Speed / the paper ( selected chapters )


During the more than century-long history of movie-making, the artistic exploration of the possibilities of storytelling have developed in parallel with the mainstream movies ambition to create narrative conventions. When working in the field of digital narrativity, studies of the moving image grammar and syntax are productive. Especially the theoretic research into how the moving image relates to the process of human thought.
Here the ambition is not to study this large and complex research area in depth, rather to use theoretical viewpoints as an inspiration during the development of the project.

2.1 The Montage
In classic filmtheory, Sergej Eisensteins writings about the ”intellectual montage”, is regarded as a pioneering work. His theory is based on the presumption that two images viewed after each other creates a third in the consciousness of the observer, a theory developed from the logic of dialectics. The montage serves as a model for how associations and experiences can be communicated to the viewer.
”Our films are faced with the task of presenting not only a narrative that is logically connected, but one that contains a maximum of emotion and stimulating power.”(1)

A classic example on this method is to be found in the silent feature Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein 1925), in the famous stairway sequence were soldiers opens fire on civilians. Visually the sequence is constructed using an interplay between tight close-ups and wide panoramas. We see a rifle, a baby carriage, a womans face. Images that contain narrative elements by their own, linked together with the use of montage they trigger the strong emotional reaction of the scene in the viewers mind.
Eisenstein developed the theory of montage further from the basic model of ”1+1=3”, pointing out that each scene/image contained several narrative levels at play simultaneously, he called this process ”vertical montage” and defined its function: ”Each montage-piece has a double reponsibility - to build the total line as to continue the movement within each of the contributory themes.”(2)
In a summary of Eisenstein´s method, in the essay entitled ”Film – a thinking, seeing and hearing machine”, filmtheorist Anna Sofia Rossholm points out that ”the movement in film is comparable to the act of thinking and perception. The celloluid strip of still images that makes out the films rawmaterial creates a third cathegory in our minds eye: a movement. This mechanism, deepy rooted in our perception, also forms the basis of thinking.” (2)
Eisensteing developed his refinement of film form in an age were the audience to a large extend were analphabets. In russian massculture in the 1920´s, the written word was a tool among the well-off, the oral storytelling the narrative form used by the masses. Eisenstein worked in movies before sound, thus being able to focus on the language of the moving image.
When developing his montage theory Eisenstein had a wider ambition than finding tools for communication of ideas – ”the process of creating awareness through the use of the film montage is developed in close analogy with the process of thought and the mechanics of film.”(3)

The artistic montage as method and form fascinated the contemporary surrealists, in ”L´Age d`Or”, Luis Bunüel and Salvador Dalis experimental silent movie from 1928, there are striking examples on the power of illusions created by the visual montage. Their artistic focus were on the creation of a cinematic dream language were association and deliberate shifts in the realistic perspective created an experience beyond the control of consciousness.
Other experimental filmmakers of the time, as the swede Viking Eggeling, worked with formal abstract images and animations, used the image frame as a research palette for investigations of movement and rhytm. His short movie ”Diagonalsymphonie” (Eggeling 1924) is considered a classic abstract piece of work in movie making. Another contemporary work is Ballet Méchanique (Léger 1923-24) in which the artist Ferdinand Léger staged the mechanical surfaces of painting in animated sequences. The film worked with themes and variations on a theme to create a narrative flow, an inspiration from classic music as pointed out by the filmtheorist David Boardwell in an analysis, ”Ballet Méchanique uses the theme-and-variation approach in a complex way, introducing many individual motifs in rapid succesion, then bringing them back at intervals and in different combinations.” (4)
These abstract experiments forms another line of investigations into the esthetic of the moving image, they were created in an artistic climate were futurists engaged themselves in the estethetics of the machine age and can be viewed as a parallel with these ideas.
Some of these early pioneering directors managed to transform a personal cinematic language into the massmedium of motion pictures, one of them being Bunüel. In his films he often used scenarios were dreams, elements of chance and fragmented memories shaped narrative structures. Late movies like Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie (Bunüel 1973) and Le fantôme de la liberté (Bunüel 1974) uses visual elements that challenge the basic elements of visual narration.

2.2 The New Wave
In line with the development of the movie industry into a narrative massmedium, the experiments became more and more marginalized. The artistic strategies limited itself to the content, using the moving image to comment and shape our view of the world. But with the french ”new wave” in the 60´s a new generation of filmmakers were established, deliberately using the the filmic form as an integrated, denotative element in narration.
This wave was artisticly heteroegenous, some of the filmmakers focused on contemporary stories, while others challenged the way movies represented reality. Directors like Chris Marker, Alain Resnais and Jean-Luc Godard investigated the artistic possibilities of narration in filmmaking, at the same time speaking of film as the New Art, created for and by the modern human. In Godard´s work an interest for the montage as an creative element is evident, he spoke of the assemblage as a specific filmic language; image and sound delivers meaning separately, freed from syncronity they can be linked differently and in that act create new contexts. In his debute A Bout de Suffle (Godard 1959) his experimented with breaking down the time and story logic of a traditional thriller narrative into a new free form.
Resnais cooperated with several writers that are regarded as innovators of the french novel. For the feature movie Last Year in Marienbad (Resnais 1961) the writer Alain Robbe-Grillet created a scenario free from the logic of time, based on memories and Resnais proceeded that narrative method by deconstructing the movies visual language. An artistic endevour he began with his debute feature Hiroshima Mon Amour (Resnais 1959) where he used the screenplay by writer Marguerite Duras as a kind of radio drama. Resnais uses silent images of a passionate love story between a japanese man and a french woman, on the soundtrack they communicate with each other, but never in moving images. Parallel documentary footage of the atombomb and the post-war reality in Japan are intertwined. As Peter Cowie notes in his ”A Concise History of the Cinema” : ”…builds his film out of the interplay of thought and action, memory and desire.” (5)
La Jetée (1962), a photo-novel by director Chris Marker, is an investigation of how film can use memory and time to construct a story based solely on black and white still images and a narrative on the soundtrack. The plot transports the protagonist from a close future back to childhood and a love affair in past tense, into the future were the man realizes he cannot change his destiny. Time are dissolved as the man, from his childhoods point of view, watches himself die.

Many filmtheorists has pointed out La Jetée as a unique narrative experiment of how an image can be used as a methaphor for memory. Jean-Louis Schefer reflects over this in the catalogue to the exhibition ”Passages of the Image” över detta. ”The originality of Chris Marker´s film obviously resides in the work of the image itself: a framing of the most obscure zone´s of memory´s fragility and unpredictabiblity; and a montage that replicates gaps in recollection”. (6)
The form in Markers film are developed from a methodological narrative context; memory narrative, fragmented pieces of events and timelapses are used as an challenge to expand the borders of form and technology. The script served as basis for the movie 12 Monkeys (Gilliam 1995), were the intricate play with the dissolvment of time were staged using digital special effects.
Many filmmakers in modern cinema have shown that memories and dreams can act as important inspiration for constructing cinematic narratives; Frederico Fellini in 8 ½ (Fellini 1965) used a writers daydream as a starting point for the movies visual sceneries, in To the End of the World (1991) Wim Wenders used a science-fiction story framework to visualize a technological future were science have the abilities to control the human memories basic functions.
The french/european cinema during the 1960´s are central in moviemaking history both as cinematic epoque and for the filmtheory basis created by critics/directors around the magazine Cahiers d`Cinema. They created a term to label a director as an unique artistic contributer in moviemaking - l´auteur. The point being that filmmaking was more than a massmedium, filmmaking was an artistic creation. The personal language and expression used by the filmmaker was as pregnant as the literary language, as ideabased and conceptually andvanced as the language of ”high” art.

2.3 Time-image – Movement-image
In the french ”new wave” climate with its strong theoretical and formal awareness, the interest for cinema as bearer and enactor of artistic ideas and contemporary opinions spread among theorists. The philosopher Gilles Deleuze formulated a theory of the cinematic language in ”L´image-movement” and ”L´image-temps”. Filmtheorist Anna Sofia Rossholm points out that Deleuze in his writing articulates how ”film creates conceptions and ideas, cinematic ideas, that cannot be defined or pinpointed since they by their nature constantly change, intertwine and affect each other into new meaning.” (7)

A basic conception in Deleuze´ philosophical cinematic theory is the differentiation between ”movement-image” and ”time-image”. These terms define two main narrative strategies, summarized as ”american” and ”european”. The european cinema takes an interest in dream, psychoanalysis and intellectual experiences, while the american put emphasis on events and action.
”European cinema saw in this a means of breaking with the ‘American‘ limitations of the action-image, and also of reaching a mystery of time, of uniting image, thought and camera in a single ‘automatic subjectivity‘, in contrast to the over-objective conception of the Americans”. (8)

With this description of differences in the cinematic media between the european and american, Deleuze´ focus on a creative choice, the subjective against the objective. In analogy to this resoning, european filmmakers in general are more interested in introspection, while the americans focus on story, on events and actions in their cinematic narratives.
Deleuze takes an interest not only in overall analysis, in his writings he also goes in close encounter with the cinematic form and analyzes different montage and editing techniques, as well as visual perspectives. One term he establishes is the irrational cut, in doing this he recycles Eistenstein´s theories of montage as a thought process, Deleuze calls the concept ”a cinema of the brain”.
In her essay Anna Sofia Rossholm concludes that - ”Deleuze bestows the moving image with a capability of thought, of being a ’thinking machine’ ”.(9) This notion of cinema as an prolongment of the human memory and the brains capabilities to associate and create meaning, is a description of the media even more relevant if you take in consideration the possibilities of digital technology and the moving image.

2.4 Cinema as story world
Another theorethical view on the cinematic montage and narrative model can be found reading Edward Branigan who takes the audience viewpoint in his analysis of the narrative tools in film media. In his essay ”Story World and Screen” he argues from a welldefined theorethical view on cinematic narrative :
"Narrative is a way of comprehending space, time, and casuality. Since in film there are at least two important frames of reference for understanding space, time, and casuality, narrative in film is the principle by which data is converted from the frame of the screen into a diegesis -– a world – that frames a particular story, or sequence of actions, in the world; equally, it is the principle by which data is converted from story onto screen." (10)

Branigan notes that several simultaneous readings of a movie takes place when an observer screens the image, partly ”bottom-up”, a perceptual decoding of shadows, deep, movement and space; partly through a thought process ”based on acquired knowledge and schemas, not constrained by stimulus time, and work `top-down´ on the data, using a spectator´s expectations and goals as principles of organization.” (9) Seen in this context the cinematic narration simultaneous works back and forth in time, the observer uses personal association to interpret the events in a sequence, at the same time building an expectation on the continuation. Branigan concludes further:
”Because top-down processes are active in watching a film, a spectator´s cognitive activity is not restricted to the particular moment being viewed in a film. Instead the spectator is able to move forward and backward through screen data in order to experiment with a variety of syntactical, semantic, and referential hypotheses; as Ian Jarvie notes, `We cannot see movies without thinking about them«”. (11)

Cinema narrative is a linear sequence of images, a montage, but the cinematic experience from the observers point of view is a composite experience backward, forward and in present time; a vertical montage to use Eisenstein´s terminology. Also, in Braningan´s model it is the observer that must be regarded ”the thinking machine” not the cinema as Deleuze wrote in his model.
No matter which theory perspective you consider to be relevant for analysis of the narrative process in the film media, it is necessary to be aware of the structural connections in the creation of cinematic works. With digital narrativity tools, the connections between the computer screen and the user constitutes a process with several dimensions. The second technological revolution where the computer can be regarded as the ”thinking machine” creates an expanded narrative stage, a media where theorethical strategies can be staged in cinematic form.

2.5 Cinema in computer / Computer in cinema

Artificial intelligence – A I – is a research area fuelled with stuff for the imagination, it creates an attractive base of narrative material. The A I – scenario implies that mankind today can create a machine capable of storing huge quantities of information, a machine with a memory that never fails (in theory), a machine with an interface, image and sound, camera and recorder; everything it needs to develop self-governed thinking and creation (again in theory).
The visualization of these fantasies using up-to-date digital technology, with animations in real-time and special effects, makes the fantasy alive. The science-fictionmovie The Matrix (Warchowski Brothers 1999) is settled in a world where the borders between the artificial reality and the actual are dissolved. A code – The Matrix – controls and creates all life, it is pure Artificial Intelligence.
The characters in the movie are at the same time real and representations of themselves in a supercomputer. The linearity of time is as dissolved as the logic of history. An aggressive hacker in the 1990´s can create a system collapse in the future, a ”cookie” can be equipped with all necessary information to have the power to control the code.
Basically an action story, fuelled with traditional good and evil components, the good protagonist depicted as a man with messaic qualities and evil represented by artificial agents that can move freely in the digital universe, their goal is for the Machine=The Matrix to take over control of its own destiny.

The Matrix is a contemporary exemple of the possibilities of traditional storytelling to enact complex theories and ideas on a vertical level. Digital visual effects can help us in understanding abstract theories of artificial intelligence and the computers ability to simulate reality. At the same time, Matrix is an example on the need for a closure in manistream movie language, the basic theme being Mankinds victory over the machine; true to this model, the ending of the movie leaves no uncertainty of the outcome of this struggle. The entertainment industry seems, at least in the example of The Matrix, to keep the agreements of content, even when depicting the digital rooms dissolvement in time and space.

(1) Eisenstein, Sergei The Film Sense s4 (Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc 1942)
(2) Eisenstein, Sergei The Film Sense s76 (Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc 1942)
(3) Rossholm, Anna Sofia ”Filmen - en tänkande, seende och hörande maskin” Dagens Nyheter 2001-01-18.
(4) Bordwell, David ”Nonnarrative Formal Systems” s149 Film art, an introduction. (McCraw-Hill 1997)
(5) Cowie, Peter A Concise History of The Cinema s104 (A.Zwemmer Ltd London, A.S. Barnes & co. New York 1971)
(6) Schefer, Jean-Louis The Enigmatic Body (Cambridge University Press 1995) återgivet på http://mason.gmu.edu/~psmith5/trans.html 2001-04-24
(7) see footnote 3.
(8) Donato, Totaro Off Screen essays, Gilles Deleuze´s Bergsonian Film Project. http://www.horschamp.qc.ca/9903/offscreen_essays 2001-04-23 Quote taken from english translation of Gilles Deleuze Cinema 2: The Time-Image. (London: The Athlone Press (1989).
(9) see footnote 3.
(10) Braningan, Edward ”Story World and Screen” Narratology; An Introduction s239-240 (Longman London and New York, 1996)
(11) ibid


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