Gilles Deleuze’s Movement-Image as a Theoretical Prism for Historical Analyses of Cinematic Works
Having achieved a status of a classical philosophical work, Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, though still cryptic, serves as a backdrop for reconsiderations of contemporary cinema.1
A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.
Deleuze’s notion of the movement-image ostensibly owes a debt to Henri Bergson’s work Matter and Memory in which it was originally proposed in the context of the latter’s psychological critique of cinema. 2
However, in contemporary cultural and critical thought the movement-image is considered a part of Deleuze’s theoretical vocabulary, not least because he used this concept to analyze key works in cinematic history, in order to organize its empirical elements along the diagrams of philosophical reflection that both emerges from their close reading and imposes its own logic on their semiotic interpretation. Not accidentally, Deleuze mentions, however playfully, Charles Saunders Peirce’s works as his sign- and image-reading vademecum, in his effort to propose the history of cinematic classics in the form of their phenomenological classification.
In doing so, Deleuze reduces cinema to its most basic semiotic elements, e.g., a mechanical transition from one momentary shot to another that creates an illusion of movement or non-movement. From this perspective, the cinematic movement is, thus, what emerges between two immobile snapshots as their virtual interrelation. Therefore, the movement-image is a particular type of image, its virtual aspect, that Deleuze contrasts with the time-image on which he expounds in his second work on cinema.3 These two notions describe the two poles of the dialectic between movement occurring within an imagined or experienced period of time and duration that serves as its contrasting background simultaneously enabling the movement to register as such.
For this reason, this work of Deleuze is repeatedly taken recourse to by scholars seeking to wed film history to its philosophical revaluation, such as Emoke Simon’s consideration of Stan Brakhage’s cinematic oeuvre in Deleuze’s poststructural terms and Slavoj Žižek’s texts on films as texts lending themselves to philosophical analysis.4
Likewise, Anne Hurault-Paupe extends Deleuze’s typological disquisitions on the history of world cinema in the direction of genres and works that have attained the status of cultural phenomena in recent decades, such as road movies originating in American cinema and achieving genre-status internationally.5
Featured Image Credits: Maya Deren, Dance, and Gestural Encounters in Ritual in Transfigured Time, March 7, 2012 | © Courtesy of bswise.
- Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema: 1. The movement image. London: Continuum, 2008.
- Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Translated by Nancy M. Paul, and W S. Palmer, 2012.
- Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema: 2. The time-image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.
- Simon, Emőke. “(Re) framing Movement in Stan Brakhage’s Visions in Meditation N° 1.” Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, Film and Media Studies 6, no. 1 (2013): 35-48. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/ausfm-2014-0003.
- Anne Hurault-Paupe, « The paradoxes of cinematic movement: is the road movie a static genre? », Miranda [Online], 10 | 2014, Online since 23 February 2015, connection on 20 June 2017. URL : http://miranda.revues.org/6257 ; DOI : 10.4000/miranda.6257