at the entrance to the Room. The three stand outside the entrance in an extended shot but never enter. The stalker, the writer and the professor are transferred, in a single cut, back in the bar where the journey began.

Stalker 1979/160 min. Andrei Tarkovsky

Tarkovsky’s trademark long take combined with his artistic choices to present time in a specific way through cuts creates a unique temporal deterritorialization. In combination with the setting that bears earthly resemblance, spectators identify with and are simultaneous alienated from the work. In many ways Stalker also imparts affects similar to those feelings imparted by Kafka’s novels and Bacon’s paintings. Deleuze would likely agree that Tarkovsky’s treatment of space and time in Stalker suggests an alternative way of viewing a film. It allows spectators to circumvent conventional understanding of what film structure and narrative should be—it causes the viewer to question their own view of reality and to look at the world in new way.  Tarkovsky’s treatment of time and space is indicative Deleuze’s summary of Bergson’s idea of time and subjectivity in Cinema II: “Time is not the interior in us, but just the opposite, it is the interiority in which we are, in which we move, live and change.” (Deleuze, 82)

–B. Paris

References:

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema II: The Time-Image. University of Minniesota Press. 1989.

Deleuze, Gilles. Logic of Sensation. University of Minniesota Press. 2002

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. “Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature”. Theory and History of Literature, Vol. 30. 1986.

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. “Affect Percept Concept”. What is Philosophy?. Columbia University Press. 1994

Kafka, Franz. “The Country Doctor”. A Metamorphosis and Other Stories. 1993

Tarkovsky, Andrei. Stalker. 1979