A Philosopher’s Time Travel Between Science and Fiction

Cinema is a major example of what Deleuze calls a “shock to thought” (Deleuze 1989, 156). Instead of being predetermined by an “image of thought” with its various implicit moral and representational presuppositions (Deleuze 1994, 129–67), Deleuze tries to expose himself fully to this shock that forces philosophers to think anew. In his cinema books, Deleuze analyzes how films deliver a new concept of image, which includes time, leaving all forms of representation behind: the “movement-image” that expresses time indirectly and the “time-image” that expresses time directly. Deleuze, who considers himself also as a science fiction author in the preface of Difference and Repetition (1994, xx–xxi), steps into the role of a “dark precursor” (ibid., 119) questioning the future of the image and our thinking about time.

My presentation will focus on the “series of time,” a third type of image that Deleuze briefly mentions in the second cinema book (Deleuze 1989, 55). To accomplish this task, I will analyse a complex science fiction thriller that gained a cult status over the years, Shane Carruth’s film Primer (2004). I argue that the film clarifies what Deleuze means by the “series of time,” insofar as Primer connects the time machine of the plot closely to a paradoxical element circulating between series. Reading Primer from the perspective of Deleuze’s cinema books also allows further consequences. First, showing how the time machine works in the film, the “series of time” can be clearly distinguished from the “time-image,” as instantiated in Alain Resnais’s Je t’aime je t’aime (1968). Second, the “series of time” allows us to reconnect Deleuze’s film-philosophy with Difference and Repetition. Third, the time machine in the film exposes principles of identity and resemblance as artificially constructed “primary” differences, thus supporting our understanding of Deleuze’s philosophical practice as a dark precursor itself. Fourth, the series of time opens up a new dimension of time beyond the succession model, as the powers of the false confront various possible worlds inconsistent with one another but sharing the same universe (the paradoxes of time travel). Finally, the series of time draws a line of flight from the newly elaborated notion of image toward the unseen interval between images. The shock of cinema, as the falsifying, forceful (self-)affection of time, forecasts new philosophical practices. For this reason, I intend in my presentation to adopt Deleuze’s somehow futuristic narration, oscillating between stringently arguing science and intentionally misleading fiction.

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1989. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press.