Into Great Stillness, Again and Again:
Gilles Deleuze's Time and the Constructions of Digital Cinema

Markos Hadjioannou

[1] The appearance of digital technology in film production, from the early experiments of the Whitney brothers in the 1960s, to the computational worlds of Toy Story and Star Wars Episode II from the mid-1990s onwards, has led to amazing new possibilities in both the creative and spectatorial pleasures of cinema. Indeed, the impact of the digital on film has not been confined to special effects and post-production in general, but has extended to the entirety of initial production, and more recently to the distribution, projection, and restoration of cinematic works. For the first time in film history, a technological change is not related to an improvement or extension of celluloid technologies, but to its complete replacement. As such, film theorists have turned to the phenomenon so as to address the series of questions that the new technology induces for an understanding of film. Most pertinent to these debates has been the significance of the shift from analogical and indexical structures to digital and numerical forms. Contrary to the temporal assurance of celluloid's causal operations, digital technology interrupts the ontological underpinnings of the image by transcoding an event into a series of numbers and mathematical associations, which do not necessarily bear any actual link to reality. As a consequence of the transformation into the binary system, the image has become openly susceptible to unprecedented and at times untraceable manipulability, direct and continuous accessibility and interactivity, and an overall rational functionality where the irreversibility of entropy is replaced by repeatable calculations.

[2] Indeed, the direct inscription of reality's illuminations so fundamental for the creation of celluloid images is missing from the digital, which by forcing a series of conversions into its constructions, makes temporal relations difficult to uphold. Of course, a perceptual realism allows for reality to be recognisable in the digital image according to a habitual reading of coordinates and structural relations of space and light. Nevertheless, the mathematical notations that lay at the basis of the image raises the question of an ontological grounding that finds its roots in the consequences of time. What seems to be at stake is not an iconic impression of reality, but a link to time as historical trace, as unpredictable progression, as expression of change. At the same time, though, it just might be that, while the digital clearly separates itself from celluloid technologies on the basis of its operative configurations, it nonetheless can invoke the ontological force of change on grounds other than indexicality. Guided by this premise, it will be the aim of this article to examine the relationship between celluloid and digital structures, in order to see where time can be found in new forms of cinematic production. As such, I will initially turn to the temporal relations of celluloid film to see how the digital disrupts the bond between image and time, and then see how the digital itself can become an image of time through the work of Gilles Deleuze.

From Celluloid Frames to Digital Pixels

[3] A beautifully emotional discussion of the effects of digital technology for filmmaking, Babette Mangolte's "Afterwards: A Matter of Time" reflects on how a sense of time made palpable in the experiences of the celluloid is lost from a digital culture. As Mangolte explains, the celluloid's direct relation with time can be felt in a number of ways. Being an indexical and analogical medium, its images are direct and isomorphic transcriptions of a moment that existed concurrently with the camera. Moreover, time is of utmost importance in both the carefully measured duration of shooting, as well as the constructions of the editing process, which, in the era of Steenbecks and Moviolas, allowed time to be physically sensed in the cut of the filmstrip and the weight and length of the roll. What is more, time is also present for the spectator in the form of the rhythmical succession of light and darkness that takes place in the continual exchange of the frames and the opening and closing of the projector's shutter. Of course, the flicker itself might not be immediately perceptible – an aim of the specific ratio of frames per second – but it is nonetheles felt in the constant movement of the grain of the image, the arbitrary haze and sudden scratches depicted. Indeed, it is this grain that points to the entropic character of film's own materiality, its physical degradation and continual transformation, thus binding the gaze with change. [1]

[4] Time, in other words, is at the heart of movies as photosensitive celluloid film. But, Mangolte asks, where can time be found in the persistent, in fact relentless, glare of digital screens, whose progressive scanning eliminates shutter interruption and thus removes the repetitive rhythm of the exchange between light and darkness? Mangolte asserts that digital images prevent rather than continue the sense of rhythm and transformation in time's passing. Ultimately, she feels that the passion of difference and loss embedded in celluloid's entropic character becomes inconsequential in the digital's reversible and permanent nature. Although Laura Marks points to a sense of degradation related to the obsoleteness of digital systems, this sense of time is not tied in with the image itself but with its medium of display. The digital bitmap does not deteriorate, as it is simply a set of numerical configurations, whose relations and functions strictly follow the predetermined commands of a programmer and a computer's operations. Moreover, there is no necessity for the physical inclusion of the spectator in the creation of the image, as is the case with the persistence of vision that directly incorporates the viewing process as an activity of cinematicity. It is as if both time past and time passing, and the restlessness that their confrontation triggers, were put on hold in the static and inconsequential pose of the digital. Timothy Binkley describes this matter with much clarity in "Camera Fantasia," an early essay on the relation between analogue and digital technologies. Here Binkley explains how the information held by a photographic image is a quick and directly isomorphic response of the photochemical substrate to illuminations through which an image is recorded. On the contrary, a computer stores information that is a fragmentary array of discrete numbers into which an event is translated. He writes: "The end product is a photograph, but it visually 'depicts' the numerical contents of a frame buffer, not necessarily the state of any particular time" (10). This is to say that the displacement of time is in fact an integral function of the technology, an issue that cannot be bypassed despite the historical and theoretical overlaps between technologies or, as Philip Rosen describes, the mimicking mapping of pre-existent codes like indexicality onto the digital – what he calls "digital mimicry" (314). Without a doubt, the break that takes place between the image's origin and its representation is significant because it adds a series of transmutations: a physical event in the world is read as a regular mosaic of coordinates, whose points are assigned Cartesian relations based on colour and intensity.

[5] Nevertheless, in his influential book The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich points to an interesting direction for an examination of the matter of time in the digital, by turning to possibilities that stem from a particular operation of the computer: the loop. He writes: "Programming involves altering the linear flow of data through control structures, such as 'if/then' and 'repeat/while'; the loop is the most elementary of these control structures" (317). This is to say that, instead of reconfiguring the data from the beginning at each instance, computer programs repeat a set number of steps that are controlled by the programme's main loop and only refresh pixels whose associations have shifted. As such, time can be found in the digital image as a repetitive looping effect that instantaneously refreshes and repeats. But does the prominence of looping processes mean that the time of the digital is nothing but an insistence of the present as if change got caught in a stutter? Indeed, David Rodowick's recent book The Virtual Life of Film asks this same question in an emotionally charged and beautifully constructed study of the effects of the digital for film theory and the future of film studies. Once again, his concern lies with the film's sense of duration, where all layers of time are simultaneously involved in the search for meaning and the construction of thought. A most pertinent question that the digital induces is whether its spatial encoding and repetitive functionality can elicit a sense of time as an ontological experience of cinematic works. In other words, is the digital as a clearly non-analogical discontinuous process of numerical notations able to create a sense of duration as that within which the world as evolving corpus and mental state exists? Can there be qualitative duration when the physiochemical ontology of celluloid time is translated into a calculating and calculable timecode? Based on these questions, I will now turn to Deleuze's exploration of film in order to see how the consequences of the awareness of thinking in the time-image can resonate with the technological proportions of my own discussion.

Sensing the Duration of Time

[6] Deleuze's examination of film in his two cinema books stems from the relation between structures that tie the ontological change of duration with movement on the one hand and time on the other. Indeed, Deleuze does not address the technological specificities of the moving image, as it is not what makes the image move that interests him but the fact that it is self-moving. Nevertheless, his understanding of change as that which endures across time and with multiple temporal directions is apposite for an exploration of technological change where time as duration is indeed at stake. Having gone through the deterministic progression of narrative in the movement-image, Deleuze turns to the films of the time-image where the progression from stimulus to action is problematized by the prominent independence of the purely qualitative interval. As an example, he turns to Yasujiro Ozu's films, where teleological action is replaced by static images that depict everydayness in its habitual banality as experienced in the Japanese home and family. Deleuze writes:

Camera movements take place less and less frequently: tracking shots are slow, low "blocs of movement"; the always low camera is usually fixed, frontal or at an unchanging angle: dissolves are abandoned in favour of the simple cut. What might appear to be a return to "primitive cinema" is just as much the elaboration of an astonishingly temperate modern style: the montage-cut, which will dominate modern cinema, is a purely optical passage or punctuation between images, working directly, sacrificing all synthetic effects. (Cinema 2 13)

Deleuze focuses, in other words, on an editing style that favours the purely visual attributes of the image and the purely aural attributes of the sound, effectively diminishing the directness and supremacy of the plot. Instead of events, that is, the film increasingly produces independent opsigns and sonsigns – that is, purely optical and sonic images. In these structures, Deleuze reads a potential for the stimulation of thinking as the creative processes of spectatorship and, by extension, of an ontological worldview that replace the fixities of transcendental truths and induces a belief in the world itself.

[7] Indeed, these idle periods are of great importance for Deleuze's film philosophy because their disruptive nature links film back with reality. Referring to the work of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Deleuze explains how perception seeks to comprehend events as the separate points of exceptional moments, which split time into chronological order. But what Ozu's work shows is that everything is indeed of the ordinary; everything belongs in the same domain of existence that is life as it unravels undisturbed and uncomplicated, unchanged and regular. Ozu achieves this cinema, according to Deleuze, by creating "any-instant-whatevers" through the use of false continuities that fragment teleological progession, as well as vacuous landscapes that draw events to a halt in favour of pure contemplation. For instance, in Ozu's Late Spring, an image of a vase is cut between a woman's smile and the beginning of her tears. In this structure, Deleuze identifies the still image of the vase as a consistent form onto which the flow of change is strung. It is a passage of a becoming from one state to another where the form of what changes does not itself change. This is, as he explains, time itself in its pure state, "a direct time-image, which gives what changes the unchanging form in which the change is produced" (Cinema 2 17). There is a direct relation, that is, between what changes and what resists change, between what passes and what comes to contain the passing in its structure. In its ten-second duration, the still vase endures while its surroundings change, and as such makes prominent the idea of time as the constant state of duration within which changing states – in this case, an emotional passage from smile to tear – succeed one another.

[8] Time is obviously at the heart of Deleuze's analysis of cinema; and it is Henri Bergson who is at the basis of Deleuze's conception of time as la durée – that is, time as the constant duration of change. Indeed, fragmentary distinctness is the major issue that Bergson's work addresses as a problem. As he explains in Time and Free Will, while perception recognises material objects as distinct spatial arrangements, language similarly assigns distinct concepts to meaning thus spatializing or quantifying emotion and thought. In other words, spatiality leads to a symbolical representation of states of consciousness, which forms extensive magnitudes out of sensations. But concrete time – what he calls la durée – cannot be related to space because it is of a qualitatively different regime. As he explains, the externality of things in space, their magnitude that distinguishes them from one another as they occupy homogeneous space, cannot be applied to time as long as time is not subordinate to space – that is, as long as it is not considered a homogeneous category too, thus taking on the attributes of a spatial regime. Time is thus understood as heterogeneity precisely because it is in time that change as a constant event takes place. Time, in other words, is duration as the constant passage of a becoming: the very state of change. As such, Bergson maintains, what changes is always changing, and so life in its natural evolution cannot be separated into discrete instances of any kind. What seem to be different states of being are simply our consciousness noticing specific formations as if they were representative of one state as opposed to one other, similar to how one object positioned in space is separate from another. But to think this is to go against the flow of life. Indeed, to return to the example of Ozu's vase, there is no simple jump from the smile to the tear as if each emotion was a fragment of the woman's sensibility. Instead, in between the two instances lies the transition from one to the other, the formulation of feelings that lead from the smile to the tear. The tear does not simply appear but emerges; it comes out of the preceding state of affairs and emotions so that in it hides a smile and its elimination.

[9] Existing in time, therefore, means allowing oneself to live without separating one's present state from all preceding forms. By tracing back to a previous state as one that has passed, consciousness loses its ability to endure – that is, to be in time as duration. Here, Bergson proposes that instead of situating one form of existence alongside another, life in duration situates the body as a stream of consciousness that flows constantly without losing contact with its past existence so that past and present are combined in a constantly open whole. But here is precisely where celluloid cinema already causes a difficult paradox for Bergson: how can duration be depicted when what is shown is technically a sequence of static states, the one replacing the other after the other has vanished? Bergson turns to this question in Creative Evolution, although for him duration remains a problem when situated within the filmic apparatus. In speaking of cinema's mode of operation, he writes:

We take snapshots, as it were, of the passing reality, and, as these are characteristic of the reality, we have only to string them on a becoming, abstract, uniform and invisible, situated at the back of the apparatus of knowledge, in order to imitate what there is that is characteristic in this becoming itself. (Creative Evolution 306, my emphasis)

Photographic cinema creates motion by combining separate immobile photographs and reanimating them through the movement of the projecting apparatus. As such, though, the apparatus posits an impersonal and abstract sense of movement as an overall quality of movement itself. And so, what is depicted on the screen is not motion with all its peculiarities, differences, and multiplicities, but one unifying general principle measured by twenty-four subsets per second. Time is imitated by withdrawing oneself outside of things, taking a distance from the flow of time, ultimately becoming a Cartesian subject that can dissect nature without interfering in the production of meaning, or being affected by the dissection itself. Such an attitude poses an ontological problem by creating a perception of life according to a mechanism of generalization that does not flow with the stream of time.

[10] Nonetheless, in his rereading of Bergson, Deleuze does indeed find a way of including time into cinematic depictions through the potential of the time-image: that is, through the disruptive nature of specific structures within film aesthetics. What is quite intriguing in Deleuze's work is that la durée is performed by the displacement of movement or its hindrance. Not only does Deleuze speak of a moving image that is fragmented into twenty-four still instants per second, to which Bergson is clearly opposed, but his notion of time is also created from the empty blocks of opsigns and sonsigns, and the predominance of "any-instant-whatevers" through aberrant cuts and irrational editing. As such, the time-image creates mental blocks or intervals that jar the linear progression of habitual recognition for the sake of an awareness and involvement in the qualitative gap between stimulation and active response, where thought as creative process is held.

[11] The power of the emptied and isolated image of the modern film of time is precisely its ability to suggest the unalterable event of time that is filled by change, and to confront the spectator with the limitations of a teleology in thought. In everyday banalities and incongruous vacuities, Deleuze sees an aesthetic form that returns duration to the forefront of the cinematic affect, and reconnects film with its own internal structure as constant change – a direct relation with time and thought. But, where celluloid film can express an ontological time with regular ease, digital works, I have been discussing, make the connection to time problematic. Nevertheless, as Bergson's reluctance toward film's fragmentary nature was reconciled in Deleuze's reworking, it is worth examining where there could be a similar reconnection of the digital with duration that plays on different structures. This is not a question of technological determinism as if the digital had some teleological essence to which all its works conform. Rather, it is a matter of paying attention to the technological as one layer of meaning implicated in the experience of movies. As such, instead of considering what eliminates duration from digital configurations, it is worth asking if there are potential relations that can bridge the way back to a cinema of time. To answer this question, I would like to turn to a recent movie where repetition and stillness themselves are prominent as aesthetic choices, which simultaneously emphasize the technical operations of the image's technological basis. It is precisely this relation between content and form (read technologically inspired aesthetic structure) that I intend on unravelling through Philip Gröning's Into Great Silence.

Enduring Time in Into Great Silence

[12] Gröning's recent documentary/contemplative journey Into Great Silence achieves a sense of duration that not only tests Bergson's ponderings on time, but also extends Deleuze's examination of film to the field of cinematic technologies. The movie is a remarkable and unique documentation of the religious and austere life led by the monks of the Carthusian Order, in the Monastery of the Grande Chartreuse at Grenoble. In its duration, Gröning follows the everyday lives of the monks for four months using, almost exclusively, a High Definition Digital Camera, which was suitable for both the conditions imposed by the Grande Chartreuse (amongst which no artificial lighting and no additional team besides Gröning were to be used) but mainly for the filmmaker's own creative impulse: to create a spectatorial experience of the absolute ordinariness of time's passage as lived by the monks, whose lives have been completely devoted to a spiritual quest. Indeed, for one hundred and sixty minutes, Into Great Silence repeats scenes of the monks praying, reading, walking, and performing other odd jobs, creating a structure that mimics the repetitive pattern of the life in the monastery. Unaccompanied, as it is, by any narrative besides the repeated quotidian rituals, there really is no way of avoiding the movie's lulling rhythms, which manifest the everyday monotony of the monks' strict lives. It is as if Gröning is asking the viewer, or forcing her/him, to be taken by the meaning of time as expressed in the solitude of the monks' existence. Of course, Into Great Silence does not seem to question the purpose of the monks' decision; nor is it trying to proselytize new friars. On the contrary, it is simply interested in creating an intensified experience of duration – a kind of duration that induces a potential for contemplation. The movie declares that contemplation has to do with time itself, both taking place as time and in time. But besides this mental pondering, Into Great Silence alludes to other possibilities that have to do with its repetitive structure at the level of technology and form, and a conflict between a stillness that is drawn from this structure and an activity that lies beneath it. So what, then, is this time of Into Great Silence?

[13] The movie begins with the slight clicking sounds of logs burning, over a black image that slowly fades in to reveal a close up of a monk praying. This shot soon fades out into an image of a clear sky that progressively darkens to reveal a fire burning in the darkness. This image is then interrupted by an intertitle containing an excerpt from the Bible that reads: "The Lord passed by. Then a great wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but He was not in the wind..." In much the same way, Into Great Silence progresses filled with a sense of slow tranquillity that haunts its images and sounds as if the architecture of the movie were producing the monks' experiences as they live ad infinitum in the monastery. Time becomes a time of constant repetition, an incessant reverberation of the same acts led by the same vows, which in turn are led by the same script: both the activities of the monks and the texts of the intertitles are constantly repeated throughout. Their lives are tightly contained in this recurrent act of duty towards their beliefs and their choices, so much so that every day seems to be any one instant that has gone by and will return: the same bell tolls at the same hour, the same rites are performed with the same precision, and the same gestures are followed with the same piety. Indeed, Gröning is very successful at creating a movie, which itself echoes this very same sense of living experienced by the monks. Almost three hours long, the movie demands for the spectator to insert her/himself in the routine of the monks seen on screen. The slow transitions from one ordinary day to the next with hardly any moments of departure from the solemnness of the Order create an engrossing and rich atmosphere, which draws in the spectator. In a sense, the spectator becomes her/himself a monk in her/his own solitude and ponderings. But, then, what exactly is a monk in Into Great Silence?

[14] The silence that the film title refers to is a state into which the monks are drawn as they live in their remote monastery up in the French Alps, where their days are mostly made up of silent prayers, readings, and writings. To be certain, the movie is not interested in giving the history of the monastery. Rather, its concerns lie with the monks themselves. To return to the title, there is a sense of activity, a movement of a body, which is inscribed in the preposition "into." Into Great Silence depicts a decisive will on the part of a group of men, a will that leads the monks "into" a life of immense silence where vocal communication is indeed restricted to specific and limited times throughout their days. This preposition is indeed a first indication that there is something other than a mere repetition of an austere meditation in the Grande Chartreuse. Coming back again and again to the film, I find that there is something uncanny about it, something mysterious that is difficult to describe. Perhaps it is the very act of describing it that is unsettling. Consider, for instance, the following scene where a monk is seen eating his lunch while sitting at a doorstep.

Into Great Silence/Die Große Stille (2006). Dir. Philip Gröning. Click to play.

In itself, this description does not say much, especially in a movie that does not favour one event over another: the scene is not an event in the progression of the narrative, but a moment amongst many other moments. Indeed, this is not the first time I see the monks eat, nor is it the first time an isolated monk follows an everyday common task. There is no more or no less significance placed on this event than the initiation ritual, for instance, of a new monk in the Order and the monastery. But why, then, does Gröning dedicate time to it and how does the movie in general manage to draw me into its cinematic world even when I do not share the beliefs of the devoted men. Obviously, there is something more at play, a matter that can be answered by paying further attention to what might be hidden in the monk's lunch scene.

[15] As far as the scene's internal structure goes, one can describe how at the eighty-sixth minute of Into Great Silence, an establishing shot shows a monk – who the viewer has seen before – as he kneels at an entrance of one of the monastery's chambers, and prays as the bell tolls. A new shot frames his face from behind and diagonally in extreme close-up so that the focus is on the side of his face as the monk brings a bowl of food towards his mouth. A further cut returns to a long shot of him from a different angle – this time from inside the building – where he is shown sitting in the entrance, leaning against the open door, gazing outside as he eats in the warmth of the sun and the exterior sounds of nature. A further cut closes in on his face from in front this time so that his draped upper torso and head are visible as he eats a spoonful of food. But all at once, the next cut reveals a six-second image of the clear blue sky that an aeroplane is flying across. The next shot frames the monk in a tighter close-up as he bites his bread, followed by a high angle shot of him, and another extreme close-up of the side of his face. Then, once again, the viewer loses track of him to see a shot of a rough and heavy exterior wall, partly covered in dirt, partly covered by moss, completely still with the exception of a few stems of plants softly swaying at its base. This shot is succeeded by an extreme close-up of a flower pod shot against the unfocused background of its mother plant, which is replaced by a grainy – that is, celluloid – shot of foliage, which the camera depicts as it pans and tilts across the ground. Finally, the monk is displayed again as the camera frames him in a medium long shot while he wears his cloak, succeeded by an exterior long shot of him momentarily kneeling down in front of the house before slowly walking along the stone path that surrounds the small garden.

[16] Certainly, this description shows that there is something more taking place in this scene than the straightforward statement of "a monk eating lunch" initially proclaims. On the one hand, the multiperspectival footage of the luncheon emphasizes in its repetitive view the individual and his present activity. At the same time, though, it expresses a correlation between what remains continuous in this repetition and what changes. To repeat Bergson's thoughts, the perception of existence is clouded by the idea that one passes from one state to the next as if each state was an independent point from the other, comparable in size or hierarchy to the previous (Time 98-99). This would be like saying that at the beginning of the scene the monk is hungry, and when he starts eating he is less hungry, and when he nears finishing he is almost full, and when he starts his stroll he is actually full. Obviously there is a sense of change embedded in this progression from hunger to fullness: at this moment he is hungry, at this he is not. Nevertheless, this is not a satisfactory understanding of change because it positions existence as if it were a leap from one being to another so that each is a point in space (rather than in time), which expresses a difference in quantity rather than quality: less hungry, more full. Ultimately, this would necessitate a breaking down of existence itself into separate fragments constantly multiplied to fill in every moment that goes by. And so, at this point we do not have the monk as he is hungry and later the monk who is full, but quite absurdly, we would have one monk who is hungry and later, one other monk who is full. There has to be a continuity, therefore, from one state to the other, and this is precisely what Bergson is talking about with regard to duration as a constant flux of existence as it evolves without stopping; time, that is, as variation that undergoes change at every moment so that there would be no moment that actually could be isolated from the next. But is this not what Gröning achieves by repeating the state of eating with the same attentiveness and the same rhythm in each shot? There is no privileging from the one moment of eating to the next, and therefore no sense of some quantifiable fulfilment from the one shot to the next. The state of eating, as Gröning imagines it, is in the flow of simply being framed in the image. The monk does not proceed from the state of hunger to achieve the state of fullness, but becomes full while eating. He is not simply there, immobile and unchanging, but constantly caught in the "into" of the title. He is not just there in great silence, but he is in a process of being as an act of constant motion.

[17] Indeed, this sense of change is what the four irrational shots stress as well: the flying aeroplane, the wall, the bud, and the foliage. The question whether these shots can be explained as point-of-view shots can be easily answered by the simple fact that they do not depict what the monk can see, because they do not match up with his eyeline or with any action. Just like the rest of the movie, these shots do not conform to a progression of a plot that abides by an event causing another in the form of a classical narrative structure. Instead, they create a direct break from the event of the luncheon, which does not relate to a necessary out-of-field or to a rational development of an activity. They express, in this sense, the interval of Deleuze's time-image in much the same way that Ozu's shot of the vase induces a sense of la durée. Their fragmentary relation to the surrounding structure suggests something quite different: as "any-instant-whatevers," they seem to express a mental point of view as if thought found a place in the image.

Moving Still Frames

[18] The four lingering shots from the lunch scene are fascinating because by drawing attention to their ambiguous position in the overall structure, they induce attentiveness in the approach for meaning in the image. Indeed, these shots confront my own exploration of the relation between celluloid and digital technologies, and the potential of time in cinematic forms. While the first three shots are recorded digitally, the final is clearly a shot with a film camera. Even so, all four instances do express duration, albeit differently. Consider the first shot with the aeroplane: the moving aeroplane itself reveals a necessary change in the numerical codes that create the display, as opposed to the parts of the blue sky that are unaffected by any movement – and thus repeat the numerical structures in tact. In a sense, the image seems to combine the moving image and the freeze-frame in one single frame where the progressive scanning continually refreshes and repeats time. As such, it would seem like time as la durée is put to the test as time is stilled in the immediacy of the rescanning and the repetitiveness of the freeze-frame. But, quite differently the freeze-frame could actually be understood to achieve an awareness of time that implicates the spectator in the passage of duration.

[19] Turning back to celluloid film, it seems that the freeze-frame actually achieves a multiplication rather than a freezing of a distinct image. In its excessive spatial display and incessant temporal replay, the freeze-frame emphasizes what the film projector precisely does by reversing the order: in pausing, it stresses the seeming effacement of the interval between shots where continual change can be found. As such, the spectator is drawn to what seems to be missing in the image but is there nonetheless: the fragmentation on which film technology is actually based.

[20] Moreover, it rearticulates the visibility of duration on premises other than mobility. In fact, the freeze-frame says: look, time is passing because duration is here in my body (felt through the textures of the grain that implies a vibrating intonation) and your body (felt as a presence who is drawn to speculate the lingering image). There is an interactive exchange at stake, where what is unseen in the image becomes perceived, and what is forgotten outside the image is brought back to memory. As the static image revisits its own self, the spectator does so too. And from one to the other, the still moving image (still in the sense of being both "static" and "nonetheless" moving) is glazed with the insertion of the spectator and the potential of her/his thought. As such, the image is nothing but an activity made potently felt in its arrest of spatial progression, bringing spectator and display as twofold elements of the same performance: that of time.

[21] The question of time, in other words, is not necessarily restricted to aesthetic forms that pronounce the affective responsiveness of the spectator, nor is it driven by a technological determinism. Rather, time can be found in the fusion between the two facets, at times bringing them in a sudden contact of becoming. What persists in the freeze-frame is not only the "static," but a "nonetheless" as an instance of a further structure embedded in its constant and consistent repetition. In fact, the freeze-frame beautifully displays the revealing possibilities of stillness as it unfolds during the change of time, situating the tension on the cohesion of mind and body, memory and movement. In this tension between past, present, and future rests a tension between existence and memory, wherein lies a revelation of the tension between stillness and movement, stasis and ecstasy. In sum, stillness here is not an annihilation of, nor even a resistance to, duration. On the contrary, it is another expression of duration's changing force as another experience of time – a frozen or stilled regime as another type of time-image. The persistence of static images creates a sense of an existential lingering or stutter even though breathing is still at play. In stillness, the past seems to persist in the present, making what has passed a simultaneous layer of the experience. But at the same time, the unfaltering surface of stillness bears witness to a duration: in it lies its own past, brought forward to a future where it meets the present gaze of a witness who endures in the very encounter between her/him and the stilled image.

[22] Similarly, the very structure of the digital image creates this tension between past and present in a radically novel way. In fact, going back to Into Great Silence, it seems that this tension between what changes while resisting change is precisely what the arbitrary shots of the luncheon scene had been pointing to from the outset. Here, the stillness of the repeated pixels brings what has passed in immediate contact with what is renewed so that past and present are in fact contracted at one moment of the image. In one of the shots, for example, an aeroplane flies across a blue sky and is captured by the still camera. As such, even though the image is refreshed, the parts of the sky that are unaffected by the aeroplane's activity are numerically repeated intact – and so, what was, is again. On the contrary, the sky pixels that reveal the aeroplane's flight are instantly translated into new configurations bringing in a completely new set of coordinates that are placed right against the ones repeated. In the renewal, therefore, lies the tendency to archive and bring forward in a fragmented yet simultaneous image: past and present in one moment.

[23] In other words, as the digital combines pasts and presents in one image, it seems to bring an archival strategy into constant accessibility. As such, it forces a sort of willing that, in fact, draws the future into its constructs as well. There definitely is a sort of drive towards a future in digital technology, which Barbara Filser sees to allow for the information-packed values of the digital to create a future cinema where information produces thought while thought produces information. Such is the potential that Peter Weibel sees by looking at developments of quantum technology that would allow for an excessive augmentation of interactive potentials, making each access point a new time-image. In fact, Siegfired Zielinski notes that interactive experimentation of a temporal order lies at the very core of media devices as it stems from the fantasy and ideas of the people that create its possibilities, as well as the desires of the people that come in touch with their forms. Undoubtedly, interactivity and its potential permutations in appearance and experience is of utmost importance in the digital's temporality. It is as if there is a lingering desire for the future embedded in the open accessibility of the technology's structures, which invite the spectator's own fantasy and her/his own desires as a reactivating encounter – as a will.

[24] Of course, interactivity plays a peculiar role in the temporal structuring of digital cinema. At the same time open to change and open for an exchange between self and other, it is also predetermined and thus closed. Inevitably the exchange between image construct and using viewer is not one of a pure qualitative order – in the line of duration – but of a quantitative order wherein qualitative perceptions and expressions are reflected. The temporal continuity of the event, its affective effects, is encoded in calculable, reversible, and repeatable instructions. In itself, therefore, the image cannot retain time. Time is not to be found, in other words, in the image, but in the event of the exchange, that is, in the immediate presence of the action into the image – the interaction. Interactivity as function is numerical – and thus not temporal. Interactivity as open potential, on the other hand, is temporal. But, is it possible for one detached sense of time to express the full momentum of what is experienced in time lived? Perhaps it can; although with some difficulty because the digital positions its images in the symbolic environment of the binary system.

[25] In sum, in the immediate encounter with the digital, time is stuck in the present as a continual and instantaneous renewal of the image in real time, an image that is itself disconnected from a time past and a time in passing. But, in its potential for layered simultaneity and its openness for access, the digital can become a constant and instantaneous invitation for transformation and a metamorphosing activity. Accessed in the present, its potential for manipulation is the constant promise that flings the encounter into the open vastness of a future where access is a structure of change itself. Imperatively, though, this relation is based firmly on the grounds of the agency on the part of the individual because it is activity from the outside that endures, not the mathematical configurations in themselves. Time is placed on the experience of the event and its potentialities, between technology and worlds rather than the medium's own operations. Here is where time can be imaged, or even imagined – either way, where a sense of time can be felt.


[1] Although out of the scope of this article, it is worth noting that interlacing in television technologies also creates a sense of image mobility or haziness in the twitter effect associated with the continuous exchange from the odd field to the even field.

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