In this paper, we will attempt to examine the Deleuze’s taxonomy to an
account of cinema as productive of an autonomous cinematic consciousness.
And what role the movement-image and time-image play in the
development of cinematic consciousness?
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Philosophizing about film began early in the 20th century with questions regarding whether or not film
could or should be considered an art form. The question ‘Can film be art?’ is a philosophical one.
Similarly, questions concerning exactly what film are, its relationship with reality, and why it is that we
are emotionally affected by fictional characters and events portrayed in film?
Deleuze owes an enormous debt to Bergson. Bergson was the first to give philosophical expression to
the ‘idea’ of cinema moving images. But Deleuze was the first philosopher who dedicated two volumes
to the account of cinema to open a way to think about how and what the screen medium does.
In our contemporary lives, like philosophy, cinema influences the way we think and live in wide manner.
And so the cinema also holds a special interest for philosophy since it participate in affecting our lives.
For Deleuze it is crucial that philosophy understands cinema and the concepts it has produced since it
has led to a transformation of the image of thought, not only for cinema and visual arts, but for the
whole of thinking and for philosophy.
Deleuze describes cinematographic consciousness as a new type of philosophy. He aimed to generate
taxonomy of the various cinematographic concepts. While in the process of assembling the various
aspects of film forms and screen-generated concepts, Deleuze’s taxonomy of the various aspects of film
forms and screen-generated concepts extend to an account of cinemas an autonomous cinematic
consciousness which is productive and capable to generate a whole new account of cinematic forms.
Indeed, Deleuze created a new theory for screen-based forms.
Deleuze argues that the virtual worlds created by screen forms mediate in all aspect of things in the
both worlds on screen and external to that screen. We will be investigating how cinema is able to
produce new concepts that change how we perceive then and how they interact with the world.
Deleuze points out:
“A theory of cinema is not ‘about’ cinema, but about concepts that cinema gives rise to and
which are themselves related to other concepts corresponding to other practices, the practice of
concepts in general having no privilege over others, any more than one object has over others. It
is at the level of the interference of many practices that things happen, beings, images,
concepts, all the kinds of events. The theory of cinema does not bear on the cinema but on the
concepts of the cinema, which are no less practical, effective or existent than cinema itself. The
great cinema authors are like the great painters or the great musicians: it is they who talk best
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about what they do. But, in talking, they become something else, they become philosophers or
theoreticians – even [Howard] Hawks who wanted no theories, even [Jean-Luc] Godard when he
pretends to distrust them.”1
In our contemporary lives, cinema holds a special interest for philosophy since it has had such a wide
influence on the way we think and live. For Deleuze it is crucial that philosophy understands cinema and
the concepts it has produced since it has led to a transformation of the thought, not only for cinema and
visual arts, but for the whole of thinking and for philosophy.
Films, media and all other screen-based work is a dynamic medium. During the flow of action and
movement and the delivery of its content, the screen-based forms change. These forms coordinate with
external information and reorganizing the forms which are already in play. Through the specific activities
on screen and the change in the cinematic forms, claimed by Deleuze, produce cinematic ideas which
are capable to raise new forms.
Deleuze begins his investigation into the cinema in terms of its movements in two arenas: the
philosophical and the technical. Deleuze explains how the relation between movement and our
understanding works does. He argues that movement informs our understanding of the formation of
worlds in terms of the types of information it selects and generates as new forms. The cinema creates
many different types of movement images and Deleuze describes six key types: the perception-image,
the affection-image, the impulse-image, the action-image, the reflection-image and the relation-image.
Drawing on the concepts of philosopher Henri Bergson and other film theorists the point that Deleuze
makes is that the screen image is a relational whole, and it changes either through movement or
through temporally mediated events that have altered the situation of the moving-image. From this
perspective, he argues that the image equals movement. The system of the movement image is a dual
process of the differentiation and specification of objects, but, as Deleuze contends, it is not to be
understood as a language of moving objects, but a process that creates a whole screen world.
1 Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 2: The Time-Image (1985). trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta, (Londen: Athlone,
1989) pg: 280.
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“The movement-image, which Deleuze generally relates to pre-war classical cinema, follows a
sensory-motor scheme: characters in certain situations react upon what they perceive. The
movement-image proceeds by narratological and linear incisions and references. Action
sequences have a (chrono)logical order which is represented through actions in an spatial
configuration. Whether the film starts with a present situation the character is confronted with,
or with a flash-back or a flash-forward is not of much importance. Relevant is that in the
movement-image past, present and future are clearly distinguished from each other. The
spectator immediately recognizes whether a scene refers to something that has happened in
the past or alludes to something that is going to happen in the future.”2
When describing movement-image, Deleuze explains movement-image as a homogenous structure
which also explains the relation between different images: how they refer each other individually and to
the whole. In cinematic medium when the story is being told, it is represented as an open structure; the
narrator includes all events and every action. Many films show present events and then the story goes
further with the flashback of the past events. But the quality of movement image is that the viewer gets
clear idea of whatever is happening, whether the scenes are from the past or they are going to happen
in the future in the film.
The time-image does not follow this structure. Unlike movement-image, the time-image does not
proceed by rational incisions and references. The time-image neither follows the narratological
representation of actions and reactions, nor does it follow the chronological or sequential order. In the
movement-image, past, present and future can easily be identified where time-image makes past,
present and future indistinguishable. So what the time-image does? Its false movements, disconnected
spaces and autonomous images and sounds make it impossible to produce a single and unitary
interpretation of a film. It does not give us a true world or a true idea but makes us think and rethink the
image in an endless chain of possible interpretations, in a continuous exchange between image and
viewer, between brain and screen.. The time image recreates the object in a purely cinematic logic,
which is defined by ambiguities, irrationalities and uncertainties.
The relation between cinema and thinking has been conceptualized in several different ways. Since the
early days of cinema, theorists were captivated by the idea that the cinema is parallel to the human
2 Richard de Brabander, (Article) In between (of) cinema and literature, pg: 02.
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mind and cinema is the one of the mediums to manifest the human thought process. However, the idea
of cinema as a medium capable of visualizing thought processes was popular in early and later theorist,
Daniel Frampton argues in his recent book ‘Filmosophy’ that most of these early theories which present
filmic thought as an analogy or mirror of human thought had not only seen the whole phenomena of
cinema and thinking in one way but these early theories were also just simply naive. While the cinema
can offer much more and if we follow Deleuze's claims that cinema holds the capacity to transform
thought, this implies cinema has to be able to produce its own specific filmic ways of thinking.
On the other hand, in the early days of cinema, there were not only theorists who were fascinated by
this one-way relation, but there were some theorists who were interested in exploring the technological
materiality. These theorists conceptualized filmic thought not as the analogous to human mind, but they
perceived the filmic thought in terms of a non-human form of thought. These theorists were fascinated
by the mechanic modality of perception and vision which were created by cinema.
There is no way the relation between cinema and thinking is one-way. The human perception is
grounded in the subject that means we only perceive through our senses and all our perceptions are
dependent on our body. We select and organize the flow of perceptions according to our interest. We
organize the selected perceived ideas into distinct objects in space, where cinematic vision does not
have such an anchoring centre, or organizing viewpoint.
The cinematic perception works in entirely different manner. It is completely fragmented and de-
centered and produces a purely cinematic and autonomous reality where movement is not stopped in
thought but proliferates. Secondly, those theorists were also fascinated by cinema's capacity to present
us with aspects of reality that lie beyond the reach of the human eye. For Walter Benjamin, the
technology of the camera, “with the resources of its lowering and lifting, its interruptions and isolations,
its extensions and accelerations, its enlargements and reductions' bring us into contact with a whole
new ‘unconscious optics’.”3
The mechanism of the camera, and the mechanic vision which is produced by this method, were taken
by the theorists and Benjamin, as the starting element for a theory of cinema as an autonomous
3 Benjamin, Walter. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Illuminations. ed. Hannah Arendt.
(New York: Schocken, 1969) pg: 237.
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machine which produces new thoughts. The leading argument for most of them was to accept the fact
that the camera produces thinking autonomously and independently from a human subject. The cinema
shows us how reality is reflected in our mind and creates a purely mental image. The mechanic
production of images corresponds directly with the mechanic nature and production of thought itself.
Frampton claimed, “these early theorists are still too much biased by the 'the very rhetoric of the
camera' and the 'artistry of the lens'.”4
Before looking deeper into the relation between cinema and thinking it is important to understand the
way Deleuze conceptualizes thinking as the mechanic being that is defined by its autonomous and
automatic nature. For Deleuze it is not so much a technological or optical matter but the fact that the
mechanic vision of cinema produces images automatically and autonomously.
Recent neurobiology research has proven that thought is automatic because it is formed out of
psychological and physiological automatisms that lie at the basis of conscious thought and these
molecular automatisms can process information and perform thinking autonomously, without
interaction of conscious thought or cognition. The conscious mind and rational thought act as an
ordering principle that gather and organize the unformed mass of information that is produced by these
automatic sub- and unconscious thought-processes into an intelligible form.
For Deleuze, it is clear that thinking is autonomous, because it is not something that is performed by a
subject, by us. It is not something we do, but it is something that happens to us from the outside.
“Something in the world forces us to think.”5 Thought is also automatic and autonomous on a higher
level. The ideal of a concept for Deleuze is not a representation which is static, but an act of becoming,
an auto-movement of thought.
There is 'an image of thought' that underlies all of our thinking. This image of thought acts as a kind of
presupposition for our thinking. This image of thought is also constantly moving and varying in time. The
image of thought is constantly challenged precisely by what lies outside of it, by what is yet to be
4 Frampton, Daniel. Filmosophy: A Manifesto for a Radically New Way of Understanding Cinema. (London & New
York: Wallflower Press, 2006). pg: 50. 5 Deleuze, Gilles, Difference and Repetition (1968). trans. Paul Patton, (New York: Colombia University Press, 1994)
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thought, i.e. the unthought. Therefore, thought for Deleuze is always correlated with something outside
thought, the 'unthought in thought', pure difference that cannot be assimilated into something we
know, but what is still to be known. It is the confrontation with this unthought which forces us to think
and re-think our own thinking, bringing about a new image of thought. So the time-image is part of this
movement towards the realm of the unthought, which leads to a new image of thought. The encounter
of the image of thought with the outside of thought can take place when philosophy confronts itself
with art. It also produces thinking. In his cinemabooks Deleuze wants to see whether and how an
encounter takes place between the image of thought and the cinematographic image, and what this
encounter might be.
There is deep relation between film and literature, and when we talk about the relation between film
and literature, the first thing come in the mind is the screen-version of novel and stories. But the reverse
case also occurs. There is a prevalence of adaptations from novel to film. This means that somehow both
of them are rooted in same place. The issue here is to discuss how the novel is related to film in
adaptations and what kinds of content may be transferred and what may not.
If we take the example of current trends, in mainstream games, the role of adaptation is particularly
important. The adaptation are generally taken from a text, often in comic form, to film and then into
Usually the screen-version of novels does not exactly follow the events and actions presented in the
novel. With a few rare exceptions, most people tend to agree that the book version of a story is always
better than the movie. The movie of famous and most popular series of novel Harry Potter came out.
Most of the people watched the movie and followed all the sequels instead of reading the book. But if
someone is found of novels and also of movies, he would have this nagging feeling that something isn’t
quite right. The more he watches the movie, the more his feeling gets stronger. Finally, he realizes what
the problem is. The first Harry Potter movie seemed like it followed the book too closely. It is like we are
watching a story designed as a novel not for the movie because it is translated too literally into a movie.
That’s the problem with adapting movies from books. A screenplay tells a story in pictures. A novel tells
a story with the thoughts of one or more characters. A stage play tells a story through the words of the
characters. On the most extreme level, a screenplay should tell a story using as few words as possible. If
you can show it, then you don’t need to say it. One reason why movies adapted from books tend to be
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so bad is that novels focus on telling you a character’s thoughts, but those thoughts aren’t easily
translated to visuals in a screenplay.
There is another thing which makes audience disappointed. People usually get a visual in their brains
while reading and not everyone's visual is the same. When reading a book we develop our own
imagination of how the characters would look like, how they move, react and in which world they live in,
we imagine the general look of the story. Another important aspect of books is the way it is written, the
specific grammar of the book, so a book transports the story with words that inspire us to create our
own perspective of things. Therefore, the movie will always be different from the books because the
movies are from the director's view, which may differ from our imagination.
“Deleuze begins by reminding us that the technical nature of producing the cinematographic
image means that images automatically have movement. In that, they differ from static art
forms or performative forms already attached to a moving body.”6
It is the automatic image of movement, and not narrative what distinguish cinema from other visual arts
like painting and photography. In static arts such as painting and photography, they suggest the
movement but this movement is not really present in the image. Where cinema does not only
distinguish itself from static art, but also from theatre and dance. These arts visibly involve movement,
but their movement is intrinsically different from the nature of movement which cinema offers. Theatre
or dancing movements are anchored in and dependent of the body of actor or dancer. But with cinema,
the case is different. Cinema offers much more genuine than the determination of the thought
production by the movement. The cinematic image is the first image capable of producing automatic
and autonomous movement, which is not anchored in a subject, in the actor or in the performer, and
this automatic movement is not seen from a fixed point that functions as viewpoint. The cinematic
image does not represent movement but moves itself.
“…cinema does not give us an image to which movement is added, it immediately gives us a
6 Colman, Felicity. Deleuze and Cinema The Film Concepts, (Berg. :2011) pg: 182.
7 Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 1: The Movement-Image (1983). trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. (London:
Athlone, 1986) pg: 02.
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This auto-mobilization of the image creates a direct link from cinema to the movements of thought. The
automatism of cinematic images correlates with the automatisms of our thinking, the pure material
organical-psychic mechanisms that perform our thinking without consciousness.
“How, when you watch and listen to films, do they make you think? Is there time within the
filmic construction to allow you to reflect upon what is unfolding, or drawing you in, or making
you emotively react? Or is the screen work so tightly constructed that there are no gaps outside
of its world, or is it edited together so fast that there are no pauses for your thoughts to enter
the sound-images that your brain is processing, and it is not until afterwards that the ideas of
the image start to take form?”8
Cinema produces continuous flow of images. This continuous flow of images does not leave us a chance
to think and evaluate. Deleuze reminds us that the technical nature of producing the cinematographic
image means that images automatically have movement. When we look at a painting or a photograph,
we have a time critically evaluate and elaborate the message behind that image and to conceive what
the painter or photographer tries to convey us. Unlike these static arts, the continuous flow of images
speeding by does not leave us the time for critical distance and contemplation, like when looking at a
painting or photograph, but acts immediately on a pre-reflexive, pre-linguistic level of thought. The
movement is in continuous motion which generates an automatic thought process.
As discussed above, the cinematographic image differs from static art forms or performing forms
because they are already attached to a moving body. Most images in the cinema are of an intellectual
kind which we recognize through cognitive processes.
“Deleuze contends that when movement ‘becomes automatic’ then the ‘artistic essence’ of an
image is realized and the image changes (C2:156). If cognition is disturbed, shocked or
interrupted, then our intellectual thoughts move from an automatic intellectual movement to a
state of ‘spiritual’automatism (ibid.). The terms Deleuze uses to describe these different types of
thought-images are ‘automatic movement’ and ‘spiritual automaton’ (from Spinoza).”9
The concept of the spiritual automaton originally comes from Spinoza. It refers to the auto-movement of
thought. It is what links one idea to another, independently from an object. This Spinozan idea suggests
8 Colman, Felicity. Deleuze and Cinema The Film Concepts, (Berg. :2011) pg: 182.
9 Colman, Felicity. Deleuze and Cinema The Film Concepts, (Berg. :2011) pg: 183.
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a reversal between the ideas that the thought is dependent on conscious thought; on the contrary, it is
our consciousness that is dependent on the way thoughts are linked with other thoughts.
The ‘spiritual automaton’ which cinema produces does not refer to a form of thinking that lies at the
basis of a film, or on the concept on which the film was based. It is not a certain illustration of an image
of thought either. It is rather the circuit thinking which enters into us with the film, a circuit that is
activated by a shock in our brains.
"The brain is unity. The brain is the screen. I don't believe that linguistics and psychoanalysis
offer a great deal to the cinema. On the contrary, the biology of the brain - molecular biology -
does. Thought is molecular. Molecular speeds make up the slow beings that we are. Cinema,
precisely because it puts the image in motion, or rather endows the image with self-motion,
never stops tracing the circuits of the brain."10
The cinema produces images in motion so it can be taken as mechanic apparatus of automatic images
that give rise to automatic responses in the viewer. The images in motion involve both an affective and
intellectual shock. This shock boosts and forces the viewer into thinking.
Cinema does not only produce an auto mobilization of the image but also an auto temporalization. It
means that cinema is also capable to create its own specific sense of time. It is important to understand
the difference between the regime of the movement image and the time image when we talk about the
way time is represented. The movement image, as discussed earlier, is based on classic continuity
montage and linear narrative. The movement image tries to create a flowing movement from one image
to the other in order to overcome the cuts and gaps between images. The movement image shows us an
image of time in its empirical form. The time derived from the series of shots, as a linear string towards
the ending. Time is represented indirectly and quantitatively through movement.
Deleuze, Gilles. “The Brain is the Screen: An Interview with Gilles Deleuze.” (1986). The Brian is the Screen.
Deleuze and the Philosophy of the Cinema. ed. Gregory Flaxman, (Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota
Press: 2000) pg: 366.
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“The automatic movement is capable of producing a shock to thought, communicating
vibrations to the cortex, touching the nervous and cerebral system directly.”11
For Deleuze, there are two regimes of the image, the movement image and the time image. Each
produces a different ‘spiritual automaton’. The spiritual automaton is a formal order which refers to the
esthetical form of cinema means that the way cinematic images are perceived and thought. Both, the
movement image and the time image produce automatic thinking in the viewer through an experience
of shock, but the nature of this shock is different in both images.
Deleuze uses the writings of Eisenstein and of Artaud on cinema to illustrate the distinction between the
natures of shock. The distinction Deleuze made, explains that the Eisenstein's shock is an intellectual
shock which believes in the powers of rational and logical thought. Whereas the Artaud gives us an idea
about the impossibility to think, the powerlessness of thought. In Deleuzian philosophy, this lies at the
heart of thought.
Eisentein’s shock to thought is based on the confrontation with the contrast between these two images
that forces us to think the whole, which is a unity, a truth. The conflicts between two shots, which force
us to think its synthesis, for instance two different shots are being contrasted to create a unity, a
thought. For instance, in Strike, images of a bull being slaughtered are contrasted by images of a Cossack
killing a child. Deleuze argues that the classic continuity montage moves in a similar way from image to
thought just like in the case of Eisenstein’s claim. The spectator receives the ideas that are given to him.
It does not only produce a clear-cut concept or idea in the mind of the viewer about the image, but it
also creates the idea about the relation of this particular image to the whole of the film. However, this
unidirectional idea of the shock to thought makes cinema a highly manipulative medium.
For Artaud cinema is not the association of clear-cut ideas through intellectual montage, but on the
contrary, cinema is a radical de-association, an ambiguous linking of unclear ideas, a de-centered
collection of multiple voices and viewpoints, that cannot be assimilated into a unified whole. For Artaud,
the shock to thought is a purely 'neuro-physiological vibration' which is brought about by the movement
Deleuze, Gilles. "The Brain is the Screen: An Interview with Gilles Deleuze." (1986). The Brian is the Screen.
Deleuze and the Philosophy of the Cinema. Ed. Gregory Flaxman. (Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota
Press, 2000) pg: 156.
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and speed of the images passing through the projector. Cinema makes it impossible to think, because
the flow of images is rapid and continuous. Before we can interpret one image it is already replaced by
another and thus it leaves us no time to analyze. Before we can grasp an image it is already passed, and
the process of association is constantly interrupted, deconstructed, and dislocated.
Cinema reveals our own powerlessness. The fact that we are not yet thinking about what has already
given to us is precisely the confrontation with this powerlessness of thought that can produce a new
image of thought.
In these passages on the link between image and thought, Deleuze's distinction between movement-
image and time-image becomes almost prescriptive. Cinema has to free us from what he calls 'the
representative image of thought'. For Deleuze, this image of thought is rigid or dogmatic. The
representational image of thought functions by means of representation and recognition which also
includes metaphysical, metaphoric and dialectical forms of thinking. This image can only re-present us
what we already know. It does not allow us to think the unthinkable, what has not been thought, what
falls outside what we already know. Simply put the representational image of thought cannot think
qualitative change or real difference.
Submitted to: Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Meher. Professor of Philosophy, University of Karachi. Submitted by: Tooba Naz. Student of MS. (First year) Department of Philosophy, University of Karachi.
Dated: 15, July 2011.
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Barbara Habberjam. (London: Athlone, 1986).
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Galeta, (Londen: Athlone, 1989).
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7. Colman, Felicity. Deleuze and Cinema The Film Concepts, (Berg. :2011).
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Brian is the Screen. Deleuze and the Philosophy of the Cinema. ed. Gregory Flaxman,
(Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press: 2000).
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14. Bogue, R. Deleuze on Cinema. (London and New York: Routledge, 2003).
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16. Bergson, H. (1896), Matter and Memory. trans. N.M. Paul and W.S. Palmer. (New York: Zone Books, 1994).
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