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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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While modern film productions have lost the ambitious classicism of early cinema, the idea to view cinematography itself as a self-governing construction of thinking has been carved into the history of continental philosophy. Due to the variety of material and conjecture, film manipulates the four-dimensional reality in which we live our everyday lives in. From A quoi pensent les films?, Jacques Aumont, a French academic writer on film theory, states that “film has the power of thinking” in order to express that the art form has the ability to release us from the restriction of our realistic judgements and radical perceptions, producing a poetic and dreamlike reality.  

Film philosophers that were specifically intrigued in the mechanics of the artform designed film theory in order to explore the cinema as a form of independent non-human introspection inspired by  the engineering of apparition and illustration that it provided. Human perception is grounded in the subject and in one\'s body, however, cinematic vision does not have a fixated core or organized perspective. Its view is entirely sporadic and produces the experiences and independent reality where space and time is not stopped in ideas but is continuous and building. Another fascination from early philosophers was film\'s ability to supply an audience with viewpoints of physical existence that can be discovered out of our own conscious reality. To Walter Benjamin,German-Jewish philosopher, cultural critic and writer, the availability of the camera and its ability to variate the subject, created an interruption to true art.

In The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Benjamin argues that the perception of true artistic genius is diminished through film because of the many layers between what is required to produce a film. The film then is provided to a multitude of consumers, removing the original dominance of the piece through the process. An example to understand this theory would be such: the operator of the camera manipulates the way the audience views the film, this act is not possible with an art form such as a painting.

 Henri Bergson, a French philosopher, declines this model theory by communicating that the cinematic adventure actively perceive time and movement all in one platform, his philosophy was the variance of material and spiritual actuality. In a counter exploration of Benjamin\'s ideals, when one looks at a clock they view purely different placements and positions of the clocks hands, but this act entails no specific spiritual connection to the viewer. The same logic of this situation  compares to the example from Benjamin’s. Only the single audience’s encounter can determine the product. Exploring this theory, French philosopher Deleuze, who wrote on the philosophy of literature, film, and fine art, counters Benjamin’s statement arguing that our mind does not need to put together the arbitrary components that is required to construct a piece but rather we can receive the information as a whole. In his two most popular books on cinema, Deleuze argues  that because of “Image-Mouvement” (Cinéma I) and “Image-Temps” (Cinéma II), Deleuze moves to say films do not think with plain set images like paintings, which produce no mechanics to personify thought, but with “movement-images” and “time-images.” Movement-images are explained as a scene of action the creates a reaction, producing the cycle of similar scenes. Time-images are defined by Deleuze as a scene that is created entirely on thought. Not only do these two components provide the audience with actions and movements, but divergent values of moments. These components working jointly can easily express a result of film that persistently grasps for the precious time and for the future moments. These propositions from Deleuze and Bergson recognize the extensive possibilities that the different structures it takes to produce film can benefit the true artistic art form and thought, rejecting Benjamin’s idea that each component prevents the consumer from true experience.

Benjamin did, however, have interest in the mechanism of a camera and the images produced through its mechanics, providing a theory of film as an apparatus of its own thought. Béla Balazs, a Hungarian-Jewish film critic, writer and poet believed that because film is capable of producing an artwork outside from external influences, its product represents how our personal views of our world in all actuality is, presenting a purely visual image of the concept. For Deleuze, it is not entirely the technology concept that produces independant thought of film, but that the vision of cinema produces images automatically and independently. The machinic process of moving images in film corresponds directly with the cognitive nature and production of thought itself.

Film for Gilles Deleuze is what poetry represented for Heidegger: a platform in which imaginative art forms could flourish in new time. Preliminary film philosophers were already captivated by theory of cinema as an independant thought-machine that created specifically cognitive pictues. The connection between film and thought is the primary subject of exploration in Deleuze\'s cinema-books. In the Movement-Image Cinema 1, Deleuze expresses that significant movie directors can not only be compared to artists like painters, but could also be compared to philosophers. Deleuze thought of theorists and artists equal to any other occupation that kept a population healthy, but that film specifically inhabits an important role since our daily lives have become increasingly prominent and accessible to the cinematic experience.

Deleuze thought it was extremely important that philosophy understood film, the cinematic experience, and the theories of how it has created a transformation of what we believe is thought, not only visual arts, but for all of the process of how one thinks.  In his books on cinema, Deleuze explores how a scene affects our perception of the image of thought and the image presented on the film, and how this is interpreted in our cinematic experience. During our everyday reality, film places a monumental section of philosophy because it has greatly influenced the way society thinks and lives. He states: \"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\" (qtd. The Brain is the Screen 366 ).

Deleuze\'s time-image theory of film as thought provides towards the detail of what is thought and what is not, this concept concerns the entirety of a film. Daniel Frampton, author of Filmosophy contributed his theory on film as thought by expressing that film does not describe or represents subjects or scenes but that it “thinks” them. When an audience is experiencing the viewing of a film, they are actively witnessing an evaluation process of thought that is automatic, separate from a human\'s cognitive thought. In Filmosophy, Frampton presents this concept through his terms of ‘film-thinking’, described as “conceptualizing all film as an organic intelligence” (Qtd. Filmosophy, p. 7) and that it “cannot show us human thinking, [but that] it shows us ‘film-thinking’” (qtd. Filmosophy p. 47). The idea that Frampton\'s philosophy wants to bring us is: \'A movement in the film is not by definition metaphorical, it is immediately effective, bringing the filmgoer to a knowledge about its subjects without having us think or refer to ideas outside the film. Film-thinking is there in film .\' (Qtd. Filmosophy p.93)

Susanne Langer, an American philosopher, writer, and teacher who was established for her philosophy on the impact of art forms on the mind, took an interesting angle of support for film as an intelligence through examination of film as a poetic art form. While Langer was a western theorist, her work was closely related to continental convention. Langer tries expressing that film as a production of art instituted a “dream state” as its core movement thus being able to work on an independant base, she writes: “Film is not any poetic art we have known before; it makes the primary illusion—virtual history—in its own mode. This is, essentially, the dream mode. I do not mean that it copies dream, or puts one into a daydream. Not at all, no more than literature invokes memory, or makes us believe that we are remember­ing’’ (qtd. A Note on Film p.200)

In L’Intelligence d’une machine, Epstein, a French filmmaker, film theorist, literary critic, and novelist, states film can provide more than a writing or painting because it is an apparatus that creates a new, out of reality experience by not being bound to space and time as humans, inspired by Bergson. Epstein explored film as an artificial intelligence and entailed what he called a “robot brain” (qtd. L’Intelligence d’une machine p. 71) because film possesses the ability to manipulate the subject in a grand display, that humans or other forms of art cannot. Epstein explains how the experience of watching a film separates the audience from our constant lives as a variable in time, but creates active visual images to release us.  Epstein’s defines film as “the sum of many irrealities” and a “machine for producing dreams” (qtd.  L’Intelligence d’une machine p. 55)

In Time-Image (Cinema II) Deleuze explains the relation between thought and film between the two time-image and movement-image theories. Deleuze believed that these two concepts produced a different spiritual experience. Both provide availability to the viewer through an experience of emotions and thought. Referencing the writings of  Eisenstein and Artaud to describe the idea of film producing thought outside of its mechanics.

Antonin Artaud, french poet, essayist, and theatre director, described the connection of a transcendental cinematic experience and automatic thought as \'a higher control which brings together critical and conscious thought and the unconscious in thought\'. Expressing that film is not a direct connection to ideas through a pure visual, but a de-assocation from reality. To Artaud, film was an independent connection of sporadic ideas, a montage various perspectives, that could not be unified. Artaud believed the experience of film as thought was purely \'neuro-physiological vibration\', that the thought was simply created by the movement of images passing along the screen. His notion was that cinema makes it impossible produce thought in the audience because before the viewer could dissect and think about one image, the projector has already placed another, thus, the process of thought connected to the image is constantly interrupted by another.

Soviet film director and film theorist, Eisenstein, believed that film was not just only a sanction of independant thought, but through the contrast between images that forms a film causes the audience to think as the piece in entirety and as a unity, thus, he believed in film as a truth. The one participating in the cinematic experience merely needs to grasp the ideas that are portrayed through the film, moving the image to thought in the viewer\'s perspective, producing a solid idea in his or her mind about one specific image, but the viewer can also correlate this single image into the whole film.

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