Studia Phaenomenologica

Volume 16, 2016

Film and Phenomenology

Corry Shores
Pages 343-372

Cinematic Signs and the Phenomenology of Time
Deleuze and the Visual Experience of Temporal Depth

By means of Vivian Sobchack’s semiotic film phenomenology, we may examine our immediate perceptual acts in film experience in order to determine the ways that the primordial language of embodied existence found at this primary level grounds the secondary level of the more explicit interpretations we give to the film’s elements. Although Gilles Deleuze is openly defiant toward the phenomenological tradition, his studies of film experience can serve this purpose as well, because he is interested in the direct and pre-verbal significance of cinematic images. To bring his observations more fruitfully into film phenomenological studies, I will examine his notion of the discordantly operating body and offer a phenomenological interpretation for his notion of cinematic signs. I then apply this Deleuzian semiotic film phenomenology to his analysis of deep focus cinematography in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941). When watching one particular scene, different layers of our film experience, namely, those of visual and of temporal depth, collide in such a way that they provide the phenomenal basis for us to produce a temporal interpretation of the spatial relations held between the displayed images.