- A Nonhuman Eye:Deleuze on Cinema
Sartre's Imagination and The Psychology of Imagination play an important role in philosophy's renewed attempts to go beyond the human, to annihilate subjectivity, to return to pure perception in which objects vary for one another rather than for one privileged image or center of reference (consciousness). Before Sartre, Bergson was already interested in pure (inhuman) experience "above that decisive turn, where, taking a bias in the direction of our utility, it becomes properly human experience'" (Deleuze, Bergsonism 27). Deleuze confirms that human intelligence is bound to reduce differences in kind to differences in degree and that the former are rediscovered only "above the turn" in the examination of the conditions of experience by intuition:
To open us up to the inhuman and the superhuman (durations which are inferior or superior to our own), to go beyond the human condition: This is the meaning of philosophy, in so far as our condition condemns us to live among badly analyzed composites and to be badly analyzed composites ourselves.(ibid., 28)
Deleuze's task in the two volumes of Cinema is to demonstrate how modern cinema in particular has made it possible to surpass the human condition by abolishing subjectivity as a privileged image in what Bergson calls "the aggregate of images" (the material world).
Bergson's theory of duration, of the contemporaneousness of perception and memory, is based on his analysis of the phenomenon of déjà vu, which he considers the most authentic expression of the true nature of our mental life: the automatic preservation of the past in the present. Similarly, in his two volumes on cinema Deleuze advances the hypothesis that the appearance of the time-image in cinema (more specifically, in Italian neo-realist cinema) has revealed the true nature of time as a continuous forking into incompossible presents and not necessarily true pasts. Time-images are experienced as past; however, they belong to an impersonal rather than an individual past. In this sense, the time-image is a form of déjà vu. In déjà vu we feel that we have experienced something before, yet we cannot trace the experience to our own past, as if our own recollections have been stolen from us or, alternatively, as if we are recollecting someone else's past. Both Bergson and Deleuze conceive the subject as a sort of [End Page 134] abridged and necessarily limited version of our entire mental life. To restore the richness and complexity of that mental life, they believe, subjectivity has to be suppressed or surpassed, which in turn calls for a redefinition of representation.
Deleuze's Cinema I: The Movement-Image and Cinema II: The Time-Image1 exemplify the changes in our understanding of representation as they trace the transition from a cinema dominated by movement-images to the modern cinema of the time-image. In the regime of movement-images, time is subordinated to movement: things and events determine psychological duration. The drawback of the movement-image, according to Deleuze, is that it fails to present duration, but subordinates it to movement or spatialized time. Deleuze's contention is that modern cinema has liberated itself from subjectivity or representation; however, his theory of the time-image does not get rid of subjectivity, but only reformulates the notion of the object. The object for Deleuze is a pure image, a "mental image" purged of any materiality and no longer subordinated to sensory-motor schemata.
Deleuze believes that to restore its original nature as a being rather than an object of knowledge, the subject must become even more subjective: it must constitute itself "above" its own representations; it must create hyper-representations. Deleuze privileges the time-image over the movement-image because the former constitutes itself beyond representation, thus reaffirming the subject's autonomy. The subordination of movement to time achieves namely this: when duration dictates what is happening, rather than events determining time, the subject has restored its independence from the world. While the representation of the world still presupposes an essential difference between things and their descriptions, the time-image eliminates this difference, replacing things with their descriptions.