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In response to a question regarding Deleuze’s assertion that the cinematic image is not in the present, the philosopher replied:


“What the image ‘represents’ is in the present, but not the image itself. The image itself is an ensemble of time relations from the present which merely flows, either as a common multiple, or as the smallest divisor. Relations of time are never seen in ordinary perception, but they are seen in the image, as long as it is a creative one. The image renders time relations — relations that can’t be reduced to the present — sensible and visible . . . The relation of time is the coexistence of durations in the image, which has nothing to do with the present, that is, what the image represents. In this sense Tarkovsky challenges the distinction between edit and shot, because he defines cinema by the ‘pressure of time’ in the shot.” (Flaxman, The Brain is the Screen 371)

Deleuze's analysis of cinema, and his analysis of Tarkovsky's cinema in particular, gets very near the film theory that Tarkovsky himself developed. However, in the end, cinema is spiritual in its aesthetics, and this relegates it to the mystical, no matter how expansive the philosophical awareness that approaches it.


Tarkovsky writes of Mirror:

"As I began work on Mirror I found myself reflecting more and more that if you are serious about your work, then a film is not merely the next item in your career, it is an action which will affect the whole of your life. For I had made up my mind that in this film, for the first time, I would use the means of cinema to talk of all that is most precious to me, and do so directly, without playing any kind of tricks.

I had the greatest difficulty in explaining to people that there is no hidden, coded meaning in the film, nothing beyond the desire to tell the truth . . .

In the end we were saved by one thing only — faith: the belief that since our work was so important to us it could not but become equally important to the audience." (Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time 133)

This reference to faith brings us back to the first film discussed here,  Andrei Rublev, where we analyzed the relationship between artist and audience. Rublev himself struggles with his capacity to reach the Russian people, especially because of the suffering that he witnesses in their lives. As Tarkovsky describes the icon painter's "Passion": 

"[Andrei Rublev] looks at first sight as if the cruel truth of life as he observes it is in crying contradiction with the harmonious ideal of his work. The crux of the question, however, is that the artist cannot express the moral idea of his time unless he touches all of its running sores, unless he suffers and lives these sores himself."  (Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time 168)

We saw how Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological theory of the artist-subject offers the possibility of opening up the viewer's vision to the artist's image. But in Andrei Rublev, the way in which Tarkovsky sculpted in time using the pressure of the shot subverted a merely subjective view of time. The icons that Rublev paints, which we see fragmented in their completeness by the movement of camera at the end of the film, are not simply a representation of the icon painter's subjective perspective but rather an opening of the horizon. 

For Tarkovsky, cinema moves beyond thought into a spiritual experience that cognitive thinking cannot access. Although Deleuze does not privilege this kind of thinking in cinema, his philosophy cannot account for the spiritual time that lies outside of any philosophical analysis. However, even Deleuze accounted for the spirituality of cinema, as he said,


“Something bizarre about the cinema struck me: its unexpected ability to show not only behavior, but spiritual life as well (at the same time as aberrant behavior. Spiritual life isn’t dream or fantasy — which were always cinema’s dead ends — but rather the domain of cold decision, of absolute obstinacy, of the choice of existence. How is it that the cinema is so expert at excavating this spiritual life? . . . Cinema not only puts movement in the image, it also puts movement in the mind. One naturally goes from philosophy to cinema, but also from cinema to philosophy.” (Flaxman, The Brain Is the Screen, "An Interview with Gilles Deleuze" 366)


Tarkovsky stands out as a filmmaker particularly attuned to the spirituality of cinema. He recognized his inability as an individual to see outside his subjectivity alone, but utilized the movie camera to accomplish this merging of aesthetics and ethics in his work. As he writes in Sculpting in Time


"Of course, my point of view is subjective. But that is how it has to be in art: in his work the artist breaks down reality in the prism of his perception and uses a foreshortening technique of his own to show different sides of reality. In setting great store by the subjective view of the artist and his personal perception of the world, however, I am not making a plea for an arbitrary or anarchic approach. It is a question of world view, of ideals and moral ends.

"Masterpieces are born of the artist's struggle to express his ethical ideals. If he loves life, has an overwhelming need to know it, change it, try to  make it better, — in short, if he aims to cooperate in enhancing the value of life, then there is no danger in the fact that the picture of reality will have passed through a filter of his subjective concepts, through his states of mind. For his work will always be a spiritual endeavour which aspires to make man more perfect: an image of the world that captivates us by its harmony of feeling and thought, its nobility and restraint."  (Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time 27)

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