Saturday, March 3, 2007

The Gospel According to St. Deleuze

To follow up with my previous post on the problematic notion of film language, the following quote comes from Gilles Deleuze's indispensable book, Cinema 2: The Time-Image:

"Cinema is not a universal or primitive language system [langue], nor a language [langage]. It brings to light an intelligible content which is like a presupposition, a condition, a necessary correlate through which language constructs its own 'objects' (signifying units and operations). But this correlate, though inseparable, is specific: it consists of movements and thought-processes (pre-linguistic images), and of points of view on these movements and processes (pre-signifying signs). It constitutes a whole 'psychomechanics,' the spiritual automation, the utterable of a language system which has its own logic. The language system takes utterances of language, with signifying units and operations from it, but the utterable itself, its images and signs, are another nature. This would be what Hjelmslev calls non-linguistically formed 'content'... Or rather, it is the first signifiable, anterior to all significance, which Gustave Guillaume made the condition of linguistics."

If had come across this quote before I wrote that lengthy post on the subject, I would have been spared the effort. This just about explains why cinema cannot and should not be classified as a language. "Film language" limits one's understanding of the medium; it is a medium that deserves to be freed from such an idea.


johanna said...

or, rather, we deserve to be freed from such an idea

Ted Pigeon said...

Yes, that would be a better way of putting it. Ultimately, it comes down to how the individual or the collective structures a system of communication or engages in it. Therefore, we need to free ourselves from this film language mentality if it is to exist as such in the minds of those who are critics of or participants in it.