Nov 19, 2008

Posted by Alparslan Nas | File under : , , ,
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Today I’ll write about Gilles Deleuze’s ideas on Italian neo-realism, and cinema in general. Deleuze’s theories on cinema which have been highly respected were published in his two volume books called Cinema I and Cinema II. Some of his theories may be considered as reworking of Bazin’s theories in general, but he contributed film studies by presenting more sophisticated terms to Bazin’s concepts. Surely Bazin was not a philosopher and his observations were not that much sophisticated.
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Well, Deleuze makes a distinction between two modes of film making in history of film: Movement image cinema and time image cinema.

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Movement image cinema: Deleuze’s classification is not based on a historical division. Very roughly, he proposes the idea that time image cinema occurred after WW2. Certainly this doesn’t mean that movement image cinema has come to an end. On the contrary, it went on flourishing. Two modes of filmmaking existed side by side. I can briefly point out that classical film language developed with movement image cinema, even after the modernist period of cinema which occurred during 1920’s. What then is the movement image cinema that Deleuze proposes? One of the most important clues which will make this term clear is that movement image cinema is based causal links in which shots and frames in the film are linked with each other. In movement image cinema, shots are linked with each other on the basis of cause-effect relation. Additionally, this tendency includes some kind of idea of instrumentality; which means that images as autonomous entities are not parts of the film, but they are conceived as instrumental entities in the service of telling a story in a possibly more efficient way. This intention is based on contribution to dramatic unity of the film in which images are structured together with cause-effect relation. Consequently, each image creates an expectation in audience about the next image. Besides, this kind of structure in the film is based on certain narrative logic, dramatic tension which is resolved in the end. What Deleuze suggests at this point is that in movement image cinema time is reduced, defined, filled to movement. A film that is based on an idea of action, and acting subject and in which the events are advanced by actions of the protagonist, there are situations that give rise to actions, and actions generate new situations. This is the way narrative advances. Also there is the issue of identification; in movement image cinema audience identify with the characters, thus get involved in cinematic construction. Besides all these, Deleuze emphasises an important aspect of movement image cinema: Sensory-Motor situation. Deleuze points out that movement image cinema triggers particular mode of film watching by touching our sensory organs. Audience mainly perceive images through stimulation which film creates in our ears, eyes, etc... Therefore the relation between audience and movement image cinema is a mechanical one. The thing is, in this mechanical relation, the film intends to create a certain effect in audience. We do not perceive images on subjective basis, but in the way they make us perceive them. Our senses produce the kind of reaction which images cultivate in us.

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Time image cinema: As I already stated, time image cinema according to Deleuze occurred aftermath of WW2. Deleuze also associates time image cinema with Italian neo-realism. He simply underlines the emergence of new kind of image in this period. This image for Deleuze, frees the time from causality. In this cinematic logic, time in its own right, begins to appear as images that don’t convey particular messages. Here, time is not subordinated to action; images are no longer linked by rational cuts, which produce possible links for causality. Deleuze suggests that in time image cinema the act of seeing replaces action. Let me give an example; in movement image cinema: if we see a gun during the narrative of the film, with an emphasised representation, we conclude that somehow it is going to be fired. All images are linked with the ones after them. All shots are instrumental in that sense. In time image cinema, images don’t necessarily have to be linked within causal structure. For me, it is in other words liberalizing the cinematic imagery, in the way which independent images don’t need to depend on each other’s existence for survival, for gaining a meaning. Andre Bazin had also emphasized the notion of "democratization of seeing" when he has written about Italian neo-realism. Besides, in Deleuze’s theory of time image cinema, characters don’t have to act; they are seen. Characters are all deserted, emptied from themselves. They are visionaries. Besides, Deleuze proposes the idea of pure optical and sound situations. Images are not purposeful; they moved themselves free from sensory-motor relations to tactile entities which elitic sense of touching in the audience. They become objects within themselves. Deleuze's understanding of tactile is also linked with Bazin's idea of indexical quality of images which I've mentioned in my earlier post on Andre Bazin. Besides all these, images in time image cinema only function in the way which they record the time. Thereby images present the audience an optical situation which is accompanied by sound. Unlike movement image film in which audience respond in the way it’s supposed to, time image film in a way democratizes the act of film watching in the way which images don’t impose certain messages. Audience is free to make interpretations of their own, instead of being directed by sensory-motor. What Deleuze suggests in particular about “free act of seeing” is that, independent images on the screen activate our memories. By revival of memory-based images in our minds, we can respond to images in distinct ways. Deleuze also suggests regarding time image cinema that images are subjective; not only in the way that they do not trigger sensory-motor activation but also in the way which presents audience a part of reflection of reality of the world from certain perspectives. Another implication Deleuze makes is about distinction of space in movement image and time image cinema. In movement image cinema space is also used in instrumental ways. That means: Space as setting. Space is something needed to reflect a particular situation to the audience. It is something constructed, decorated. Just as if the director shoots a crime scene, that appropriate space is prepared. Similar to time, space doesn’t stand for its own right in movement image cinema. On the other hand in time image cinema, space itself isn’t equal to setting. They stay independent to requirements of situation. In addition, several spaces are either disconnected or emptied, deserted. They are not rationally designated for the narration which implies cause-effect relation. Deleuze calls the autonomy of spaces as any-space-whatever. Deleuze’s emphasis at this point is highly related with Italian neo-realism and post war trauma in Italy in general. Actually, after the destruction caused by WW2 in Europe, new spaces which were emptied from their usual settings have emerged. Let me end this post by a quotation from Deleuze where he mentions the relation between “new” cinema and post war trauma as follows:

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In Europe, post-war period has greatly increased the situations which we no longer know how to react to in spaces which we no longer know how to describe. These “any-spaces-whatever”, deserted but inhabited, disused warehouses, waste ground, cities in the course of demolition or reconstruction. And in these any-spaces-whatever a new race of characters was stirring, kind of mutant: They saw rather than acted, they were seers.” (From Cinema II)

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