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Cinema 2: Preface to the English Language Edition

This is the passage in Act I, Scene 5, in Hamlet, cited in the Preface to the English edition of Deleuze’s Cinema 2: The Time Image (p xi). Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus have just seen the ghost of Hamlet’s father, their late King. The deceased king has visited the castle, and Hamlet, to see to it that his death is avenged. The phrase “time is out of joint” occurs in Hamlet’s last line, the closing line of Act I.

The story thus far: Night guards see an apparition of the late King of Denmark, and call Horatio to see it as well; Horatio sees it as a bad omen. Hamlet’s uncle Claudius has just married Hamlet’s mother Gertrude, the queen of Denmark—shortly after his brother’s (Hamlet’s father’s) death. As we enter this part of the story Claudius has been urging Hamlet to cease his overly long period of mourning for his father. Hamlet finds himself inconsolable, bitterly depressed, and even suicidal. Then he learns of the apparition that Horatio and friends have seen. When he visits the apparition himself, his father reveals that his death had been a murder at Claudius’ hands, and urges Hamlet to avenge it.

In the final scene, Hamlet urges those present not to reveal what they have seen. In the excerpt below, he also informs them that in his plot to avenge his father, he may act mad (“put an antic disposition on”); in that case, they are sworn not to reveal anything about the ghost or what events motivate Hamlet in this way—not even with shakes of the head or quiet acknowledgments of what has been untold.

HAMLET Hic et ubique? Then we’ll shift our ground.
Come hither, gentlemen,
And lay your hands again upon my sword:
Never to speak of this that you have heard,
Swear by my sword.

Ghost [Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET Well said, old mole! canst work i’ the earth so fast?
A worthy pioner! Once more remove, good friends.

HORATIO O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

HAMLET And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But come;
Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd soe’er I bear myself,
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on,
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
With arms encumber’d thus, or this headshake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As ‘Well, well, we know,’ or ‘We could, an if we would,’
Or ‘If we list to speak,’ or ‘There be, an if they might,’
Or such ambiguous giving out, to note
That you know aught of me: this not to do,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you, Swear.

Ghost [Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET Rest, rest, perturbed spirit!
[They swear]
So, gentlemen,
With all my love I do commend me to you:
And what so poor a man as Hamlet is
May do, to express his love and friending to you,
God willing, shall not lack. Let us go in together;
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.
The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let’s go together.



The notion that “time is out of joint” is invoked in the introduction to Cinema 2 with many potential layers of detail potentially engaged—Hamlet’s immediate request for various kinds of secrecy, the ‘wrong’ timing of his mother’s remarriage, and the ghost itself as a disordering of life and death. For Deleuze, though, the phrase culminates to the notion that “time is no longer suburdinated to movement, but rather movement to time.”

To argue a narrower timeframe, Deleuze claims that in the postwar period, we have found a greater frequency of “the situations which we no longer know how to react to, in spaces which we no longer know how to describe.”


“What is specific to the image, as soon as it is creative [as soon as it ‘represents’; as soon as ‘the variable present’ emerges from it (cf. same paragraph)], is to make perceptible, to make visible, relationships of time which cannot be seen in the represented object and which cannot allow themselves to be reduced to the present.”

[BLC: in other words—the time image of post-war cinema brings perceptions of time into being in representations of the present, in part, he says, because, in the world from which the images are drawn, we can increasingly inhabit situations and landscapes that bely reaction and description. Compare this to E.P. Thompson’s claim that in the world after the proliferation of clocks and pocket-watches, and after the organization of time-valued labor, we have a different relationship not only to time but to social structure and standing.]

Deleuze also makes an example of this by referring to long, relatively static takes with which Tarkovsky famously builds tension; the idea here is that audiences “lean in” to the film and build the tension througoh their anticipation of the expected cuts. 

“…we are plunged into time rather than crossing space”, i.e. in depth-of-field (or “deep focus”) shots in Citizen Kane, or tracking shots in Visconti. (For example, a shot shows young Kane in the distance, playing in the snow and fantasizing about the civil war, but with no frame of reference. Then the field of reference is revealed, as we pan out to reveal an indoor scene in which the boy’s future is discussed without his knowledge.) (Then praises Welles for characters who “occupy a giant-sized place in time rather than changing place in space.”)

(antithesis/counterexample) “…the time-image has nothing to do with a flashback, or even with a recollection.” In these, we merely refer to another present. “Flashback is only a signpost…” making possible digressions in time, or a ‘forking’ of time (cf. Mankiewicz).

(thesis/by contrast): “a…direct time-image...clearly goes beyond the purely empirical succession of time — past, present, future.” “It is, for example, a coexistence of distinct durations, or of levels of duration; a single event can belong to several levels: the sheets of past coexist in a non-chronological order.” (References to Resnais & Welles, but music is a more apt locus for this quality.)

(prospectus:) “release [temporal structures] that the cinematographic image has been able to grasp and reveal, and which can echo the teachings of science, what the other arts can uncover for us, or what philosophy makes understandable for us, each in their respective ways.”


“It is foolish to talk about the death of the cinema because cinema is still at the beginning of its investigations: making visible these relationships of time which can only appear in a creation of the image. The relations and disjunctions between visual and sound, between what is seen and what is said, revitalize the problem and endow cinema with new powers for capturing time in the image (in quite different ways…).”



Reader Comments (1)


(Hugh Tomlinson & Robert Galeta, "Translators' Introduction")

"This book ... is not a question of 'applying' philosophical concepts to the cinema. Philosophy works with the concepts which the cinema itself gives rise to."

"Deleuze... 'works alongside' the cinema, producing a classification of its images and signs but reordering them for new purposes."

Apr 16, 2019 at 12:06 AM | Registered CommenterBen Carson

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