Cinema 1 by Gilles Deleuze (Callen)
October 18, 2004
Cinema 1: The Movement-Image by Gilles Deleuze
Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam
London: The Athlone Press, 1983
1. In this text, Deleuze analyzes cinema in the first half of the 20th century (from the earliest silent pictures to post-WWII Hitchcock) in terms of the philosophical concepts that are raised in the medium of film. Deleuze aligns directors, auteurs, with great thinkers of the day rather than great painters, architects, musicians, etc. (x). The focus of the text is the ‘Movement-Image,’ which is supported by Bergson’s three theses of movement from his text ‘Matter and Memory’ (1-29). Deleuze discusses the ‘Movement-Image’ in terms of different applications/uses of framing, cutting, and montage (12-20, 29). Furthermore, the ‘Movement-Image’ is divided into three categories: perception-image, action-image, and affection-image, which correlate with a long shot, medium shot, and close-up, respectively (66, 70). Finally, Deleuze sums up the text with a discussion about how the ‘Movement-Image’ began to include the audience as a factor in expressing meaning through the medium of film (197-205). Using Peirce’s notions of ‘firstness’ (affection), ‘secondness’ (action), and ‘thirdness’ (mental) from his ‘Classification of Images and Signs,’ Deleuze makes the argument that cinema has also followed this progression and, by the end of WWII, auteurs like Hitchcock were making films that forced audiences to construct a mental relation about the information they were receiving (197). Within the whole of the text, Deleuze uses the different schools of filmmaking in the first half of the 20th century (the American school, the Soviet school, the pre-war French school, and the German expressionist school) to discuss how film progressed and created a unique language of its own that was capable of introducing and reinterpreting profound philosophical concepts (introduced in 30-51).
2. Cinema is viewed as a direct relation of philosophical concepts and, thus, the text is not a history of film or an interpretation of specific films. Rather, Deleuze attempts to “isolate certain cinematographic concepts” (ix) and present a “taxonomy, an attempt at the classification of images and signs” (xiv).
3. Action-Image: “reaction of the centre to the set [ensemble]” made up of “Synsign,” “Impression,” “Index,” and “Vector” (141-160, 217, 218)
Affection-Image: “that which occupies the gap between an action and a reaction, that which absorbs an external action and reacts on the inside” and is made up of “Icon,” Qualisign,” and “Dividual” (91-117, 217)
Dicisign: “a term created by Peirce in order to designate principally the sign of the proposition in general” or “a perception in the frame of another perception” (217).
Dividual: “that which is neither indivisible or divisible, but is divided (or brought together) by changing qualitatively” (217)
Gramme: “the genetic element of the perception-image, inseparable as such from certain dynamisms (immobilisation, vibration, flickering, sweep, repetition, acceleration, deceleration, etc.)” (217)
Icon: “used by Peirce in order to designate a sign which refers to its object by internal characteristics (resemblance)” (217)
Movement-Image: “the acentered set [ensemble] of variable elements which act and react on each other” (217)
Perception-Image: “set [ensemble] of elements which act on a centre, and which vary in relation to it” and is made up of “Dicisign,” “Reume,” and “Gramme” (71-76, 217)
Qualisign: “term used by Peirce in order to designate a quality which is a sign…the affect as expressed (or exposed) in an any-space-whatever” (217)
Rueme: “the perception of that which crosses the frame or flows out…the liquid status of perception itself” (217)
Synsign: “set of qualities and powers as actualised in a state of things, thus constituting a real milieu around a centre, a situation in relation to a subject: spiral” (218)
4. Deleuze aimed to create a text not of the history of film, nor a typical critique of film, but rather an understanding of the medium of film and the postmodern concepts that are brought about through this medium.
5. This text really helped me understand how the different schools of filmmaking in the first half of the 20th century built upon the ideas and creations of each other to develop a language unique to film that utilizes the strengths specific to the artistic medium. Additionally, by including theses by Bergson and Peirce, Deleuze connects philosophical notions with the expressive medium of film to uncover new ways in which to view movement, images, and subjectivity/objectivity.
6. The text reflects upon the first half of the short history of film to uncover the mechanical reproduction of the ‘Movement-Image. The second volume in the set, ‘Cinema 2,’ deals with the ‘Time-Image,’ which Deleuze felt pervaded cinema post-WWII.
7. The text is invaluable for those who wish to understand how cinema developed a unique language of its own and how this new(er) artistic medium transcends the past modes of artistic expression to uncover new philosophical notions and reflections about the state of our being.