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  • Images Without: Deleuzian Becoming, Science Fiction Cinema in the Eighties
  • Hassan Melehy

To overturn Platonism: what philosophy has not tried?

—Michel Foucault1

There are two things I would like to do in this paper: elaborate on some Deleuzian concepts and examine recent science fiction cinema from Hollywood and its periphery (Canada, Britain, and the usually suspicious European transplants, whose films enter into “mainstream” flows or circulation). Ideally, I will do both in the same act, working the concepts and showing how they work themselves into and out of the movies in question,2 producing a configuration that says something about philosophy and its relation to other aspects of the world as well as about the importance of the films. The mapping of various relations that will occur in the process will not take either philosophy or film studies as starting points or guiding frameworks, will not explicitly reject the integrity of either, but rather will reach into an interdisciplinary field that resists accusations of eclecticism yet refuses to call itself an institutional unity. I would like, among other things, to argue for the consideration of Gilles Deleuze as a philosopher because of (not in spite of) his interest in non-philosophical practices, in a nomadic entrance into cinema, in conducting “one of the finest contemporary reflections on the liveliness and grandeur of the seventh art” (Bensmaïa 57). In his reflection he makes connections between aspects of this art and trajectories of the philosophical project that may be discerned running through his books. I would also like to argue for the appreciation of science fiction films from the eighties as participating in the production of philosophical concepts, while, in their capacity as movies and especially “B” movies, they wrest these concepts from the institutional closure that the term “philosophical” might tend to impose on them.

An evident place to start is with Deleuze’s work on the cinema, which has received less critical attention than many of his other texts. This is in part because of their relatively recent appearance and translation but also in part, I suspect, because the connections Deleuze tries to make between philosophy and cinema are very demanding—because the concepts he produces are new, unknown, alien to traditional film studies, and particularly illustrative of Deleuze’s treatment of philosophy as a Foucauldian “system of dispersion” (Foucault, Archéologie 44–54) rather than an institutional unity. To begin with the Cinema books, then, one would have to proceed through extensions of the multidirectionality of their project and would not be able to avoid various enlistments of other sections of Deleuze’s work. This process can’t start by summarizing the books or by taking a set of statements from them as a guiding principle in critical analysis of the films.3 It must rather select a line in them, with a certain agenda in mind, and follow it through various materials as it gathers layers—other texts of Deleuze, the films in question—and work with the becomings that take place.

What I would like to do is see the cinema books in light of Deleuze’s earlier alliance of his own philosophical project with that of Nietzsche’s as something that would contribute to the overturning of Platonism.4 And I would like to see the films as contributing to the same event, by seeing them in light of certain Deleuzian concepts—becoming, image, multiplicity, body without organs, assemblage, becoming-animal, simulacrum, the machinic, becoming-woman, etc. (which Deleuze himself has gathered from a variety of planes—hence Deleuze’s “counter history” of philosophy [Douglass 47–48]). Their examinations of, among other things, the cyberneticization of the human organism—the destabilization of its organic structure—and the displacement of a grounded notion of the real by the simulacrum of the televisual image do not simply constitute a social or aesthetic epiphenomenon, but rather participate in the emergenc(e)(y) that Deleuze’s efforts map, as well as, in so far as in their images they present crystallizations of philosophical concepts, disturb the unified and privileged discourse of philosophy, something the latter retains from its Platonic legacy. This is the period in which it may...

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