Cinema III/ Deleuze and Cinema
The concept of ‘time-image’ in Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema I & II.
The two volumes of Cinema are a remarkable reed, teeming with insights and fresh observations. However, the reader quickly finds are s/he progresses that the thinking gets ever wilder and more difficult to ground in the material. Indeed the problem is that of the promises made on the basis of ‘time’ which are not delivered – echoing another project born of the ’concept of time’ which also founders soon after its inception - Heidegger’s misuse of time in his grand metaphysical conceit.
Early on in Cinema II (p. 3) Deleuze lines up the following binary oppositions: ‘sensory motor’ versus ‘pure sound’, or pure ‘optic image’; as ‘movement-image’ and ‘time-image’, effectively as realism versus its others… with the external point of view termed ‘realist’ and the point of view of the viewer/narrator as non-real… so subjective, or as ritual… as ‘ceremonial’, sacred time (as opposed to everyday, realist time)… The type of image also implies ‘the place‘ of the image; what we see or what we feel… in the world or in our head.
However, this binary, as well as being synchronic, two genres present at the same time, or a division of film into two broad types, is also historical; it traces a path of development… from ‘movement to time image’. However, this development is also the historical turn from black and white to colour, so at a stroke, does all earlier black and white (including Expressionism) become ‘realism’, leaving the new colour film to fit the slot of the, avantgarde ‘time image’? Rather colour quickly became the realist standard after World War 2 (the historical dividing point of his two regimes, or mega-genres, of the image) with black and white (retrospectively?) becoming pre-realist, classic film, or simply reclassified as ‘time-image’, non-realist, because a different ‘regime’ of realism than the post war avant-garde. This differentiation would suggest the post war avant-garde as inheritor and main trend… rather than the minority trend. Yet if we look at the transition to colour, as just noted, we also see the development of World Cinema… surely both a ‘minor’ form in opposition to Hollywood film, but also more than a ‘minor’ form in terms of its national (and international) audience (to use Deleuze‘s own classification). World cinema here plays the role of an alternative, parallel movement to the high art avant-garde of the 1950s and 1960s (precisely the time of the ‘time-image’ in film). Art culture then in general changes course; changing the focus of experiment in the 1970s onto quotation, appropriation and frame of content, rather than the disruption of fragmentation of content, together with other Postmodern art forms - now also become both ‘art culture’ and ‘popular culture’, (or in American terms) ‘high-brow’ art, but including ‘middle’ and ‘low brow’ forms too… so perhaps ‘high-low’ brow… a term often used to describe films which are double coded, for popular spectacle and ‘the chase’, and yet also for higher levels of meaning reflecting global and technological issues).
The binary concept Deleuze presents in visual culture (for if they work in film they must also work in other aspects of visual culture; the photograph, the painting, sculpture, etc.) is that of realist as opposed to anti-realist images. This all sounds a bit like the transition from Romantic art to Modernism, or the opposition of realism to ‘romance’ narratives in the 19th century, or then again the ‘return’ of realism in the 1930s (so the first wave of ‘postmodernism’) and again in the 1970s (after the neo-avant-garde)… which effectively meant that it, ‘realism’, never really went away, rather evolved, or morphed, into different types or styles of ‘reality’ – all claiming to be ‘real’ (like Absurdism…). There again we have the opposition of ‘objective’ scene versus ‘subjective’ dream (together opposed to narrative, an opposition much employed in narrative analysis, and going back to the Ancient Greek rhetoric, as in hypotyposis). A matter of mimicking a real process (complete with narrative motion and stationary scene) as opposed to creating a visionary or poetic, ‘internal’ process… Not too surprisingly we end up with the opposition of prose and poetry (or with in poetry, narrative and lyric) in the realm of the image. But all this is too vague, too general, not least regarding the history of Cinema… if we look closely things are more complicated (dreams and imagining are included in ‘realist’ films, and narrative takes place in dream visions, albeit in a somewhat defamiliarized manner…).
Might we use the human experience of time to better classify these broad differences in film in particular and visual culture in general? A better division would be to define all as temporal: all as in the time of our experience: so dividing human temporality in cinema into; past, present and future in narrative realism; the strange, both ‘in and out’, temporality of the dream in all the others (vision/surreal/recall as dream-like, interrupting narrative rather than taking a place with in it as a kind of reordering) – with the no time of ‘eternity’ (the reaching out for the trans-historical) reserved for those dream types with ritual force (or perhaps those narratives with allegorical distance).
So we find we can more radically reduce the amount of terms employed if we find help from our most basic experience: so the role or ‘content’ of the Eternal Present (ourselves as the on-going ‘now’ experience) in the first case, ‘realism’, is as if watching the Real on screen (while noting the role of place, cinema, as ritualistic, so as a whole offering dream type options, allegorical readings as in drama): the Eternal Present in the second case would be as if in a dream, as if ‘in the head’, inner vision, fantasy, reverie, etc.). In both cases the cinema experience mimics a broad type of temporal experience; the -often chopped up- flow of the present; and a mix of dream time with recall as deeply symbolic (as opposed to simply playing a function in a reconstructable chronology)
Deleuze takes much from Henri Bergson and his use of the concepts, the ‘actual’ and the ‘virtual’. These terms are then used to map the relation between consciousness and its content (our perception), and their input, or the non-conscious stage of operations that prepare our perception. Actual perception (including recall, or actual memory) is opposed to (preconscious, virtual) stored memory (as argued in Bergson’s ‘Matter and Memory’). A conceptual divide which now includes ‘real virtual’ recordings in virtual storage (like an unwatched reel of documentary or … film). Perhaps the best definition of ‘virtual’ is as a kind of latent storage; the virtual as not yet actual, not yet actually recalled… (Or shown, to pursue the filmic analogy). Memory as such (regardless of the status of the unreachable original virtual imprint) however is unreliable and may be reformed in the act of recall, of re-remembering… or even invented… (so to Nietzsche on art as fiction, creative lying, distortion, and so also to the critique of the image in particular and art in general, made by philosophers from Plato to Levinas).
The point perhaps being that regarding the art work (and not just interior human psychology) what art, image and film may produce may be, as opposed to an imitation of reality or realism, the image of the virtual made actual (but this would be the past in the present, made present, the virtual made actual). This time in the world of constructed representation (made image, made into art) as opposed to the representations of memory, brought to recall (from virtual to actual). So the idea is that with art what we get is the actualisation of the virtual as virtual and not just as the usual mental recall… But does this really make any sense? (Does this statement actually mean anything?) Just another kind of creative, ‘mistake’, a ’distortion’, a fictionalisation (at the behest of art, of form, art as lies… or as ‘higher truth’ - see Chinese ink-wash painting and other formalisations in world art history). If the above simply means that the virtual is no more than stored representations which can be made actual in showing, then we have added nothing new - the analogy is empty.
Other definitions of virtual offer ‘possible’ alternative worlds. In effect meaning imaginary. Possible fantasy; as ‘creative’, reinvented (permissible for the future but for the past… the ‘’virtual in this sense offers no proof either way unless faced with some kind of record). Again, subjective fantasy pretends to objective reality (here alternative reality); creativity is taken as the Real. In the world of art this is acceptable, not least in Romantic art; but not as a pretend record/ing of real events.
As above let’s try and ground this in actual human experience (before returning to the role of the virtual/actual opposition). Regarding ‘the movement image in the present,’ for myself in the Eternal Present, whether facing reality or a film, play or …a picture (where ‘the movement’ happens around the picture… or before or after, in the narrative/scene, movement/still opposition), the idea is that the Eternal Present is both in and out of the film. It sees in parallel, sees the same image as both ‘as if real’ and as constructed and presented before it as such. Or agrees to see ‘as if’ real (suspension of disbelief); in fact, just as in ‘dream narratives’. With our (final) Eternal Present experience as the final court, reinterpreting the images we see as… recuperable as real (or as dream). Even if only understandable through codes and conventions (with actually experienced images, as with Grice maxims in actually experienced discourse, we go out of our way to make what we see or hear in communication make sense). And indeed, this what the ‘time image’ offers the Eternal Present; the world, or aspects of the world or our experience in the world, as if seen in a vision, filmed as if experienced in dream mode… an interior vision. With the ‘movement image’, however, my Eternal Present is, ‘as if’, in perceptual mode; as if just perceiving, receiving, watching reality… Again, we have the opposition of everyday time and special, ceremonial time, of realism and its others… But ritual and ceremonies are real… just as performances are real and art (depicting the unreal), as performatives are both action and verbal (words effective in the real). Art is but a special case of ritual in life, in everyday life… in everyday time, present(ed) to us in our everyday temporality (even when signifying somewhere else, somewhere ‘outside’). Much of the power of art comes from ritual force (motivated not only by the type of content, the means of expression or the form, but also the means of presentation, the place, cinema or stage or screen…).
The ‘real’, ‘unreal’ (‘dream’, ‘vision’) are all codes of recognition, assimilation, or appropriation of the Eternal Present - I decide to understand them in this way. These terms are what we deploy to understand what we watch (or read) and as such an open invitation to creativity in ‘distorting’ reality in the cause of novelty in art. Interestingly, if we read Roland Barthes on the ‘readable’ and ‘scriptable’ (lisable/scriptable) – that which we passively understand, and that which we need to actively engage with in order to understand - then we have an uncannily similar opposition. In practice the image in view, if defined as ‘difficult’, is dwelled upon and allowed a degree of importance (not treated as a passing detail). Offering quantitative importance as amounting to a new quality, a ‘dream’ or ‘symbol’, or a given character’s imagining etc.
‘Time (in film) depends on movement’, otherwise a still or a scene? But we know it is not a picture or a photograph, unless looking at one in the world of the film (the usual assumption). But really this means nothing more than that the movement image is ‘temporality’ (subjectivity, the Eternal Present); meaning that watching movement imitating reality is (in) time (objective Time), whilst the time image is temporality (sic). The first suggests watching film as life in real time, the second, watching film as ‘watching’, and (or as if…) experiencing our own temporality (appropriated, after consideration, as a part of a character’s imagining, or finally a product of the auteur’s imagination). For we become aware of time passing for us as the image does not move… a quantitative ‘how long’, experienced ‘at the same time’ as ‘it’ does not ‘move’; so aware of duration as movement (the passing time of the self, temporality) and of the still (image) combined…
If we compare the above experience of ‘dream time’ to clock watching in Heidegger (where clock speed ‘slows’-for us- as we watch the clock) then we should note well that both of these are desire based temporal phenomena. In the film ‘we want’ to see more of an image, to devour it, ecstatically, understand it: in boredom, waiting, we want to be in the future, we want the object of desire, what we wait for and which ‘distorts’ time, makes us aware of another kind of flow of time, clock time, which makes this time ‘now’, ourselves in duration, unwanted - the moments are not passing quickly enough, when compared to the desired future event. A little like anxiety, another ‘disease’ (dis-ease) of time, or, more precisely, of human temporality (melancholy is its opposite, where it is the past that distorts and devalues the present).
So it is that watching the still, or more precisely, as we are not dealing with simply staring (of the camera mimicking the effect of a prolonged stare) watching a non-realist narrative and image flow… (in real Time) – is like watching what we could only have imagined (or dreamt), now made flesh, actualised in a film (or like recall of memory, but the recall of the memory of a dream). Time is not really at issue; the mode of presentation of images is… As in the case, for example, of narrative or organic connected images versus serial or discontinuous ‘unconnected’ images. But where we note their actual mixing in many (most?) ‘actually existing’ Art films. Even in Hollywood ‘realism’ we find actions in a character’s dream in contrast to actions in the real. Furthermore, in the dream-like events of an ‘action-movie’, in full ‘romance’ mode – full of impossible escapes – in every way, an escapist fantasy… Indeed, the ‘movement image’ seems more and more to be the repository, not of narrative as pictured reality, but narrative as an imaginary reality - as the actualisation of the ‘virtual’ fantasy.
So in fact the ‘time’ and ‘movement’ debate and sense of priorities is purely rational and metaphysical (‘where’ is it taking place, whose ‘point of view’ is it, the question of enunciation?), and is untenable in terms of our experience, or even intuition, nor in empirical terms, so neither tenable in the court of experience nor in science - for in most explanations of an anti-intuitional nature (the world of modern physics) facts are required to modify or augment or parallel, experience… not reason (alone).
And when we contrast perceived ‘movement ‘ to ‘invisible’ change… consider the motion of real time as ‘the arrow of time’, of change we can see, and change we cannot see (from science we know of chemical and physical change and motion, quantum, as well as entropy – never mind the link of the shape of time to the shape of space, both famously ‘distorted’ by changes in gravity in ‘objective’ or scientific time)… With the science as mirrored in our experience of this ‘directionality’, our consciousness as constructed out of it, as poised within it (‘it’ including our nervous system, our pre-conscious), as a synthesis, designed, rather evolved, to help us better survive, to deal with the world…
In fact the movement image in film is not reality (this might only be true of brute, un-edited, documentary footage), but replaces it, with editing (‘montage’), with choices, breaks and focuses, with intensification, concentration (scene, freezing, still) – all matters of (visual) rhetoric – the business of creative construction. So, from ‘classic’ to ‘avant-garde’, this opposition, which is also historicised as before and after, is just too simplistic to account for either pole… and especially when applied to the actual history of the cinema. **Indeed, we might, in the spirit of polemic, suggest the inversion of Deleuze’s history (from real to unreal) to, from unreal to real, as more accurate; for most early cinema appears as dream-like (especially with ‘black and white’, or at the other extreme, in ‘technicolour’, both modes offer meanings as effects of the means of expression – both now looking ‘unreal’). Whilst with modern cinema, we have a range of ‘realisms’ from Hollywood formula, studio-polish and CGI, all the way through to a ‘rough-and-ready’, ‘hand-held’, pseudo-documentary style. All posing as representations of the real (which they are) and as realistic (which they patently are not). Again, ‘Absurdism’, to take just one example, always claims to be ‘most or more real’ than the rest… The pure surreal dream perhaps comes the closest to the one pole of this ‘real’ versus ‘anti-real’ opposition (but what about ‘abstract film’); and so ‘the time-image’ becomes… the dream image, and we return to an everyday type of time (our experience of dreams) as the sought for point of origin and explanation (interpretation). The dream experience, in film is the main pole of contrast to ‘realism’, the attempts at the recreation of the world as perceived by and in the Eternal Present and subject to much stylistic variation.
Indeed the ‘pure time’ (the ‘direct’ image of time, p. 42) of the ‘time image’ at times seems to mean little more than just a still… (and Deleuze does in fact refer to Ozu’s ‘still lives as the pure form of time’, p. 173). And always taken in opposition to the real flow… of time, usually including (but not necessarily defined by) perceived movement; but of course, including our sense of the arrow of time as passing... as watchers… (where the movement we are continuously aware of is our thoughts passing). The real flow of time is, of course, normally reconstitutable as such; as in ‘in medias res’, flashbacks and flash-forwards, or indeed the ‘who-dun-it’, in literature, drama and film, we put the jumbled pieces of narrative back in their ‘proper’ order – or as close as we can… (as in Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’, where the order of ‘actual’ events and watching experience are completely reversed). The only place time as change is not found is in the still image... the time that passes here is our time, the time of the watcher; so to call a still a ‘time-image’ seems a bit farfetched - we would not call photographs or paintings, ‘time images’… (Deleuze appears to believe that this combination of still on screen and our on-going sense of being there constitute together a ‘time-image’; yet this combination in what he called the time image is rare, usually in dream type narratives we find scenes surreal and imaginary all with their sense of inner movement or rhythm – which we witness and occasionally contrast against our own…). In fact, almost all other explanations do better when dealing with non-realist films… or the non-realist moments in otherwise realist film narratives… Most of which on analysis are in fact more like… ‘romances’ (most thrillers, sci-fi, chase narratives, super hero genres are semi-fantastic ‘romances’). Many including ‘dream-like’ episodes - types of fantasy on both counts. So perhaps suggesting a three-part division of film into realist, romance and vision type narratives.
From realism to experiment (from movement images to time and sound images as themselves; modernism). As noted, perhaps the most productive way of understanding Deleuze’s key opposition as performed in the two volumes of ‘Cinema’ is to think of the ‘time image’ as no longer ‘as if’ a viewer in front of something, ‘as if’ watching reality (film as ‘second hand’ experience), but ‘as if’ a vision or image in one’s head… like a dreamer, or fantasist (but here again fantasy may be more or less ‘realistic’). But again, this may also cover all film (and not just the ‘some’ of the ‘dream narrative’). Anyway, this effect is still less than being a participant in a ritual (the screen, the distance, the ‘in one’s head’ sense of subjective vision). Like ritual, film (or literature) may imply a variety if narratives (myth, religious narratives, symbols and extended allegories, etc.), and even the sense of an alternative space-time… more than a little like listening to tales or (but with extra distance, or an extra layer of frame, the screen) watching the dances of the shaman before the pictures on the cave wall of our Paleolithic ancestors? Ironically, the more modernist or experimental a text, verbal or visual, the more like a ‘primitive’ ritual (or artefact from such) it appears– so actually showing a modern awareness of modern ritual form in modern society… along with its role in human identity. We might note a similar use of ‘myth’, of the ‘unreal’ coincidence or echo (of a myth, superstition, or other non-real narrative, like the Saint’s Life) in a literary context. For example, like Walter Benjamin’s analysis of Goethe’s ‘Elective Affinities’, where he misses the Saint’s Life citation in his rush to assert the Classical reference as bringing the echo of ‘Myth’ to the otherwise realist text – something that also occurs in realist film (see ‘Breaking the Waves’, by Lars von Trier).
As Deleuze himself notes of Cinema, film and the ‘time-image’ (Cinema 2, p. 272-3) the recollection image may be read as a kind of dream image. Memory as semi-present (in the present); this is the sign of its being a memory… or a fantasy…. Because dreams, of course, are only an input of perception in the present when we are dreaming, otherwise, remembered they are an input from the past, including the past worries (present when we are awake) of the future. Not all memories may be dreams of course, but their presentation as semi-present in the memory renders them comparable, and reminds us of the precarity and creativity of memory (in film, witness the black and white past episodes, the past ‘remembered’ in the past, that counterpoint the colour of the ‘present in the past’ narrative line, in Edgar Reiz’s ‘Heimat’ - complete with a ‘dream image’ to finish the first series, in black and white…).
The only ‘pure time’ that is allowed seems to be ‘the frozen time of the image’… perhaps as a unit of the image or of time itself; again, we seem to have ‘pure duration’ without change, or flow (but what we do still have, in the last analysis, is not in film, but in us, is our Eternal Present still going, like a clock - but with different gears, differing speeds, as compared to actual clock time). Or of a period of perception as fixed… as in the beholding of a scene, taking in a view… as stopping and looking, this too is part of life. Or stopping and musing and remembering or imagining (or enjoying, becoming delirious, ecstatic, having a ‘peak experience’). As we stop and view, stop and watch, and become lost in the scene or lost in thought, following a set of associations (or in a film, have the stopping done, or performed for us, in a still or a static scene, or in a still shot in a film…). All these are part of everyday time, or temporality; of our experience of time, in time, human time or temporality… (and so available to film makers). Not (a) god’s time… the apparently exterior view of measure and mathematics, an ‘external’ vision (a breach of the prohibition on metaset use in logic… because we may always imagine a further or greater one… ad infinitum). The still precisely as the moment in our present that resists passing, we stop and are lost. This is the presence of transfiguration and the ecstatic inherent in the still; in the painterly, ‘Still Life’. An effect much pursued by film makers… (explicable, in temporal terms, as a touch of eternity, of the sense of perfection as connoting the eternal – no longer just a moment but a transfigured moment).
The ‘virtual’ is referred to as the ‘frozen’, is this again the ‘still’… or the photograph, used in the world of film, as part of the rhetoric of the film image). Again for the power or intensity of the ’still-image’, remind yourself of the genres of Landscape and Still Life… and their potency… and then there is the world of the Portrait (echoed by the close up and lingering on the face of a character, often a sign of fascination on the part of another character, ‘the camera’, the director or implied viewer).
And we are reminded of Art as ‘fake’; as created, so creative, beyond reference, ‘untrue’ – also true in photography (the reconstructed icon in the index). So, we are again presented with the obvious. This is the tradition mined by Plato, Iconoclasm, Levinas and Lacan as a criticism of the image (versus the word). Nietzsche at least finds this to be a virtue?
The key to understanding Gilles Deleuze’s ‘time image’ concept, lies perhaps in the awareness of self in time, exposed to ourselves because there is no movement. The idea is that no discernable physical movement leaves time only… (in perception) passing (objective time) and in experience (subjective temporality). Images, all is images… no movement only time… only the still… only stillness… well not quite (for the dream narrative or vision, ceremonial type image flow is hardly still…). What we are (supposed to be) left with is stillness as meditation… or …boredom. We find this latter issue explored in Heidegger and time. In the present when there is no movement in the desired area the result is boredom, whilst waiting for this (to end), we undergo an increased awareness of temporal being… More awareness is equivalent to the stretching, the ‘slowing’, of time… ‘pure time’ as stretching… in experience (note the opposite comparison; un-awareness as time passing rapidly- no awareness, or minimal awareness, of time… as when our awareness is filled by activity or spectacle… resulting in no time awareness – the ‘disappearance’ of time). But in the filmic ‘time image’ we do not get (or should not get) bored – rather we get ecstatic… or thoughtful (emotional and conceptual effects).
The true ‘time image’… as pure time… as waiting? But the interrelationship of the past, present and future -together with desire as motivator- is the best way to analyse this. The image is not a ‘time image’; rather the time is of the perceiver, made aware of passing time together with no ‘passing’ change… (the expected content of perception change does not occur). But as noted above this works best in boredom… not, hopefully, in the watching of a film. Desire in the ‘time image’ is the test of Deleuze’s idea, that is: how does the desire of the spectator work when faced with a ‘time image’, that is a dream image or vision narrative (moving/montage) or still? Strategies for dealing with the non-real, or anti-real non-narrative, immediately take over. Where there is no meaning, we look for or make meaning, and as theorized by Barthes, the alternative concepts, ‘readable’ and ‘scriptable’, take over. With the active appropriation of the text by the writable/scriptable mode of thinking we gain a sense of delirium, the further sense of the text or image, or image flow, signaling that it is open to a potential overload of new or symbolic meanings… (lack leading to excess.) These strategies then result in the ‘pleasure of the text’ (the delirium of the signifier, of pure texture) or the recouping of the image as a dream story, or parable, allegory, narrative progressing by symbol, and so on… one result being the cyclic Purgatory of Resnais‘, ‘Marienbad’ (on my reading).
Furthermore the past recollected is not quite the past as again present, as if happening again, in all its freshness, in all its full presence (as it once was; literally returning in all its presence, filling our present, with a vividness equal to – so overwhelming - our present) but returning as semi-presence, marked for the past… Only in film can this happen, the ‘as if’ returned to a prior moment; but then this ‘prior moment’, in becoming the now moment, the present, again (without fading, or black and white, and therefore fully present), is our new present. Until the narrative jumps again… an effect of editing, montage, the telling of the story and its order. Perhaps finally, this is the true ‘time image’… the past marked as semi-present… as not present, as not now, but still before us…both ‘there’ and ‘past’. So, suggesting a whole layer of other meanings: first, present as past or future, then other connections and variations; fantasy, alternatives, other pasts of futures… wish-fulfillment, memory as bent by desire, the future as founded or foreclosed by desire… by the past… in the present.
(Everything that is transfigured is in ritual ‘time’…the ‘touch of eternity’ is the mark of ritual time… the time of the other, or the Other (myth, superstition, the Sublime, all as a broadly similar semantic-experiential zone).
‘Ritual’ and ‘Ceremony’ in film were mentioned above in the introductory remarks above as one pole of another key binary Deleuze deploys in his analysis of film. With this opposition Deleuze is also abusing time, for the opposition is that between ‘everyday’ time and ceremonial time… As ‘realism’ (‘movement image’) versus the avant-garde (‘time image’). However, this is an artificial binary distinction; everyday time, that is, everyday experienced temporality, for us, includes rituality as a quantitative gradient, leading to qualitative distinctions (festivals, anniversaries, celebrations, leisure and cultural pursuits – the everyday pursuit of a Durkheimian ‘effervescence’ not only reserved for official mass festivals). Whilst on the other hand, the criticism and analysis of ‘realist’ narratives has long gone beyond this simple binary – including the analysis of the brute constructedness of film (whence the ‘datedness’ of films from varying periods and styles…) and so the varieties of constructedness of the ‘real’ in film and literary narrative…
Film itself may be viewed as in ‘ritual time’: the event of attendance itself of ‘realism’ (note that all narratives are cathartic is some way, as with larger forms of ritual): the content too of ‘non-real’ type stories or image sequences, dream-like, Surreal, Magic-realist… carries ritual effect. So as in drama and painting, in other ‘two’ as well as three-dimensional art works, the art form, its separation from the everyday (even if only as a quotation of the everyday) is already a kind of ritual form; there then follow further degrees of intensification, or interior framing - rituals within a ritual setting, if you will. The analysis of this difference and its use to explain effect in drama has been noted (*my articles) and may be applied to images too (art itself may be considered as a ‘mini-ritual’, a ‘ritual in two-dimensions’).
Our experience of film as a journey, as pilgrimage, ritual, renewal, all given ‘shape’ within the time of the film and so always carrying a trace of ‘the outside of time’… as the key centre of any rite, identity exchange, sense of rebirth, community. All rooted in the rhetoric of eternity and relation to the Eternal Present as its impossible extrapolation or parallel - as always elsewhere, ‘put outside’ a-historical equals universal, eternal… ‘natural’ (perhaps partly reflecting the origins, the grounds, of the self in the preconscious or a ‘hard-wired’ sense of the Absolute Other as absolute support…). So narrative, as in film and fiction, is really more like a ritual journey than a slice of reality a process cut up out of a longer process… (the montage or editing being part of the presentation of this process, this journey, this experience). This narrative whole is then interpretable as an allegory of other things, other narratives.
A great example of the ritualistic combination of bodies, gestures, tableaux, of ritual, as well as of the best of UK experiment, can be found in the films of Peter Greenaway and Dereck Jarman.
Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2019