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SubStance 34.3 (2005) 107-135

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Free Indirect Discourse in Deleuze's Cinema

University of Iowa

The figure of speech variously called "free indirect discourse," "quasi-direct discourse," or "represented speech," dominates Gilles Deleuze's two-volume study Cinema, a work also containing a theory of cinematic "free indirect images." Deleuze develops a concept of free indirect images, which, he argues, articulate the social in "modern cinema," opening political and ethical dimensions of the "time-image." Although Deleuze does not present his conceptualization of cinematic free indirect images as a theory of his own writing practice, if we link it to the figure as it appears in Cinema, we cannot but wonder how Deleuze's writing relates to his thought. Cinema's reflection on free indirect images exposes a major literary device used by Deleuze since his first books, but the theory mirrors the practice in an interested way, presenting it in a glamorous light that makes it hard to see the position from which Deleuze writes. By ignoring class critique in his theoretical sources, Deleuze makes his own practice seem unquestionably righteous, yet despite its triumphal air and limited, unconscious cosmopolitanism, Deleuze's theory of free indirect images revitalizes the study of cinematic subjectivity. Beyond the boundaries of film studies, Deleuze's theory prepares us to think the ethical and political aspects in an implicit, unelaborated concept that informs contemporary modes of social control— the concept of "life."

In literature, free indirect discourse presents the speech, writing or thought of a character in the character's own language, but without using quotation marks, as in the following example from Dickens's Our Mutual Friend. The italicized phrase below is clearly in the language of the "four rough fellows" attending Riderhood's death, and whose thoughts the narrator reports:

See! A token of life! An indubitable token of life! The spark may smoulder and go out, or it may glow and expand, but see! The four rough fellows, seeing, shed tears. Neither Riderhood in this world, nor Riderhood in the other, could draw tears from them; but a striving human soul between the two can do so easily.

Although the most famous theories of free indirect discourse take their examples from literary fiction, philosophical examples can be found throughout Deleuze's oeuvre.1 The literary character of Deleuze's [End Page 107] philosophical writing has provoked many scholarly remarks, including Deleuze's own. In the introduction to Difference and Repetition, he writes, "a book of philosophy should be in part a very particular species of detective novel, in part a kind of science fiction" (xx). At the 1995 International Filmology Colloquium, the first major conference devoted to Deleuze's Cinema, Raymond Bellour described Deleuze's books as a kind of novel.

Deleuze uses the figure of free indirect discourse even while he elaborates his concept of free indirect cinema; for example:

As Pasolini aptly comments, Godard also uses characters who are undoubtedly ill, "seriously affected," but who are not undergoing treatment, and who have lost nothing of their material degrees of freedom, who are full of life and who rather represent the birth of a new anthropological type.
(Cinema I, 75).

The phrase "a new anthropological type" comes directly from Pier Paulo Pasolini's essay on "The Cinema of Poetry," one of the sources of Deleuze's theory of free indirect images. Since the association of a cinematic style with an anthropological type is unusual, the expression grafts Pasolini's language onto Deleuze's text. Examples such as this one are often closely associated with paraphrases including words from the author's lexicon, for example, "but if [for Pasolini] Antonioni's vision of poetic consciousness is essentially aesthetic, Godard's is rather 'technicist' (but no less poetic)" (75). Pasolini names Antonioni's style one of aesthetic consciousness, and the word appears here in Deleuze's text as Pasolini's. In part, Deleuze uses the related figures of free indirect discourse and paraphrase to isolate phrases and words from other authors in order to appropriate these for his...


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