Vol. 4 No. 16, June 2000
Deleuze, Rodowick, and the Philosophy of Film
D. N. Rodowick
_Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine_
Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1997
Gilles Deleuze's primary philosophical gesture combines empiricism and
taxonomy. He divides experience into categories that he in turn uses to
create concepts each of which has a name. When writing about a philosopher
who proceeds by creating a new vocabulary one is tempted simply to define
terms and then apply them to new analyses in order to show off the power of
the lexicon. So far most of those who have written on Deleuze have invoked
his concepts in relation to texts and social formations not considered in
the philosopher's extensive works. Deleuze is concerned with becoming
rather than being -- he thinks about what changes instead of thinking about
what stays the same. Deleuze's concern with becoming is expressed in the
way his philosophy is written as well as in the themes it takes up. It
produces quiet crises between his concepts and their names.
As opposed to the concepts of classical philosophy, which maintain
themselves through self-identity and are founded on being, Deleuze's
concepts are multiplicities subject to mutation and constant becomings. The
tide of his concern with becoming changes concepts, each time they surface.
With each use a concept becomes other than what is was before. Such thought
cannot serve as the methodological binding of a handy reference. In _Gilles
Deleuze's Time Machine_ David Rodowick differentiates himself from other
North American Deleuze scholars by carefully keeping the 'becoming-other'
of Deleuze's concepts alive when he puts them into play, so that they never
become fixed terms in a mechanical analysis.
In order to deal with the complexity of the concepts that Deleuze derives
from the cinema, and to navigate their becoming, Rodowick divides his book
into two parts. The first part lays out Deleuze's fundamental concepts and
vocabulary along with the thought flows of their creation, so that the
reader gets a sense of how they became. The second part puts the concepts
and their names to work in the analysis of films and audiovisual-culture in
a way that allows them to continue to change. As the analyses proceed
Rodowick finds opportunities to introduce other concepts from Deleuze, and
to create some of his own.
In his preface, Rodowick attributes North America's non-engagement with
Deleuze's books on cinema to the lack of interest in film among our
philosophical community, and to resistance against Deleuze's challenge to
what Rodowick has elsewhere called the 'discourse of political modernism'
among our film scholars.  He writes that his main objective is to
'demonstrate both the originality and consistency of Deleuze's
philosophical concepts in ways that [he hopes] will provoke further work in
contemporary visual studies from these perspectives' (xv).
Rodowick begins Chapter One with an explanation of Deleuze's division of
cinema into the two signifying regimes of the movement-image and the
time-image. Films of the movement-image are organized around the images of
movement in space while films of the time-image are organized around direct
images of time. Rodowick elaborates the difference between these two types
of cinema over the course of short analyses of Buster Keaton's _Sherlock
Jr_ (1924) and Chris Marker's _La Jetee_ (1962). Like all the examples in
Part I, these are very helpful; Keaton's film is a clear example of the
movement-image, and Marker's of the time-image. _Sherlock Jr_ repeatedly
uses matches on action to connect the protagonist's movements between shots
of otherwise unrelated spaces. That trope illustrates the rational
principal of the movement-image according to which the continuity of action
assures the continuity of spaces between. _La Jetee_ presents a circular
story of time travel almost exclusively through a series of still images.
Marker's film illustrates the time-image where movements are no longer
rational but aberrant. In the movement-image motion constitutes a rational
link between spaces, and time serves as the measure of movement. In the
other regime, time is no longer the measure of movement but the object of
the image -- motion can no longer be used to connect cinematic spaces into
In articulating the break between the regimes of the movement-image and the
time-image Rodowick introduces the importance of C. S. Peirce's work for
Deleuze's argument. Peirce offers a semiotics that is not based on
linguistics and allows images to be analyzed as sets of logical relations
rather than as the quasi-utterances they become in Metz's semiology.
Peirce's work allows Deleuze and Rodowick to demonstrate that the
differences of signification between the regime of the movement-image and
that of the time-image is produced by the different logical relations
within each regime.
Rodowick develops this notion of the image as a set of relations by
analyzing Deleuze's description of the logic of the narrative time-image as
'an open totality in movement'. Deleuze borrows these terms from Bergson's
description of thought. Through the appropriation of this Bergsonian
language Deleuze is able to forge a link between cinema and thought so as
to be able to treat films as a form of thinking.
For Bergson, thought moves horizontally according to principles of
association whereby images are linked according to their similarities or
contrasts. Thought also moves vertically according to principles that
internalize images into conceptual wholes. The whole itself is constantly
being integrated into related sets and thus constantly expands. Time, which
Bergson calls the open, prevents the wholes from ever closing.  The
whole of the open totality in movement can expand infinitely so that image
world and spectator are identified through a grand image of truth. Deleuze
calls this form of organization organic and associates it with Hegel.
Rodowick explains that in Hollywood and early Soviet cinema the interval,
or interstice, between film elements has the same form, despite their
different editing styles. In both cases, and in the movement-image in
general, a schema of action and reaction determines the relation between
the intervals and the whole. In order to allow action and reaction,
intervals appear as the beginning of the coming image and as the end of the
passing one, or as both. Deleuze names the movement-image's interval after
the mathematical term 'rational'. The rationality of the intervals allows
movement to continue across them and thereby support the correlation of
cause and effect, action and reaction.
Having sketched out the basic qualities of the movement-image, Rodowick
takes up the time-image. Following Deleuze, he suggests that after the
Second World War reality fragmented and dispersed so that the
action-reaction schema no longer functioned.  Deleuze calls the
cinematic regime produced in this new reality the time-image, and he
describes it as crystalline in form. The logical relations between thought
and time changed during the war and the character of the cinematic interval
changed as well. In the crystalline cinema the interval is an irrational
division with an existence proper to itself. It no longer forms the
beginning or the end of shots. Now the passage from one image to another
becomes ambiguous and the images proceed serially rather than sequentially.
Chapter Two elaborates Deleuze's appropriation of concepts from Bergson and
Peirce. Rodowick argues that by moving away from the traditional Kantian
comparison between cinematic structures and mental acts, exemplified by the
work of Hugo Munsterberg, and in taking up the theory of images, Deleuze
challenges classical philosophical distinctions between subject and object,
interior and exterior, referent and image.
Deleuze's appropriation of Bergson for the cinema may at first seem
somewhat wilful, for Bergson stated that the cinema was incapable of
rendering time as invention, and invention was for him the essence of time.
He held that each of the frames on a filmstrip are instantaneously recorded
a precise fraction of a second after the last. Bergson uses the cinema as
an example of the reductionist scientific temporality that privileges
individual moments over continuous duration. Rodowick justifies Deleuze's
use of Bergson with an exegesis of Deleuze's argument that Bergson
misapprehended the cinema. Deleuze's interpretation of Bergson's philosophy
of movement results in the thesis that real movement produces concrete
duration rather than abstract time, and for Deleuze movement is immediately
part of the cinematic image. Following Bergson's argument, Deleuze
concludes that matter cannot be separated from movement and that the
cinematic image presents both actual movements and actual objects.
To explain Deleuze's reasoning Rodowick elaborates the argument that
qualitative changes in duration are changes in relations between parts and
wholes. A part, or set, is closed by definition; in the cinema sets are
spatial sections. The whole is open and temporal. Duration is a change in
the whole, and the whole is what endures change.
Deleuze defines the shot as an ensemble or provisionally closed set -- a
spatial section that can be decomposed into smaller sets. Camera movements,
shifts in angles of view, and montage transitions introduce relations not
immanent to the objects in the image. While the objects in shots are
spatial their relations are apprehended as temporal. Movements vary the
relative positions of the image's parts and incorporate them into a whole
that changes qualitatively. Thus, the image becomes a mobile section of
Rodowick then takes up Deleuze's use of Bergson's argument that matter and
movement are identical. Rather than conceiving images as a representation
of objects, Bergson argues that framing the image as a representation
requires the separation of mind from matter and time. Thus, by adopting
Bergson's identification of matter, movement, and image, Deleuze is able to
elide the problem of the psychological relationship between the film screen
and its spectator. According to these premises cinema presents objects and
movements directly as elements in the composition of signs and there is no
need for a theory explaining our credulity before its images.
For Bergson the body and brain are themselves images among others that have
the distinction of being centers of indetermination. While the movements of
matter pass through all other objects according to physical laws, the
correlation between action on a center of indetermination and its reaction
passes through a free will. In other words, living beings can choose
between several possible reactions. The images we apprehend are virtual
modulations of their objects insofar as the body places limits on what can
be apprehended in the image.
Bergson's equivalence between the image and matter implies a world of
universal variation where matter is the whole aggregate of images. Deleuze
calls this world the plane of immanence. For the movement-image, the plane
of immanence is flowing matter. Movement is a universal variation where
change at the smallest level affects the largest level. On this plane of
immanence matter is energy and hence luminous in and of itself.
Rodowick argues that the concept of the movement-image contains an implicit
critique of the optical metaphors of Western philosophy. Instead of
considering the photograph as the primordial case of the image, Deleuze and
Bergson want to start with a moving image.
For Deleuze the brain is a screen that stops the light of matter and allows
their image to be perceived. On the plane of immanence movement-images are
time itself as becoming-in-space. When movement-images are apprehended in
relation to the body as center of indetermination, they produce three
components of subjectivity: perception, affection, and action. According to
Deleuze, subjectivity is nothing but a montage of these three categories.
The temporal gap between action and reaction opened up by a center of
indetermination -- the interval -- produces an image with two sides, a
receptive side and an active side. Within the interval actions give
incoming movements new destinations and trajectories. Rodowick shows that
this figure for experience as action and reaction contests the status of
light as metaphor for consciousness in Western philosophy. Instead of
projecting an illumination into the world, consciousness receives its light.
Each link in this circuit produces an image specific to it. The
perception-image produces a subjective perception by centering all its
elements on the body in the midst of a mobile and indeterminate space. The
affection-image institutes a delay between action and reaction and thereby
expresses the subject's experience of itself from the inside. The
action-image arises along the horizon established by the perception-image.
In Chapter Three Rodowick considers Deleuze's appropriation of C. S.
Peirce's semiotics in order to show how the so called 'signs' in the
cinematic regime of the movement-image are deduced from the three images
derived and defined in Chapter Two. Deleuze produces two semiotics of film:
one for the movement-image, produced on the plane of universal variation,
and another for the time-image, produced on the plane of thought's duration.
Unlike Ferdinand de Saussure's semiology, which held sway over much film
theory written in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, Peirce's semiotics starts with
non-linguistic signs. Peirce's signs are made of the same substance as the
objects of the world. Like Bergson, Peirce sees thinking as behavioral
rather than speculative, implying that that thinking is a fundamentally
Deleuze rejects Christian Metz's construal of the shot as the minimal unit
of meaning in the cinema. For Metz the shot is an actual unit of
expression, like a sentence, rather than a virtual, or potential unit, like
a word, which does not have any meaning until it is used in a phrase.
Deleuze sees the shot not as utterance, but as utterable, because for him
language only exists in relation to nonlinguistic material and thus
enunciation depends on 'enunciables'.
Rodowick points out that Metz and Deleuze both construct the history of
cinema as the history of its narrative possibilities. But for Deleuze the
forms of cinematic narration must be deduced from cinema's materials rather
than from a pre-existing structure of narrative. The first regime of cinema
forges its signs from the luminous 'signaletic' material of the
For Peirce meaning results from the combinations of images and thus it is
not surprising to find an emphasis on montage in a semiotic of the cinema.
Deleuze uses 'montage' to mean both the style of cutting and the
compositional principle or controlling idea in a film. Understanding
duration means understanding the temporalization of space as change.
Understanding the idea of montage means finding the unity in all its parts
as a measure of the open whole. Deleuze deduces four styles of montage from
the movement-image: the organic montage of Hollywood, the dialectical
montage of the Soviets, the extensive or quantitative montage of the French
impressionists, and the intensive montage of the German expressionists.
Each form of montage is a variation of the two fundamental 'chronosigns'
derived by Deleuze from the movement-image by way of Peirce's semiotic. One
represents time as bridging a receding past to an expanding future, while
the other gives time as a number and presents the variability of the
present. In both of these signs, the measure of time in relation to the
open can be calculated in advance.
Peirce's semiotics allows Deleuze to deduce several other signs from the
chronosigns according to the arrangement of images and intervals with
respect to centers of indetermination. This deduction is the result of the
application of Peirce's three categories of consciousness -- 'firstness',
'secondness', and 'thirdness' -- to Bergson's conception of the
movement-image. Firstness refers to a pure quality independent of its
actualization, secondness to existence, and thirdness to laws. The
perception-image has two poles: one identifying it with movement, the other
with the interval. It becomes the baseline to which Peircean semiotics are
applied and the other forms of the movement-image are derived according to
what compliments perception in the sensory-motor whole.
Perception may lead to action (secondness). When it does not issue in an
action it stays within the interval as affect (firstness); when it
reconstitutes the whole of movement with respect to all aspects of the
interval it becomes relational (thirdness). These sign-types correspond to
the action-image, the affection-image, and the relation-image. These
movement-images each produce a genetic sign that allows the other signs of
that type to be deduced.
In what is perhaps the most helpful and brilliant part of his book,
Rodowick draws out each type of sign 'deduced' by Deleuze, either by way of
Deleuze's cinematic example or with one of his own. For example, he
elucidates the 'qualisign', which is deduced from the affection-image,
through a reading of Deleuze's analysis of Joris Ivens's _Rain_ (1929) as a
film unfettered by a unified conception of time and space. In order to
explain the icon, which follows from the qualisign, Rodowick compares
Deleuze's discussion of faciality in _A Thousand Plateaus_ to Bela Balazs's
discussion of the facial close-up as expression of affect in the cinema.
The icon is not strictly identified with the expressive power of the human
face or the magnifying power of the close-up but with certain movements and
series of shots. What counts is that unrealized affects are expressed as
reflecting unity or intensive series by virtue of a deterritorialization.
This elaboration of signs is quite extensive but Rodowick keeps the
reader's attention by making Deleuze's derivations clear and defining each
term with precision.
Rodowick develops the example of _Rear Window_ (1954) to explain what
Deleuze calls the crisis of the action-image. This crisis of the
action-image comes from the weakening and disintegration of the
sensory-motor schema, and is for Rodowick figured by Jimmy Stewart's
hobbled photographer in Hitchcock's film. The sensory-motor schema limits
images to physical trajectories, yet qualisigns and the special spaces they
produce prefigure other images of duration.
These spaces, named 'any-space-whatevers' by Deleuze, are shots that are
not resolved into a unified cinematic map of an area. They are linked
either by real connections or virtual conjunctions. The former relate to
the sensory-motor schema and call for actions. When the sensory-motor
schema breaks down and montage intervals become irrational rather than
rational, any-space-whatevers are no longer caught up in a temporal series
defined by action and reaction. The image becomes an amorphous set or a
disconnected space. Instead of being used-up in action, the image becomes
an emptied space.
Chapter Four starts tracing the effects of the crisis in the action-image
by analyzing what happens when duration is no longer measured by the
translation of movements into actions and the movement-image gives way to
the time-image. The analysis begins by considering Italian neo-realism as a
moment in the crisis in which the cinematic movement-image plays itself
out. Bazin claimed that neo-realism produced images of a new post-war
reality, but Deleuze goes further when he claims that neo-realist images
turn exteriority and extension in space into mental relations or time
breaching a passage beyond the real.
The time-image is not based on the image of the whole as extensiveness in
space but on an intuition of universal becoming. A new montage form based
on irrational intervals capable of rupturing links between images emerges
with neo-realism allowing any-space-whatevers to become autonomous images.
New signs emerge under these new conditions. The 'lectosign' is linked to
description, the 'chronosign' to narration, and the 'noosign' to thought.
The lectosign produces inorganic descriptions that are not concerned with
the spatial rendering of an object, these descriptions become the
replacements for their own objects. In the new regime, the relations of all
the visual and acoustical components of the image ask to be read no less
than seen.  The virtual and the real can no longer be discerned.
Chronosigns derive from pure optical and acoustic images. When the
sensory-motor link disappears, movement becomes a perspective on time. It
reveals becoming as the pure form of time-as-change. In the cinema time
becomes points of presence or layers of the past. These are topographies of
relations internal to time's passing. Truth and falsehood become
indiscernible here as do the actual and the virtual.
The noosign presents time as a series, a sequence of images tending towards
a limit. The image of time here is an image of potentialization and
questions the notion of the true. Movement is redefined as that which
subordinates descriptions of space to the function of thought.
Rodowick points out that although, for Deleuze, truth does not change
according to the passage of epochs, in the crystalline regime the
*conditions* for truth have changed. In the organic regime truth requires
the false as its negation in order to master it as unity and identity.
Organic narration thus refers to a system of judgement that discovers truth
(85). In the time-image truth is no longer found but created, and thinking
is no longer the discovery of concepts, but their creation. With the
time-image narration concerns inexplicable presents resulting from pasts
whose truth or falsity cannot be decided.
Deleuze calls the time-image crystalline because it is multi-faceted. It
always has an actual, limpid pole, and a virtual, opaque pole, but it is
difficult to decide which pole is which. At the level of description the
actual refers to the physical and the real, to states of things as
described in space and perception. The virtual refers to the imaginary. The
process whereby a virtual object becomes actual is one of increasing
clarity, whereas the process by which an actual object becomes virtual is
one of fading clarity. Rodowick's exegesis of the complex play of actuality
and the virtuality in Deleuze is extremely lucid. His readings of films by
Welles and Resnais at the end of this chapter are especially helpful. They
might, however, benefit from a note on the French word *actuelle*
(translated here as 'actual'), for the French word can be used to indicate
the temporal present, while currently the English word does not have this
Part II of _Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine_ shifts from a definition of the
terms in Deleuze's taxonomy to a description of what time-images do. Here
Deleuze's discursive war machine is out to work, but, as it works, the very
terms upon which it is founded become other than what they were at the
moment of their definition. This discursive apparatus produces Rodowick's
original contributions to the conversation between philosophy and cinema
Rodowick begins Chapter Five with an invocation of Kant's rethinking of
time in his _Critique Of Pure Reason_. He writes: 'More than any other
philosopher before Bergson, Kant transformed how time is conceived in
relation to movement' (121). The First Critique thought movement in
relation to time, rather than thinking time in relation to movement, a
reversal that Deleuze calls the Kantian Revolution. Whereas the
movement-image presents time as the measure of movement in space, the
time-image presents time as a force that subordinates or disrupts movement
as spatial succession. Like The First Critique, the time-image reverses the
relations between time and movement obtained in an older regime. In both
cases an intuition of time's transcendental forms comes from the image of
time's displacement of space.
Rodowick shows that, to the extent that the time-image is a sign, it does
not represent; rather, it forces us to think. In that sense it can be
called the image of thought, so long as we remember that it is not the
expression of an interior process but a way of making time appear as a
thought-provoking force, rupturing the connection between thought and truth
conceptualized as being.
In Chapter Six Rodowick continues his analysis of Deleuze's Nietzschean
critique, arguing that the cinema books use the concept of the time-image
to restore life to philosophy. According to this argument, the
movement-image is aligned with dead totalities and the time-image with the
openness of life. This openness is associated with fabulation -- the form
of narration that treats time as a series.
This meditation begins with a passage on the lack of a Deleuzian theory of
the subject. Rodowick shows that since subjectivity is divided from itself
by time as a constant change, the structure of the subject is always in
flux. As a result, there is no one subject for Deleuze to theorize.
Next, Rodowick introduces Deleuze's appropriation of Maurice Blanchot's
writings on 'the outside'. Rodowick argues that in the regime of the
movement-image the whole is an open totality that merges with an indirect
representation of time, but in the regime of the time-image the whole is
the outside -- a possibility radically separate from anything in the image.
According to Rodowick's reading of Deleuze, the movement-image's powers of
thought are 'Hegelian in their logic and Platonic in their values', and
'they harbor the subject in an ideal world impermeable to change' (143).
The whole as 'outside' implies a different organization of images. With the
time-image the function of the interval is changed so that instead of a
rational interval insuring continuity, we get a series organized by
irrational intervals that produce dissociation rather than association. The
cinema of the time-image produces a point outside the world capable of
restoring our faith in the world. When the whole is conceptualized as
'outside', it is rendered as 'becoming other in thought and becoming other
in identity' (142). While this section of _Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine_
is powerfully persuasive, it should be noted that Deleuze and Rodowick's
notion of 'the outside' will seem unfamiliar to readers of Blanchot's _The
Space Of Literature_. In that work, and throughout Blanchot's writing, 'the
outside' is filled with the terror of a suffocating proximity. Deleuze and
Rodowick have attenuated the threat of its anonymity and come perilously
close to conceptualizing 'the outside' as a (non)-site liberated of the
dialectic. This needs to be thought through much more slowly than it is in
Rodowick's book, and by way of a much closer reading of Blanchot. Such a
reading however might not be congenial to Deleuzians, as it runs the risk
of revealing that in Blanchot the outside is not an absolutely non-Hegelian
*atopos*. In fact a reader might find that Blanchot's path to the outside
is a certain reading of Hegel and Rilke.
For Deleuze and Rodowick, the outside produces two genres of time-images:
the cinema of the body and the cinema of the brain. Rodowick argues that
this is a spatial production. The outside renders time as the 'virtual
unthought that haunts both the body and the brain in the cinema of the
time-image' (142), and that it 'might' be the body's relation to time as
exhaustion, waiting, mortality.
The 'genesign' of the time-image presents time as a series. Rodowick uses
the elaboration of the genesign as an opportunity that to discuss political
cinema. Postcolonial filmmakers turn serial cinema into a 'hybrid'.
Rodowick argues that this is the articulation of a minor cinema according
to the definition of minor literature posited by Deleuze and Guattari in
their book _Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature_ (1975). The task of the
filmmaker in a minor cinema is to call a people into becoming, for minor
arts in this sense arise in conditions where a population has not yet
become a people, or is no longer one. The absent people requires 'an
enabling image that can summon it into existence as identity becoming
other' (141). In the minor cinema, the 'not yet' existence of thought
summons the 'not yet existence' of a people.
According to Deleuze and Rodowick, historical imagination in fabulation is
the key to modern political cinema. Seriality turns narration into
fabulation which makes of the subject a 'realizing fabrication capable of
bringing forth such historical events as the creation of a people' (141).
Series require an act of historical imagination.
This historical imagination produces the new. In the series, identity
itself and the politics of identity as self-same are falsified. While
classical cinema represents 'the people' as already existing in a
teleological becoming identical to the ineluctable unfolding of history,
the people called forth in modern political cinema are not yet and their
becoming has no telos. For Rodowick, the creation of a people as collective
subject is a desirable political goal because their collective becoming is
the basis on which a people can invent themselves.
As an example of the modern political cinema Rodowick offers a reading of
Ousmane Sembene's _Borom Sarret_ (1963). _Borom Sarret_ presents a day in
the life of a Dakar cart driver. It is series of vignettes of Dakar's
working poor. Rodowick makes much of the film's use of use of
post-synchronized sound. While the image has a documentary quality, the
sound does not. It is neither naturalistic, nor does its acoustic space
correspond to the space of the images. There is a layering of voice,
effects, and music, each of which are used as compositional blocks. This
produces a stratification of the film text.
The voice shifts between inner speech and dialogue as in free-indirect
narration. Stories are related in two songs on the music track. The address
is also split: the French of the cart driver can be understood by Europeans
and Senegalese. The Wolof songs can only be understood by those who know
that language. These combine with the 'visual address of the film itself'
to produce a triple enunciation. The cart driver and his interlocutors all
seem to be speaking 'in quotes'. Many of them are dubbed in by the same
voice, which Rodowick says he believes to be Sembene's. The narration seems
to come from outside the image.
In _Borom Sarret_ the people are shown as serialized and becoming real
while showing how they are linked in a collective situation. By giving his
voice to the actor playing the car driver, Rodowick claims that Sembene has
established a circuit 'between the organic intellectual and the worker, but
not in the usual sense of identification' (166). For Rodowick the cart
driver's body changes Sembene as much as Sembene's voice affects the cart
driver. One might wonder why the cart driver's own voice cannot be allowed
to emerge here, but according to the Deleuzian analysis, 'each is brought
out of their position to become other' (166). The characters cannot yet
recognize the collective that they are being brought into but the audience
might be able to.
Chapter Seven starts by citing Deleuze's idea that a philosopher is some
one who has died and returned to life only to die again. According to this
conception (the point where Deleuze's language is closest to Heidegger's)
death marks the horizons of thought and existence. In a particularly
un-Heideggerian turn, Deleuze's philosopher returns from beyond those
horizons with new possibilities of life, where life is what opposes
repetition without difference. If, for Heidegger, death is one's own most
proper possibility, the famous 'possibility of impossibility', it cannot be
so for Deleuze. For a death which can be returned from is not a form of the
impossible, and since the philosopher dies at least twice, we must ask
which of the two is the most proper.
The rhetoric of death and re-animation articulates the politics of _Gilles
Deleuze's Time Machine_. Rodowick argues that film theory is an especially
relevant part of philosophy in the contemporary world because our culture
is an audio-visual culture. According to him the concept is not almost dead
in the era of audio-visual culture and needs philosophy, the concept
machine to revive it. Philosophy is the creation of new concepts for
Deleuze, and film theory is a group of concepts created in the history of
moving images. Thus the history of cinema becomes part of the history of
Despite the fact that Deleuze is known as the thinker of
'deterritorialization', Rodowick correctly identifies a certain
philosophical protectionism in his work without naming it thus. Rodowick
writes that Deleuze wants to fend off the human sciences as poor rivals to
philosophical thinking. Even more important defenses need to be put up
against the disciplines of mass marketing and communications that now claim
to develop concepts -- disciplines in which critique is replaced by
Rodowick describes a battle over the fate of the image and the concept in
audio-visual culture. This battle is a struggle against information and the
information society. The concept is, according to Rodowick, without
informational value. The nature of the concept is not linguistic nor is it
reducible to symbolic logic. It is not a pre-given knowledge that can be
the basis of judgements. It is a self-positing creation. The cinema lets us
think the autonomy of movement in the creation of concepts. If movement is
automatized in each movement-image, in the time-image the image is
The two regimes provide concepts articulated as what Spinoza called
'spiritual automata', 'mental cartographies', and 'noosigns'. Spiritual
automata are concatenations of ideas that produce one another, not a form
of psychological consciousness, nor can they be described in terms of
identity. Mental cartographies are accords between thoughts and signs.
Rodowick distinguishes these two concepts from apparatus theory, which he
says is haunted by its Hegelian origins from Vertov to Baudry. At this
point in Rodowick's argument the absence of a serious reading of Hegel
becomes a problem. He is clearly referring to Jean Hyppolite's
understanding of Hegel as the philosopher of the closed dialectic that
necessarily leads to the triumph of the spirit and absolute knowledge. 
However this is not the understanding of Hegel given to us by Theodor
Adorno, Georges Bataille, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, or Blanchot to
name but five of his major twentieth-century readers. These thinkers are
each able to read the Hegelian text in different ways, all of which resist
the closure imputed to it by Deleuze and Rodowick. We should note that such
close attention to Hegel, like a close reading of Blanchot, presents a risk
to committed Deleuzians, for they might discover that becoming is already
inscribed as an interminable moment in _The Phenomenology of Spirit_.
For Deleuze and Rodowick, philosophy is both a construction of concepts and
a cartography of their relations. Concepts are concrete assemblages and the
plane of immanence is the abstract machine of which the concepts are the
working parts. According to Rodowick, in the movement-image thought is
commensurate with the dialectical expansion of the image, but in the
time-image time and thought become a force of difference interrupting
Rodowick develops an analysis of Eisenstein in order to show the limits of
the time-image by showing its highest expression and categorizing it as
determined by his reading of Hegel. In Eisenstein, the great practitioner
and theorist of cinematic ecstasy, there is no distinction between the
cinema of the body and the cinema of the brain. The identity between
concept and image formed in Eisenstein is the final step in what is
supposedly a Hegelian dialectic. Deleuze calls this an action-thought. This
requires a teleological orientation that goes along with the organic will
to truth. The truth here expands horizontally and vertically. The spectator
of this cinema believes in the world it presents not only because of its
internal consistency, but because he is included in the image of the whole.
The time-image requires the obliteration of the whole in favor of the
outside that is inserted between its elements, as well as between the
screen and its spectators. Sensory-motor situations are displaced by
visualizations of the force of time based on the passive synthesis of time.
The psychological automaton of the time-image is only 'the image of a
divided psyche that speaks or moves according to a force that does not
belong to it' (188). Force here is time as an affirmative will to power
that transforms identity.
In Chapter Eight Rodowick relates Deleuze's two volumes on cinema to the
rest of his work. He shows that they develop concepts with and arguments
from _A Thousand Plateaus_, _Foucault_, and _What is Philosophy?_, and that
they anticipate much of the thought in _The Fold_. He reads the cinema
books as a retrospective of Deleuze's philosophical career.
This retrospective leads us to philosophy proper. The unthought presented
by the time-image forces us to become philosophers and to unfold the world
of difference implicated in its paradox. These texts perform the double
task of inventing a perspectival truth and exploring the virtual domain of
difference. Deleuze uses the Bergsonian identity between matter and
movement and Nietzsche's eternal recurrence as ways of starting to think
'the outside', which is at once a plane of universal variation and pure
virtuality in the form of time-as-change.
Rodowick uses this chapter to develop the concept of virtuality as absolute
memory and as the memory of resistance. The logic of the irrational
interval is non-spatial, irreducible to any set, and cannot be incorporated
into any whole. In the movement-image the outside is the referent against
which the image measures itself, but in the time-image it gives us a theory
of thought without image. Established powers organize horizons of seeing
and speaking and the modern cinema works to explode them. It surpasses the
audiovisual a priori that each audiovisual formation presupposes and
becomes 'the outside' of such formations.
Power splits into a force that acts and one that is acted upon. This split
corresponds to the stratification of the time-image into the visible and
the utterable. Thus Rodowick claims that the series of time is always a
multiplicity and not a dialectical unity. Furthermore he states that
time-as-series is incommunicable. Power and resistance are coupled
incommensurably. Power anchors itself in relations of forces that it
transforms into territories, while resistance restores their fluidity. The
outside as an absolute relation is a non-relation. In other words, it is
Life is the will to power that acknowledges change and becoming as forces.
For Rodowick, resistance is the awakening of more affirmative forces than
those of the life we now live. To think is to invent the future. The
aesthetic problem relevant to philosophy is the relation of art to everyday
life. By 'everyday life' is meant the consumption of mass-produced goods as
the return of the same. The role of art is to point out the limits of this
return and to thereby gradually produce difference. Thus, finding the
subtle way out of our current conditions requires us to think cinema's
history of images and signs, because for Rodowick cinema is the source of
Yet sometimes there is no way out, and for some the everyday cannot be said
to take the form of life. In an earlier chapter, Rodowick says that _Shoah_
(1985) refers to the slow 'annihilation of history and memory' by the
passage of time (145). He reads the verdant fields that have grown over
charnel grounds as the past that has temporarily been lost. This reading
misses the outrage that the film expresses at the fact that the world goes
on after the Shoah, even in the very sites where it took place. 
Rodowick is correct to observe that the land buries the past beneath its
fertility, but the insult of its fecundity is never mentioned. Here the
vitalism of Deleuze's Nietzsche and Bergson need to be questioned. Perhaps
life should not always go on, perhaps it should not be upheld as the
highest or only value.
Continuing his reading along the same lines, Rodowick interprets the song
sung by Simon Srebnick, a survivor of Chelmo, as the resistance to the loss
of memory by time since he sings on a small boat rowing past the killing
fields. According to this reading, the shock produced by the discrepancy
between the description of places in the testimony and the images of those
places as they looked when Lanzmann shot them becomes a force capable of
recovering the past. Lanzmann and Phillip Muller, a survivor of the death
camps, are said to communicate in a language that belongs to neither image
nor sound and to forge a historical relation without having us experience
what Muller lived through by means of a visual recreation. For Rodowick,
Muller's account is corroborated by shots of contemporary Auschwitz.
Corroboration is not, however, one of _Shoah_'s textual operations. The
film is structured so that its truth effects are produced by the act of
Contrary to Rodowick's argument that 'the millions of lives lost to the
past are nonetheless redeemed in the act of historical imagination that
arises from the autonomy of speech in relation to the image' (147-8),
_Shoah_ does not seek to release any kind of redemptive force. Such
redemption is only thinkable if one holds that forgetting the relation
between present and past is a more profound catastrophe than the
disappearance of present and past. Such a perspective assumes that the
Holocaust is over, that it was an event linking up to a time that comes
after it. Only then can the juxtaposition of autonomous text, image, and
speech be said to overcome the difference between past and present by
giving form to that very difference.
Moreover, any possibility of redemption is foreclosed by _Shoah_'s
insistence on the impossibility of communicating the experience of the
camps. The film's testimonial scenes might be said to be organized figures
of meutophrasis, whereby the speaker's words are palpably incomprehensible
to those to whom they are addressed. Again and again victims tell their
stories before audiences for whom, for reasons of language or culture,
their words strike deaf ears like silence. The holocaust was not an event,
it did not take place in the kind of time within which things begin and
end, for, from the moment of their deportation, the inmates of the camps
were already dead. One of the things that _Shoah_ gives us to see and hear
is that in some way even the survivors are dead. As a member of the Jewish
resistance in Warsaw says to Lanzmann near the end of the film: 'Claude, if
you could lick my heart it would poison you.'
Such disagreements from a reader are signs of the power and importance of
Rodowick's account of Deleuze. Many of my objections are against Deleuze
rather than Rodowick, and all of them have been expressed in order to keep
the conversation opened by _Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine_ going.
University of Iowa, USA
1. See, for example, Rodowick's _The Crisis Of Political Modernism_.
2. Though Rodowick does not mention this, it is important to note that
Deleuze's use of the phrase 'the open' is inflected by Rilke's work. For
example, see Rilke's Letter of February 25, 1926. He writes: 'By Open we do
not mean the sky, the air, space -- which for the observer are still
objects, and thus opaque. The animal the flower is all that without
realizing it, and has thus before itself, beyond itself, that indescribably
open freedom, which, for us only exists in its extremely short lived
equivalents perhaps only in the first instants of love.' Quoted in Maurice
Blanchot, _The Space Of Literature_, trans. Ann Smock (Lincoln: University
of Nebraska Press, 1982).
3. Deleuze is himself following Andre Bazin in this argument. See Bazin's
essay, 'The Evolution of Cinematic Language', in _What is Cinema?_, vol. I,
trans. Hugh Grey (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967).
4. Although it is beyond the scope of this review, one must note the
tension between Deleuze's refusal of a linguistic semiotic of film and his
insistence that, in what he calls the modern cinema, the image needs to be
read in order to be understood. One cannot suppress language from the
semantic field of reading, or from the metaphorical chains established by
that word, without reduplicating Saussure's problematic exclusion of
writing from language proper.
5. The young Deleuze, like many of the important French philosophers of the
1960s and 1970s, attended Jean Hyppolite's seminars at L'ecole Normal
Superieure in Paris.
6. On this point see Carolyn Forche's poem, 'The Angel of History', in her
_The Angel Of History_ (New York: Harper Collins, 1994). In particular, see
Copyright © Louis Schwartz 2000
Louis Schwartz, 'Deleuze, Rodowick, and the Philosophy of Film',
_Film-Philosophy_, vol. 4 no. 16 June 2000
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