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Gilles Deleuze: Relationship between philosophy and cinema

Gilles Deleuze: Relationship between philosophy and cinema

Cinema was undoubtedly one of most the serious events of the twentieth century. Acceleration of scientific discoveries, in particular the development of technology, the emergence of new cinema theories, the movement of camera, and many other factors have led to uniqueness of cinema as a new discipline. Despite all this, cinema was not perceived as a philosophic act. Historically speaking, the similarity between these two disciplines is actually a novelty. Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995), a French philosopher, was the first to see this similarity.

When we talk about cinema and philosophy, we imagine two completely different disciplines which cannot be brought together. Nevertheless, after Deleuze, cinema became a philosophical activity. But why did Deleuze approach cinema as a philosophical act? If cinema merely presents us various images and philosophy gives us concepts, why did Deleuze speak of the similarity between these two disciplines? Or why did he write two volume book named Cinema 1: The Movement Image/ Cinéma 1: L`image mouvement  Cinema 2: The Time Image/ Cinéma 2: L`image temps about cinema?

First of all, it should be noted that philosophy of cinema is neither a movie review, nor a comment on a movie. Even if the subject of a movie is about a philosophic theme, it does not mean that analyzing this movie should be understood as a part of cinema philosophy. After watching a movie, everyone may have an idea about that movie, and even write a good comment on it. Nevertheless, all this, namely watching a movie, having an idea about a movie or writing a comment on a movie, do not mean that you engage in philosophy of cinema. Then what exactly is the cinema philosophy? Why cinema and philosophy? This discipline that we can call cinema philosophy occurred only after Deleuze. Cinema is a philosophical activity that combines thought with time and image. That is to say philosophy of cinema is a kind of analysis of the relationship between image and thought. Deleuze’s understating of cinema as a philosophical act means that cinema is a form of art, but art with philosophical activity. In other words, an activity in cinema is a philosophical activity. For according to Deleuze, while philosophy moves our thoughts with concepts, cinema acts through images. However, cinema, like philosophy, also produces concepts, with images. This means that according to Deleuze, cinema, like philosophy, presents us concepts, moves our thoughts and activate our minds; in a way, cinema shapes our thought and, therefore; it is a philosophical activity. In short, we can say that the similarity between cinema and philosophy comes from the fact that the former, like the latter, can also invent concepts.

Till Deleuze, cinema had always been analyzed in the context of aesthetics or semiotics and psychoanalysis linked to Ferdinand de Saussure and Jacques Lacan accordingly. After Deleuze, however, an activity in cinema was seen as a philosophical activity. Therefore, Deleuze is considered the first cinema-philosopher. We can mention many names and thinkers, especially the Soviet cinematographers such as Lev Kuleshov, Sergey Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Vsevolod Pudovkin and others, who first thought about cinema. It can be said that these cinematographers first discovered the relationship between cinema and thinking. Of course, this relationship was a montage. There was a very serious controversy among these Soviet cinematographers over the form of montage, and this controversy also determined the relationship between thought and montage.

Kuleshov and Pudovkin saw filmmaking as putting bricks on top of each other, meaning that for them montage was about attaching different pieces to one another. On the other hand, Eisenhower proposed the opposite view against this concept of chain montage. According to him, montage was about collision of different pieces. This was due to the fact that Eisenhower viewed Marxist dialectics as the foundation of montage. He claimed that there was a contradiction in the basis of every form of art. Consequently, cinema, by using montage, manages to collide these conflicts and offer new concepts. Vertov’s dialectics is about the relationship between non-human, that is the machine, and the eye, which he characterizes as superhuman. This dialectic concept is a kind of archeological description of camera. More clearly, Vertov’s dialectic explains the essence of the camera. In the related section, Vertov’s approach to cinema is described in details. Here I just gave a brief overview of the first thinkers who wrote about the similarity between cinema and thought. Otherwise, the Soviet montage theory is a separate issue in itself. The reason that I mentioned it here is that Deleuze was inspired by these cinematographers, in particular by Vertov, in the context of cinema and philosophy.

This article consists of three parts. The first part is about the core of the relationship between cinema and philosophy, namely it analyses their similarities in terms of image and concept. The second part (Mind-Camera) is about Deleuze, who pointed out the similarities between subject and camera, and Vertov, who inspired Deleuze to philosophize this similarity. In this section, Vertov is scrutinized within the framework of Deleuze. The third part briefly describes the concepts of motion-image and time-image, which Deleuze considered the core of cinema. Since the subject matter of images in the cinema philosophy of Deleuze is very detailed, this article only gives an overview of images.

From Image to Concept

To put it simply, cinema is art. Like other forms of art, cinema takes its power from nature. That is, because cinema is an example of art, it is a “mimesis” and it imitates nature. The word cinema (kino) is derived from the Greek word “kinesis,” which means “movement.” This movement is exactly what differentiates it from other forms of art. Cinema is a mechanical product of reality. Undoubtedly, in its early days, cinema was influenced by all areas. However, that did not prevent it from being original. Interdisciplinary influence is inevitable anyway. For example, the theory of pure cinema is a concept that emerged to separate cinema from literature and theater. For when cinema first appeared, in many ways, it managed to survive as result of other forms of art. Then, as cinematic personalities appeared, cinema had begun to differentiate itself from other forms of art, and “a return to pure cinema” mottos had already been formed.

This theory was created by the first major film theorists and directors, such as the Soviet director Dziga Vertov (1896-1954). The introduction of the movie Man with a Movie Camera (Человек с киноаппаратом, 1929), known as Vertov’s masterpiece, begins with the exploration of pure cinema. Pure cinema, in his view, should be far from dramatic fiction, that is, filmmaking should not be influenced by theater and literature. According to Vertov, the real face of invisible life, which cannot be seen with naked eyes, should be presented as it is without any interference. Vertov’s slogan about pure cinema was as follows: life as it is (Жизнь, как она есть). However, such attempts ignored the power of cinema. On the contrary, +1 (Plus-one), cinema named by the contemporary French philosopher Alain Badiou, has the ability to contain all forms of art. This is the peculiarity of cinema. In other words, “its force as a contemporary art lies precisely in turning the impurity of every idea into an idea in its own right.”

There have been many controversies in the world of cinema as well. The most intriguing one is the “reality” controversy.  Like in philosophy, describing the physical world or the reality is also a controversial subject in cinema. Of course, although disputes over the physical world are not as acute as they are in philosophical debates, they have attracted much attention from philosophy. When the first movie in history, The Arrival of a Train (L’arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat, 1895), produced by the Lumière Brothers, was shown to the public in a movie theatre, viewers saw a train coming towards them. But in fact, the train was moving toward the camera that filmed it. When it was shown to the public, the people thought that the train would move toward them and crush them. Although today it may seem ridiculous to us, the people there thought that the train would go out of the curtain and crush them. For the viewers were unaware of what was happening on the screen, what the light could do and what it was. It is known that in front of this visualization the viewer was naturally struck and left the hall. Yet since we know that the first film show was in 1895, we understand that such reactions were quite natural. However, after we were accustomed to reality, “speed-image,” which is not different from the original, and the effects of reality in movies have come to an end. Therefore, today the “moving light” reflected in the curtain does not cause us to leave the hall.

Then what kind of reality do we mean when we say “cinema and reality”? For the reality of cinema “is not things and constant personalities, but rather a movement; it is not far away and questionable events, but rather the physiological expressions as well as imitations derived from a continuous change.” That is, the reality shown in a movie is “the reality of gestures and events.”  

There must be another connection between philosophy and cinema. If we combine these two disciplines simply because of the similarities of their debated topics such as reality, it will be an unfounded characterization. There should be a special relationship, that is something that both philosophy and cinema can do together. At this point, Deleuze and his approach to cinema will help us with these issues. We have said that after Deleuze cinema had already become a philosophical act. Deleuze can be regarded as the first cinema-philosopher since he was the first to see similarities between philosophy and cinema as well as characterize cinema as an act which moves our thoughts.

When Deleuze considered cinema an activity that creates new concepts, he “also cinematized philosophy.” First of all, it should be noted that social and scientific changes of the early twentieth century brought the debate on the future of philosophy. Questions such as “what is philosophy?” or “what should philosophy be?” revealed many new concepts about what philosophy is. Topics such as the tasks of philosophy, what it should do, and how to do philosophy were began to be examined. One of the most prominent books dedicated to such searches was What is Philosophy?, written by German philosopher Karl Jaspers. According to Jaspers, “philosophy is where people think and realize their existence.” That is to say, for Jaspers philosophy is thinking about something. Thinking is a subject of philosophy. So, thinking about something is philosophy. In his book What is Philosophy?, co-authored with Felix Guattari, Deleuze brings a new understanding of philosophy. According to Deleuze, philosophy is neither about thinking (reflecting) on something, nor a contemplation in Platonic sense, nor a communication. Then what is philosophy? More precisely, “what is the philosophy for Deleuze?”

Deleuze emphasized that “treating philosophy as the power to ‘think about’ seems to be giving it a great deal, but in fact it takes everything away from it.” That is, if philosophy is defined as “thinking about something,” then we would transform philosophy into something else. In short, “thinking” or “thinking about something” is not a subject matter of philosophy. As Deleuze says, a mathematician does not need philosophy to think about mathematics. Then he continue: “lf philosophy had to be used to think about something, it would have no reason to exist. If philosophy exists, it is because, it has its own content.” Then if philosophy is not about thinking, what is it? According to Deleuze, philosophy is about creating or inventing new concepts. When Plato said “we need to observe forms,” first he invented the concept of “form.” For concept is not a given or ready-made thing; it has to be created. Philosopher, in this sense, is the creator of concepts. For Deleuze, concepts enable philosophy to be a discipline. But in order to understand the essence of concepts, we need to know their meaning.

“There are no simple concepts. Every concept has components and is defined by them. It therefore has a combination. It is a multiplicity, although not every multiplicity is conceptual. There is no concept with only one component. Even the first concept, the one with which a philosophy “begins,” has several components, because it is not obvious that philosophy must have a beginning, and if it does determine one, it must combine it with a point of view or a ground. Not only do Descartes, Hegel, and Feuerbach not begin with the same concept, they do not have the same concept of beginning. Every concept is at least double or triple, etc. Neither is there a concept possessing every component, since this would be chaos pure and simple. Even so-called universals as ultimate concepts must escape the chaos by circumscribing a universe that explains them (contemplation, reflection, communication). Every concept has an irregular contour defined by the sum of its components, which is why, from Plato to Bergson, we find the idea of the concept being a matter of articulation, of cutting and cross-cutting. The concept is a whole because it totalizes its components, but it is a fragmentary whole. Only on this condition can it escape the mental chaos constantly threatening it, stalking it, trying to reabsorb it.”  

With this explanation Deleuze points out that, in principle, no single concept is simple. For example, the concept of cogito has three components: doubting, thinking, and being. The combination of these three words create the concept of cogito. A broader explanation of this concept is the following: “‘I think ‘therefore’ I am” or, more completely, ‘Myself who doubts, I think, I am, I am a thinking thing”’

If no concept is simple and all concepts come out of chaos of mind, then they should be invented. For since a multiplicity of concepts which is separate from us does not exist, we cannot simply pull them out of there. The components of concepts are acquired through experience, the person who makes this experience his guide turns to a problem and combines those components in the dimension of mind in order to invent a concept. For that reason, Deleuze claims that that person is a philosopher because he has invented a concept. Therefore, Deleuze points out that concept can only come out of the chaos of mind and that mind functions as a concept producing factory. What Deleuze contributed to philosophy here is that practice can never be separated from theory. This definition of philosophy, suggested by Deleuze and Guattari, brought back philosophy from office to agora (public space, street). In short, according to this definition, philosophy is in every aspect of life: politics, art, science, work, marketplace, street, and so on. Since subject is formed by interaction (or since subject is created rather than being a creator), it has to join the process of “creation,” and it has to be activated with this participation. According to Deleuze, thought, by nature, wishes to create, and thought realizes it by three forms of expression – these three forms of expression are philosophy, science, and art. As a result, Deleuze claims that creativity of philosophy, science, and art is based on concept, function, and sensation, accordingly.

We already know that for Deleuze the task of philosophy is to create concepts, which is a complicated process. Cinema, on the other hand, is made up of images. That is, cinema presents us images. However, this is not enough for cinema to appear as a philosophic act or discovery. Then why did Deleuze consider cinema a philosophical activity?

For cinema is a conceptless activity that creates concepts. Concept here is not used in its philosophical sense. In other words, cinema is an act that “moves our thoughts” with its created atmosphere and images. More precisely, cinema is a creative activity. How does this happen? Deleuze says that “if I ask those of you who do cinema, what do you do? You do not invent concepts – that is not your concern – but blocks of movement/duration. Someone who makes a block of movement/duration might be doing cinema.” Concepts of movement and time exist both in philosophy and cinema. However, the expressions of the concepts of movement and time in these two disciplines are different. While philosophy expresses them in an abstract fashion, cinema expresses them in a specific or precise way. In order to clarify this, we can say that “cinema is a humane act that conceptualizes our thoughts by movement and time.” Inevitable partnership progress of philosophy and cinema is derived from here. Therefore, since cinema, like philosophy, invents new concepts, Deleuze regards cinema a philosophical act.

If we look at the cinema history from a Deleuzian perspective, the partnership between image and concept can be seen in the experiments of Lev Kuleshov, one of the first cinema theorist. His experiments with Ivan Ilyich Mozzhukhin, a Soviet actor, consists of three separate and freestyle shootings. These shots are brought together by montage. Contradictory images, which are connected by montage, are simple, that is, single-component; but when they are connected, they express a new meaning because sequential shots are collided with one another. And this level of meaning is as complicated as the Deleuzian definition of concept.

This experience, also known as the Kuleshov effect, is an experience created from a distinctive shots added to a fixed facial expression. First, a person’s face appears to be close. Next, a soup bowl on the table is displayed. In the second shooting, the face and look of the same person is shown, and then the coffin with a dead woman is added. In the third shooting, the face and look of the same person is accompanied by image of a girl who is playing with a toy. The results were quite different. The images added to the unchanging facial expression (first image) created a new meaning. For example, combination of face and soup, that is, bringing two images side by side leads us to the concept of “hungry man.” Cinema is not merely an image; it has a sudden effect on our thoughts. It was also the beginning of the transition from image to the concept of cinema.

Mind and Camera (Deleuze-Vertov)

Vertov named himself a cinema-eye (кино-глаз). In this way, camera, that is cinema-eye, had already turned into his symbol. With Vertov camera (cinema-eye) had already become “an autonomous organ, or rather an organ without a body.” Philosopher Slavoj Zizek writes that “recall the common expression ‘to cast an eye over something,’ with its literal implication of picking the eye out of its socket and throwing it around.” Vertov did exactly that with camera. Zizek continues: “this, precisely, is what revolutionary cinema should be doing: using the camera as a partial object, as an ‘eye’ torn from the subject and freely thrown around.” And Zizek thinks it is what turned Vertov into a revolutionary filmmaker in the cinema world. More clearly, Vertov challenges human eye, that is, the sense of vision with his cinema-eye manifesto. He puts the mechanical eye against the human eye. Indeed, this was the discovery of camera.

According to Vertov, a materialist and constructivist director and film theorist, metaphysics is an unnecessary thing. And if something called a keen-sighted thing existed, it could have been human or mechanical in which Vertov preferred the latter. For since human sense of vision is imperfect, Vertov believes that keen-sightedness could only be attributed to camera of which ability is flawless. This is clearly evident in his The Man with a Movie Camera, which is considered to be the greatest success of Vertov in the history of movie. In Vertov’s words, “We cannot improve the making of our eyes, but we can endlessly perfect the camera.”

Cinema, according to Vertov, gives us a scientific rather than an artistic perspective. Therefore, he is convinced that only camera could unbiasedly or objectively show us events. For him objectivity means “to see without distance and boundaries.” As mentioned before, this “perfect vision” could only be realized by a mechanical eye. For this reason, for Vertov cinema “was the study of the world on emotional grounds.”  

One of the most important elements of Soviet cinematography was dialectic. However, Vertov’s notion of dialectic is different from those of others (Kuleshov, Eisenstein, Pudovkin). “The correlation between a non-human matter and a superhuman eye,” which, according to Deleuze, is the core of Vertov’s theory, differed Vertov’s dialectic from other Soviet cinematographers. This dialectic is also the definition of camera. Even we can say that Vertov’s approach to camera was cinematographic illustration of Julien Offray de La Mettrie’s “machine man.” In addition, Vertov’s “theory of intervals” gives more guidance to the relationship between cinema and philosophy. This theory is Vertov’s greatest revolution in cinematography. He defines his theory in the following way: “intervals (transformation of one movement into another) are the compositions and elements of the art of movement and, of course, not the movement itself. The intervals lead toward a kinesthetic resolution [of the filmed event] on the screen.” Deleuze explains this issue by saying that “in Vertov the interval of movement is perception, the glance, the eye. But the eye is not the too-immobile human eye; it is the eye of the camera, that is an eye in matter, a perception such as it is in matter, as it extends from a point where an action begins to the limit of the reaction, as it fills the interval between the two, crossing the universe and beating in time to its intervals.”  

What Deleuze calls “perception” here is one of the three types of perception-images. The relationship between cinema and philosophy mentioned in the first section is image-concept partnership in which Deleuze shows that cinema also produces concepts along with images. However, besides this, one of the reasons for Deleuze’s approach to cinema is also images themselves.

Deleuze claims that there is no distinction between a “thing” and “image of a thing.” Everything visible is image, and image is movement. This does not mean that image is subordinate to movement or has a separate existence; contrary, image and movement are exactly the same thing – “Image = Movement.” Since image is movement and movement is peculiar to item, image is also an item. Therefore, the universe is constantly shaped by movement-images and subject is surrounded by continuous images.  

Because subject itself is also an image, the formation of subject occurs as a result of its interactions with other images. Hence, subject, which itself is image surrounded by images, moves to the stage of selection when it perceives other images. Thus, Deleuze names it perception-image. Perception occurred by the choices of subject are always incomplete. For subject can continuously draw a certain number of images from the universe of images. The universe of continuous images cannot be understood with the perception of subject. Therefore, Deleuze, like Vertov, claims that only camera, which is the “cinematographic consciousness” can realize full perception.

Deleuze’s this idea brings the cinematographic perception and consciousness together. That is to say, the principle of cinematographic perception is the same as that of mind. As subject selects images, camera repeats the same thing during the shooting. Thus, Deleuze, referring to the “theory of interval,” considers Vertov as one of the people who best understood how the human brain works.

To summarize, we can say that from the viewpoints of Vertov and Deleuze, camera is the only thing that perceives continuity. And montage is what that creates images in one dimension. Montage, as Deleuze says, is at the beginning, during, and after the shootings. These three levels are the main factors of Vertov’s cinematography. According to Vertov, although camera seems to be subjective, it is not. The reason behind this non-subjectivity is that camera manages to see things that human mind cannot. Because camera can outsmart our ability to perceive, it can be objective.

Images of Movement and Time

According to Deleuze, cinema moves our thoughts through two basic concepts. One is movement-image and the other is time-image. He divides images into two parts in terms of their role in the creation of the basis of classic and modern cinema. The basis of the classic cinema up to Italian neo-modernism is movement-image while the basis of modern cinema is time-image. However, this division of Deleuze has been criticized by many. Jacques Ranciere, a contemporary French philosopher, criticizes Deleuze’s division of the cinema history based on images by arguing that “Movement-image and time-image are not two contradictory images that correspond to the two eras of cinema, but two generally different views on image.” Ranciere does not see any contradiction between these two images and on the contrary, he claimes that the relationship of these two images is similar to an infinite spiral. Radical division of the cinema history based on two images is one of the most controversial topics in Deleuze’s philosophy of cinema. Cinema, which is depended on movement-image, is formed from montage, that is, images placed side-by-side. Thus, the first notion that Deleuze contributed to the philosophy of cinema is movement-image.

Movement-image is revealed by movement, fast cuts, montage as well as the Aristotelian concept (the concept of time in the ancient Greek philosophy) in which time depends on movement in the early years of cinema. According to the Aristotelian concept of time, time is a measure of movement, subject to movement, and exists as a result of movement. Change and movement of each thing is in within that thing, or is in a moving object. Change of time is determined by the movement of object. In this sense, time is not movement, but a thing which determines the amount of movement. In short, according to Aristotle, we cannot speak of time in the absence of movement. Cinemas dominated by movement-images are some of the products of this old concept. Montage, according to Deleuze, creates the flow, durability, causality in classic cinema. For in those years, cinema meant montage. Montage both creates movement and the flow in cinema. With the help of montage, shots are combined or clashed with one another, which, as a result, creates movements of false and meaning. One of the best examples of this can be seen in Battleship Potemkin (Броненосец Потёмкин, 1925), a movie by the Soviet cinematographer Eisenstein. With montage, he created false movements by showing three sleeping, playing, and roaring lion statues one after another in the movie. So, montage creates movement and flow, and this movement and flow gives us an idea about cinema. Therefore, before Deleuze, semiotics considered cinema itself a language and montage a “form of language.”

First, let us note that according to Deleuze, the brain is the screen. This means that everything in cinema is about things that are happening in our daily lives. Camera selects images, systematically displays them on the screen, the flow of images in the brain of subject affects the other images as well as the image itself. These interactions affect the image perception of subject. Deleuze describes three types of movement-images. If we talk about three images, namely perceptionaction, and affection, it means that movement-images are under the influence of subject. However, this perception only imperfectly perceives images. As a result, movement-images are understood under the perception of subject. Because subject itself is image, it is also created by movement-images. Thus, Deleuze says that we are nothing but a mechanism created by the combination of these three images, that is, perception-imagesaction-images, and affection-images 

The first thing that subject perceive in the universe of images is perception-image. Deleuze calls it the first material aspect of subjectivity. Subject realizes this by perception, and it chooses things/images according to its needs. As Deleuze summarizes “things and perceptions of things are pretensions, but things are total objective pretensions, and perceptions of things are incomplete and prejudiced, partial, subjective pretensions.”

In fact, natural perception forces us to face with a new problem. For subject is unable to perceive the universe of continuous images as it is. At this point, cinema helps us to eliminate this problem. For perception of cinema is neither natural, nor subjective. Deleuze explains it in the following way: “If the cinema does not have natural subjective perception as its model, it is because the mobility of its centres and the variability of its framings always lead it to restore vast acentred and deframed zones. It then tends to return to the first régime of the movement-image; universal variation, total, objective and diffuse perception.”

When talking about perception-image, Deleuze indeed shows that a transition to movement-image has been made. For when subject chooses something, it leaves the others out. After perception, subject interacts with the other things and then a delayed reaction, that is, action-image occurs: “the operation under consideration is no longer elimination, selection or framing, but the incurving of the universe, which simultaneously causes the virtual action of things on us and our possible action on things. This is the second material aspect of subjectivity.”And the third material aspect of subjectivity is “a coincidence of subject and object, or the way in which the subject perceives itself, or rather experiences itself or feels itself ‘from the inside.’” Three types of movement-images are said to be the basis of classic cinema, which shows that Deleuze’s philosophy of cinema systematically reflects the traces of the whole philosophy.

By looking at the interactions between movement-image and cinema, we can reasonably say that these images are not dependent on movement although they exist as a result of it. This means that there is no image without movement. For as I mentioned above, image is equal to movement. Image is a quality of mind while movement is a quantity of the material world. Cinema manages to demonstrate these two – the ideal (mind-virtual) and the material – seemingly contradictory things together. This possibility created by cinema is also an important factor which has a potential to overturn “metaphysical dualism” in the contemporary world. That is, a new solution to the spirit-body dualism. If we summarize the relationships of three images to movement, we can say that perception-images, action-images, and affection-images reflect objects, acts, and expressions (faces) accordingly. According to Deleuze, these images are also the basis of montage, which he explains by saying that “a film is never made up of a single kind of image: thus we call the combination of the three varieties, montage. Montage (in one of its aspects) is the assemblage of movement-images, hence the inter-assemblage of perception-images, affection-images and action-images (…) These three kinds of spatially determined shots can be made to correspond to these three kinds of varieties: the long shot would be primarily a perception-image; the medium shot an action-image; the close-up an affection-image.”  

The second image that creates the basis of modern cinema, is time-image. According to Deleuze, time-image entered cinema, and hence the post-classic/modern cinema, after Rome, Open City (Rome, Città Apertaa, 1945), the first movie of Roberto Rosselini’s “War Trilogy.” In neo-liberal modern cinemas, the concept of time has changed dramatically. Deleuze claims that the characteristics of the time concept in cinema is the change of this concept from Aristotle to Kant. According to Aristotle, time depended on movement and it was known as the amount of movement. However, Kant turned the concept of time into the opposite. He claimed that movement depended on time. That is, for Kant, time must be a priori. If, on the contrary, time was based on experience, it would be impossible for it to be simultaneous or to understand successive in the perception of time. Therefore, Kant pointed out that time was not an empirical concept. Bergson described Kant’s notion of time as the “form of interiority.” This means that, according to Bergson, Kantian understanding of time is subjective. Bergson preferred to use the term duration instead of time. In his terms, there was two concepts of duration. The first concept of duration is Kantian a priori time and, according to Bergson, outward orientation of subject and internal cause and effect chain introduce us this Kantian concept of time, which is the first concept of time in Bergson’s account. Yet there is also a ​​non-subjective, non-affiliated concept time, and Deleuze’s approach to cinema is this Bergsonian second concept of time. According to Deleuze, only cinema can offer fragments from non-subjective time because it is camera that can realize a complete perception.

By using time-image, cinema can portray some past event in the present time. The actual-virtual division of Deleuze is borrowed from Bergson’s idea in which virtual (a thing that loses its reality) represents the past while actual (present-day reality) represents the present time, and memory keeps these two together. This means that generally speaking, memory or remembering something is virtual (mental) for a moment because currently it is not present. However, according to Deleuze, this is a measure of reality. Deleuze argues that without a crisis soul/mind and body can only be brought together by cinema. He considers image a mental product and movement a matter of substance. As a result, he believes that only cinema can bring image (mind) and movement (body) together. Here the essence of cinema gradually appears. Cinema combines mental and material things in one curtain by using movement-image and time-image.

In time-image, the concept of time also preserves the past. Therefore, time-image has two possible appearances; one is the past and the other is the present. We can also say that “time-image is the presentation of time, which forces us to face the existence and dynamism of life.” Cinema that is related to movement-image directly shows us time-image; after the discovery of time-image in cinema, a direct concept of time-image entered cinematography. Because of the concept of time-image, the perception of cinema is already linked to movement rather than thought.

Deleuze, like Bergson, thinks that change and movement manifest themselves in relation to duration rather than space. Cinema, for Deleuze, is a discipline that can directly show this duration. Similarly, Deleuze said that film directors create blocks of movement/duration when they make a movie. By saying this, Deleuze in fact shows the depth of relationship between cinema and philosophy. Claire Colebrook, Australian cultural theorist, described the concept of time as a new perception of the time concept when she said that Deleuze’s books on cinema explain the philosophy of time. From Deleuze’s point of view, movement and time, which are the oldest subjects of philosophy, have become an integral part of cinema today.


The first sentence of the conclusion section of What is Philosophy?, written by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, reads like this: “we require just a little order to protect us from chaos.” Subject shapes a thinking style within this chaos and it is philosophy, science, and art that provide subject with this thinking style. Philosophy gives us perspective with concepts, science with functions, and art with emotions. And there is no hierarchy among these three disciplines. The common feature of these three disciplines in resisting chaos is to “create!” Each one has a separate form of creativity. According to Deleuze, the force that drives thought is not a “desire for the truth,” but a “desire to create” in the nature of thought. In this sense, Deleuze’s approach to philosophy is a philosophy of art. Then, the creativity of cinema is a philosophical creativity.

According to Deleuze, it is here that we understand the significance of cinema. Cinema, as a discipline, is art; it has a creative power but this creativity is also a philosophical creativity. For a movie is filmed in the blocks of movement/duration. These blocks of movement/duration show/create images, and combinations of images also create concepts. Therefore, cinema is able to create sudden effects in our minds. There are two basic images that move our thoughts into action: movement-image and time-image. Deleuze builds subject/existence out of these two images, and with the help of cinema, he eliminates our philosophical problem of perceiving non-subjective time. That is, for Deleuze, the solution for the problem of incomplete perception of subject is in cinema. At the same time, Deleuze also sees the possible solution of Cartesian dualism, which has been debated for centuries, in cinema.

Movement and time, which are the ancient themes and concepts of philosophy, discovered cinema. And Deleuze is the first cinema-philosopher because he analyzes cinema or multiplicity of images with these two concepts. When he analyzes cinema or multiplicity of images with philosophical concepts, he also cinematizes philosophy. To conclude, we can say that, for Deleuze, philosophy and cinema are inseparably but different forms of thought.


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    Orkhan İmanov

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