Innocent When You Dream: Affect and Perception through Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Innocence

In Passing
In Parables for the Virtual (2002), Brian Massumi argues that movement and sensation are integral to the body. Massumi describes the body in motion as in relation to its potential; that is, in relation to its variations, rather than being a coherent or consistent entity. The body in motion reverberates with its own potential in process. This potential body is at once present to and of the physical body. It is this potentiality that Massumi describes as ‘the incorporeal dimension of the body’. [1] Massumi defines this relation between the body and its modulations as real and incorporeal simultaneously: describing it as ‘inseparable, coincident, but disjunct’. [2] Sensation is always accompanied by an awareness of sensation, which Massumi terms resonance, occurring not at the point of sensory contact but in a space between.

Yet this relation between sensation and awareness – this resonance – is immediate. It is this immediacy that Massumi describes as intensity. Intensity is experience. It is that which exists at the incorporeal level of the body, an event made from the materiality of the body itself. [3] Massumi argues: ‘intensity is immanent to matter and to events, to mind and to body … it … cannot but be experienced, in effect – in the proliferations of levels of organisation it ceaselessly gives rise to, generates and regenerates, at every suspended moment’. [4] Defining this relation between the body and its modulations as real but abstract, Massumi goes on to describe the body as being ‘as immediately abstract as it is concrete; its activity and expressivity extend, as on their underside, into an incorporeal, yet perfectly real, dimension of pressing potential’. [5] Here, abstract means ‘never present in position, only ever in passing’. [6]

This rendering of the abstract is apposite to film. ‘Only ever in passing’, film’s materiality – its formal elements – are perpetually in motion. For Jean Epstein, ‘cinema is all movement without any need for stability or equilibrium … It opposes the event to stasis, relationship to dimension’. [7] Film moves forward: temporally, diegetically and, traditionally at least, physically moving with the apparatus of recording and projection. Its material elements – frames, cuts, shot depth and duration, lighting, sound and the construction and editing of scenes and segments – continually move and shift, registering through their modulation, their passing over. What these elements form is a cinematic body in motion. And it is with this motion, with the movement of the abstract – as it is within the body – that sensation connects and intermingles.

This is not to suggest that film is literally a body, or acts as a body. An inanimate object, a series of splices and cuts of celluloid or digital file space, film cannot feel or sense – but it can effect sensation, emotion and a dynamic awareness of embodiment. Lesley Stern has stated that ‘the camera has the capacity to perform in such a way as to move and to mark: to move and mark bodies within the diegesis and to move and mark – kinetically, aesthetically, emotionally – viewing bodies’. [8] Extending Stern’s understanding beyond the capacities of the camera, the facility to affect, to register in and of the spectator’s body, can be found in the economy of shot structure and duration, framing, lighting, colour, cuts, breaks and dissolves, sound, music and the logic of the modulation of all these elements throughout. These aspects can be understood to ‘move and mark’, affecting and moving the spectatorial body. As spectators, film can move us out of our selves, beyond our selves and into our selves. We can be moved to connect with the film, to be part of it, to feel it through the very movement of its abstract elements.

Lucille Hadzihalilovic’s Innocence (2004) demonstrates this capacity, allowing us to explore the possibility that through cinema we can experience not only the representations of emotions, but also the dynamics and rhythm of emotion. What we feel is a way of feeling, a way of being in and of our bodies – and we feel this through film itself. Among the diverse films sometimes grouped as a ‘cinema of the senses’, Innocence is a powerful experience of visual and aural texture and density that, as Vivian Sobchack notes, immerses its audience in sensation, in an ‘immediacy of encounter’. [9]

The Rules of Innocence
Inspired by Frank Wedekind’s 1903 novella, Mine-Haha, or On the Bodily Education of Young Girls, Innocence is set in a secluded world structured around its own corporeal logic. Within cultivated parklands bordered by high walls, this cloistered world contains no boys or men. Rather, groups of girl, aged progressively from seven to twelve are housed together, their seniority signalled by the colour of the velvet ribbons tied in their braids and pig-tails. The girls’ adult contact is limited primarily to two young teachers: Mlle Edith (Hélène de Fougerolles) instructs the girls in biology, while ballet is taught by Mlle Eva (Marion Cotillard). And there are the spectral figures of the elderly housekeepers whose presence offers a salutary warning about what happens to girls who attempt to escape. For, while this place is described as ‘home’, the only way of leaving for all but a select few is to grow to puberty, at which point they are taken on an underground train away from this intimate world of childhood. What lies outside the walls and in the girls’ futures is unstated, although it is evident that the training of their young bodies through education and play, along with the older girls’ nocturnal dance performances to an unseen audience and the injunction that ‘obedience is the only path to happiness’, all point toward the female body as something to be mastered.

But the world of Innocence is that of childhood or, more specifically, girlhood. It is a world of pleasure, desire, fear, anxiety and foreboding; and it is the dynamics of these affects that the spectator experiences. These affects emerge from the material elements of the film, effecting a spectatorial experience that is at once immediate and embodied. While the plot and characters elicit an emotional response, it is the granular and abstract elements – those material aspects and their rhythms and dynamics that cohere to make up the shots, scenes, sequences and the body of the film as a whole – that affect. Figuring affect as an experience of immediacy that occurs in the body understood as both real and abstract, the affective experience of the abstract elements of Innocence can be understood as one of linkage or connection through the arcs, dynamics, shapes or rhythms of affect, rather than the specificity of verisimilitude and representation.

The luscious, precise quality of the images is a critical element of the film, contributing significantly to its affective potential. [10] Working with Director of Photography Benoît Debie, who is known for his work with Hadzihalilovic’s collaborator Gaspar Noé as well as with Dario Argento, Hadzihalilovic established a set of visual rules. With notable exceptions, the camera is static, a technique described by Hadzihalilovic as akin to ‘pinning butterflies in a box’. [11] Shot in Super 16 using CinemaScope, then digitally enhanced to deepen the colour saturation, Debie and Hadzihalilovic also employed unsettling day-for-night shots, and avoided the use of additional set lighting. The frames are precisely engineered, every detail refined. Yet they are also loaded, seemingly unable to contain the image as it spills over the edge of the frame itself.

Simultaneously, in the fixed framing, muted lighting and largely diegetic soundscape, there is a constant awareness of absence, of elements that are cut off, left out or, alternatively, lingering as a presence at the edge of the shot. These self-imposed technical rules contribute to the pervasive sense of being out-of-time or other-worldly. This uncanny sensibility is reinforced in the temporally ambiguous costume of white shirt and short pleated skirts with brown leather boots the girls wear, the set design and the sparse musical score. Further, it emerges in the discordant rhythms that effect temporal as well as rhythmic disjunctions or eruptions.

In the opening segment, intercut between the credits, a series of shots move us incrementally into this world – both into the physical environment and its affective dynamics.

The sequence begins and ends in a whirl of textures. The image is initially unplaceable. As it progresses, the shapes and forms that flit across the screen suggest at once the grainy quality of an ultrasound, escaping bubbles of air, or a microscopic view of plasma. The image is rapid, mobile and agile, yet in the static framing there is a fixity – an overwhelming proximity. The tone is muted and the dull rumbling sound is almost a non-sound, experienced as pressure or density.

The scene is cut by the title shot before returning to this murky depth. With the return, the framing is now more distant; it becomes clear that the mobile texture is that of rushing bubbles of air in water. However, there is still no context for this image. Instead, our experience is immediate. The chaotic motion is constrained within the still, tight framing and this clash of motion, pulse and stasis is felt as tension. This visual rub of the rapidly mobile against the fixed is experienced as a claustrophobic constriction or compression within the frame. It is an oppressive experience that is startling for its immediacy. Returning to Massumi provides a way of figuring this experience of the relation between the granular elements as affect – as an experience that resonates in and of the body.

The Immediacy of the Material
In describing intensity, Massumi uses the terms resonation, interference, amplification and dampening, arguing that there is no direct correspondence between intensity and content, as intensity interrupts the linear flow of narrative with a non-linear logic. He argues that ‘intensity is … a state of suspense, potentially of disruption’. [12] This qualitative, modulated or vital experience of immediacy that Massumi calls intensity can also be understood as affect.

For Massumi, affect is the actual and the virtual simultaneously. Affects are autonomous in that they exist between, across and in a collusion or collision of sense perceptions. Simultaneously, affects are experienced from the actual. As a physical reality, affects are delimited by the body, experienced within the parameters of the body and understood as sensations and emotions. Emotion is understood semiotically and semantically; it is distinct from the immediacy, vibration and pulse of affect/intensity. Emotion is the expression of the ‘capture and closure’ of affect, a palimpsest of an excess that is unexpressed or immanent; emotion is, for Massumi, ‘intensity owned and recognised’. [13] In contrast, it is in its synthetic quality, in the experience of an immediacy of the body as event that the distinctiveness of affect emerges. Affect, then, is an experience of the body as an immediacy, as an event that coheres in a logic in and of the body, both corporeal and incorporeal, both real and virtual.

Massumi’s rendering of intensity and affect provides a useful framework for understanding the experience of Innocence. Having established an understanding of affect and intensity as an immediacy – as an experience of the body as event – we can consider how the material elements of film can affect. It is these elements in motion, in connection and juxtaposition, in their vibration and potential, which are felt as immediacy. These elements resonate, producing an affective experience that can not only augment or exemplify the narrative, but can modulate, intensify or suspend the narrative flow, operating at the level of the shot, or in the textual connections between shots that build as memory – as bodily memory – through the film.

In the closing sequence of Innocence, as the older girls emerge from the chrysalis of the school, the progressively interiorising shots that opened the film are reversed. The frame steadily captures more of the built environment and, for the first time, an uninterrupted view of the sky and the sun. The pubescent girls gather and play at the edge of a fountain in a public square. Bianca (Berangère Haubruge), now stripped down to her childish white singlet and skirt, climbs into the fountain and splashes in the water with a young man. [14] The transition from the intimate, enclosed world defined by childhood into the overtly sexual, male-dominated public space is readily apparent. And it emerges powerfully in the abstract and affective experience of the sequence.

As this scene progresses, the sound of the water cascading from the fountain is augmented by a rumble akin to that which is heard in the opening sequence. The water falls in strobes, cutting or severing the image, like scratches on celluloid. The variations in camera movement, in counterpoint to the static framing that predominates, along with the dissolve of the image, are startling. It is as though the materiality of film itself consumes the image, just as the rhythms of desire and burgeoning adolescent sexuality consume the body. The speed, motion, shapes and forms themselves register in a blurring of senses and perceptions that is experienced as intensity. Our visual and aural perception of motion and rhythm resonate as an event of the body, as the immediacy and not the content of desire, hope and an abandon that is at once consuming, pleasurable and terrifying.

At this moment, the materiality of film, the modulation of the rhythms of the camera’s movement, lighting, framing and sound are experienced in and of the spectator’s body. We are, to borrow from Jean Louis Schefer, the ‘final judge’ of the film, ‘its body and its experimental consciousness’. [15] That these formal elements are felt and experienced as intensity, as an immediacy in and of the corporeal and (as Massumi describes) incorporeal body, follows the logic of affect. But this also raises a number of questions: how is it we can understand the way in which the movement of elements throughout a shot or across a film can be felt in the body? How do we describe or make sense of the way that we experience the drift of particles on the screen, the dissolve of the image, the attenuated, viscous slip of the camera, or the jolt of a cut as an experience of feeling?

Feeling a Way Through
In his 1985 book, The Interpersonal World of the Infant, Daniel Stern sets out what he calls a ‘working hypothesis about infants’ subjective experience of their own social life’. [16] For Stern, the first approximately fifteen months of an infant’s life are marked by the development of four senses of self. The emergent self forms from birth to two months, during which time the infant begins to develop a sense of organisation around the relation of self with others. The sense of the core self forms between two and six months, and sees the infant establishing a sense of self and other as distinct. Between seven and fifteen months, the sense of a subjective self emerges. As Stern describes it so succinctly, in this developing sense ‘the infant discovers that he or she has a mind and that other people have minds as well’ – and that the mind’s subject matter or subjective experiences are shareable with others. [17] Finally, with the sense of a verbal self which forms at approximately fifteen months, Stern suggests that the infant is able to create mutually shared meanings through words. Yet this same capacity simultaneously creates a distance from the ways of relating established in the three other senses of self, posing a ‘problem for the integration of self-experience and self-with-other experiences’. [18] The privileging of a shared, verbal rendering of meaning over the experiences of the other senses of self and self-with-other continues into adulthood.

While, in the infant’s early months, each of these domains of relatedness follow one another in a successive chain, each requiring the earlier domains as a basis for development, once formed, they remain as forms or modes of experiencing our selves and others throughout our lives, coexisting and interrelating. Stern’s position on this is clear; he states that ‘none of them atrophy, none become developmentally obsolete or get left behind … Once formed, the domains remain forever as distinct forms of experiencing social life and self. None are lost to adult experience. Each simply gets more elaborated’. [19] Despite the favouring of the verbal, these other modes of experience remain available to us into adulthood. The coexistent and on-going experience of these domains of relatedness throughout life is a key point in Stern’s hypothesis, providing a mechanism for considering the immediate, intensive or affective experience of film as an experience of a different subjective mode. [20]

Turning to the first of these domains, the sense of the emergent self is described simply as ‘an awareness of the process of living an experience’, and is ‘the fundamental domain of human subjectivity’. [21] Stern goes on to describe the sense of the emergent self as ‘the ultimate reservoir that can be dipped into for all creative experience’. [22] While a new-born is not self-reflexive, the development of a sense of self is only made possible through organisation, through an order to the infant’s experiences of themselves and others. The experience of the emergent self is the coming into being of this organisation. This comes about when the experiences the infant has are connected or related or (as Stern describes it) yoked. For Stern, this sense of the emergent self is most critically the processes of this developing organisation, and only to a lesser degree its outcomes or products, which cohere to form the sense of a core self. [23] ‘The sense of an emergent self is a sort of “pulse” … which continually respecifies the living self in the process of experiencing’. [24] This figuring of the pulse that is the emergence of organisation recalls Massumi’s understanding of the vibratory pulse that is experienced as affect – reminding us once again of the motion and movement, the sense of continual immediacy that marks both the body and film itself.

Stern identifies a series of processes active in the formation of the emergent self. These are modes in which infants experiences their world, making connections that suggest an incipient organisation or system of relatedness. [25] For Stern, rather than being a learned behaviour, infants have an innate capacity to recognise the connection between an object as it is seen and as it is felt through touch. Moreover, their perceptual connectedness extends beyond this visual and tactile correspondence to encompass other modalities of perception such as light, sound, temporality, shape or intensity. Here is Stern’s description of this capacity, which he terms amodal perception:

Infants appear to experience a world of perceptual unity, in which they can perceive amodal qualities in any modality from any form of human expressive behaviour, represent these qualities abstractly, and then transpose them in other modalities. … These abstract representations … are not sights and sounds and touches and nameable objects, but rather shapes, intensities, and temporal patterns – the more ‘global’ qualities of experience. [26]

Amodal perception is an experience not simply of discrete entities, but of abstractions. This is also a fitting description of how we experience the abstract elements of film or, indeed, how we experience elements of film as abstractions; as shapes, rhythms, patterns, slippages of time and as intensities. Amodal perception allows us a means of conjecturing about the ways in which cuts, movement, framing, lighting, figures within a shot, or the movement of figures between shots, sound and other plastic or granular elements can be understood not simply as sights and sounds but as vibrations, textures, abstractions and global, bodily experiences. Recognised in this way, we can experience the specific materiality of film across modalities – amodally – as intensity and affect; not only, or even primarily, through its anticipated or objective mode of perception.

Another central process of the emergent self: vitality affects. Underlining the distinction between vitality affects and categorical affects – those discrete categories of emotion such as anger, sadness, happiness, fear, shame or surprise – Stern argues that vitality affects are ‘better captured by dynamic, kinetic terms, such as “surging”, “fading away”, “fleeting”, “explosive”, “crescendo”, “decrescendo”, “bursting”, “drawn out”, and so on …’ [27] Vitality affects apply not simply to emotions, but also to encounters that have no emotional significance, with divergent events or experiences able to be linked or yoked through the dynamic or pattern of the experience.

Drawing on Susanne K. Langer’s book of 1953, Feeling and Form, Stern cites abstract dance and music as exemplary of vitality affects. Stern suggests that, in these art forms, the way of feeling is often what is being expressed, rather than a content or category of feeling. For Langer, the work of art – recalling Baudry’s notion of cinema as a ‘simulation apparatus’ – is a semblance, an abstraction of forms which present the ‘life of feeling’, ‘a stream of tensions and resolutions’ felt through the body. [28] Langer argues that the work of art, with its relations of elements, is a form symbolic of human feeling. It is in Langer’s description of music that we can most clearly see her understanding of the dynamic of feeling present in art in terms that prefigure, by over thirty years, Stern’s own description of the kinetic and dynamic nature of vitality affects:

The tonal structures we call ‘music’ bear a close logical similarity to the forms of human feeling – forms of growth and of attenuation, flowing and sowing, conflict and resolution, speed, arrest, terrific excitement, calm or subtle activation and dreamy lapses – not joy and sorrow perhaps, but the poignancy of either and both – the greatness and brevity and eternal passing of everything vitally felt. … Music is the tonal analogue of emotive life. [29]

Similarly, and by extension, what we perceive or feel through film lies not only in the content or category of the affect – whether what is being conveyed is happy or sad – but in its intensity and modulation, in the flow and form, peaks and dynamics of its elements. We perceive these forms through what we can understand as an amodal or global perception of film elements, allowing us to connect the sights and sounds as intensities and patterns which are experienced as the dynamics or rhythm of affect – its analogue.

In an appendix to Feeling and Form, entitled ‘A Note on Film’, Langer engages explicitly with cinema, foreshadowing the later deployment of her work by theorists such as Richard Dyer. [30] Arguing that film is omnivorous, Langer suggests that it ‘swallows everything’, including other art forms, turning them into aspects of itself. [31] Cinema’s rapacious capacity extends further still: it ‘enthrals and commingles all the senses’. [32] While focusing on the power of words to ‘punctuate the vision’ and music to reinforce ‘the unity of its shifting “world”’, film ‘needs many, often convergent, means to create the continuity of emotion which holds it together while its visions roam through space and time’. [33] For Langer, film assimilates these diverse elements and is able to ‘transform them into non-pictorial elements’. [34] These elements – which we can describe as the abstract – punctuate, converge and unify, possessing a rhythm that is, by extension, the rhythm of affect. The rhythms of ‘everything vitally felt’ are present in the material or abstract elements of film. Rather than the specific content of emotion – as Langer says, ‘not joy and sorrow perhaps, but the poignancy of either and both’ – these elements carry the logic of emotion, effecting a cinema of the body, in which the body and emotion emerge through the movement of a film’s abstract economy, resonating in and with the body of the spectator.

Stern’s figuring of vitality affects, informed by Langer, can help us to render the ways in which the movements and dynamics of the abstract in film can be experienced as affect through a shared rhythm, pattern or activation contour. Thus, the speed of a cut can be experienced as a bursting or rushing and connected with an explosive affect – not through the content of the image, but through the arc or dynamic of the two experiences. Along a similar activation contour, a dynamic or rhythm found in music and the camera’s movement can be yoked, the two seemingly disparate or distinct events experienced as a common vitality affect. Through Stern’s understanding of vitality affects, the formal, material elements of film can be grasped as yoked to other experiences, sensations and intensities, allying experiences of motion and dynamism in film’s materiality with the bodily and affective experience of these same dynamics. In short, the concepts of amodal perception and vitality affects can invigorate our understanding of the bodily and affective experience of the abstract.

The Cinematic Analogue of Emotion
Innocence is punctuated by unexpected disjunctions and clashing rhythms. These occur in the moments in which the camera shifts from its fixed framing, in the steady build and sudden juxtaposition of framing and shot depth within a segment, or in an arrhythmia in the pulse of the largely diegetic soundtrack. These modulations set up points of dissonance that are felt as shock, decentring or disturbing the spectator with their discordance from the underlying rhythm. Figured through an understanding of amodal perception and vitality affects, these disjunctions can be understood as experiences that are intensive, visual and temporal – simultaneously and without essential distinction.

The festive dinner sequence that occurs midway through Innocence begins with a shot from above, the camera positioned at a remove and angled down, framing a staircase. The opening shots gesture toward the famed Odessa Steps sequence of Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), as the young girls mass at the bottom of the stairs, awaiting the arrival of their teachers.  Mlles Eva and Edith walk slowly into frame and down the stairs, before they and the girls exit the shot through the open doorway. Cutting to another fixed framing, now inside the dining room, the lighting is muted. In the glow of an open fire-place and two visible lamps, the girls and the two women take their seats at the arrayed tables.

From the beginning of this sequence, there is an accumulation of movement, not quite acceleration, but instead an accretion of motion within and between the shots. As the scene continues, this is augmented: something begins to shift within the shots and the soundtrack.

The volume increases and the shots move progressively into a tighter central framing of Mlle Eva. The sound of chiming that is heard throughout to mark the passage of time is here diegetic: the girls striking their glasses are visible in the background of the successive shots. The sound, synchronous with the girl’s gestures, is modulated, its volume heightened. The shift in the rhythm of the shots jars, following a contour that is experienced as an increasing tension – an affect that is immediate and visceral, emerging in the abstraction of rhythm, cuts and sound.

As she chews slowly, Cotillard blinks repeatedly, her eyebrow lifting and lowering spasmodically, as if animated by an unbidden gesture or impulse. Her body barely registers as moving with her breath. Our attention is drawn to her rhythmically moving mouth and the startling, shocking twitch. Four rhythms operate visually at this point in the sequence: the shallow rhythm of Cotillard’s breath; the regular, laboured motion of her jaw; the startling, tiny paroxysms of her eyes and eyebrows; and the girls’ movements in the background, striking their glasses and playing clapping games. These visual rhythms are augmented by the aural dynamics: the heightened volume, the chiming that builds through repetition, lingers after the shot cuts and then becomes drawn out or elongated. These rhythms strike against, disturb and distress one another and can be understood to emerge as points or peaks within the sequence, perceived amodally – not specifically as image or sound, but as texture and intensity. They are peaks that register, not in identification with the distressed figure of Mlle Eva, but through our global perception of these visual and aural pulses as rhythms and patterns of affect. And these same intensities are themselves felt as vitality affects – as dynamics that, while devoid of emotion, connect with the motion and movement, the rhythm and arc of affect. What we see, hear and feel in this sequence is not the content of the building tension, but its pattern: accretion and build, elongation and startling arrhythmia.

The shot cuts in closer again. Cotillard now fills half of the frame, her body turned. The juxtaposition between her sudden movement at the end of this shot and the next is shocking, its affect heightened amid the already brittle clash of rhythms.

The shot cuts, as we by now anticipate it will. Yet the cut and the perspective are jarring. At the end of the first of these shots, Cotillard begins to move, rising to leave her seat. The shot cuts again, with the camera positioned behind the chair.

In the cut, it is as though we have seen a presence that should not be visible: the exiting figure of Mlle Eva. She is a spectre haunting the second frame, her transitional presence from one shot to the next like a lingering, a delay, or a disturbance of time.  Again, this disturbance is felt immediately and perceived globally: a figure in the shot experienced both as time and intensity. The multiple rhythms from the preceding shots and this unexpected and uncanny presence lingering momentarily at the edge of the frame are experienced in the immediacy of affect: it is a sudden bursting, both into and out from the frame and, just as suddenly, a dropping away that is a plunge into nothingness as the figure disappears.

Hadzihalilovic has said that ‘the further the story progresses without giving any answers, the more the anxiety builds’. [35] However, in these shots, the anxiety lies not in a denial of narrative fulfilment or explication, but in a global, amodal experience of rhythm, of a form that should be absent and a felt presence that lingers when that form is no longer in the frame. Raymond Bellour describes the mise en scène in the opening sequence of Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour (1959) as ‘displaced in relation to itself, touched by forces exterior to its functioning’. [36] A similar pressure is at work in this scene of Innocence. The modulations of sound, the successive cuts, contraction of the framing and the clashing, contesting rhythms all register immediately and intensively. Perceived in these material abstractions, they are experienced amodally and, following the pattern of experience, can be figured as vitality affects, as the dynamics rather than content of tension, anxiety and loss. The kinetic terms Langer employs – ‘growth’, ‘attenuation’, ‘flowing and sowing’ – are the dynamics of affect. And this is found not in the particular representation of emotion – in its verisimilitude – but in the abstract: in the movements, shifts, pulse and dynamics of the shots, segments, cuts, sounds, light and colour; in short, in the very grain and form of the film itself.

Thus, we can figure the immediacy and intensity of our experience of film as an experience of affect. Through Massumi, Daniel Stern and Langer, we can arrive at a framework for understanding how we perceive the abstract economy of film – its rhythms, shapes, motions and dynamics – as the dynamics or forces of affect. We can understand our bodily, emotional and intensive experience of cinema as an experience of the dynamics of affect found in the material and abstract. These economies are integral to film. It is through close analysis of the abstract that we can begin to perceive logics of the body that emerge through film’s materiality and that are, in turn, comprehended in the experience of the spectatorial body. And as manifold, diverse and individual as our bodies and our experiences of our bodies are, so too are these logics diverse, cohering around the dynamics of motion and sensation that are fundamental to the body itself.


[1] Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002), p. 5.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., p. 14.

[4] Ibid., p. 33.

[5] Ibid., p. 31.

[6] Ibid., p. 5.

[7] Jean Epstein, ‘Magnification and Other Writings’, October, no. 3 (1977), p. 10.

[8] Lesley Stern, ‘Ghosting: The Performance and Migration of Cinematic Gesture, Focusing on Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Good Men, Good Women’, in Carrie Noland & Sally Ann Ness (eds), Migrations of Gesture (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), p. 211.

[9] Vivian Sobchack, ‘Waking Life: Vivian Sobchack on the Experience of Innocence’, Film Comment, Vol 1 No 6 (2005), p. 48.

[10] The technical aspects of Innocence are explored in numerous reviews. For examples, see: Jonathan Romney, ‘School for Scandal’, Sight & Sound 15, 10 (2005): 34-36;  Michael Joshua Rowin, ‘Innocence’, Cineaste 21, 2 (2006), pp. 59-61; Davina Quinlivan, ‘Material Hauntings: The Kinaesthesia of Sound in Innocence (Hadzihalilovic, 2004)’, Studies in French Cinema 9, 3 (2009), pp. 215-224; and Sobchack, ‘Waking Life’, pp. 46 – 49.

[11] Hadzihalilovic interviewed by Daniel Graham, ‘Extras’, Innocence (France: Artificial Eye, 2004), DVD.

[12] Massumi, Parables, p. 26 (italics mine).

[13] Ibid., pp. 35–39 & 28.

[14] For an analysis of the notion of public and private and the representation of childhood in Innocence, see Emma Wilson, ‘Miniature Lives, Intrusions and Innocence: Women Filming Children’, French Cultural Studies 18, 2 (2007), pp. 169-183.

[15] Jean Louis Schefer (trans. & ed. Paul Smith), The Enigmatic Body: Essays on the Arts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 117.

[16] Daniel N. Stern, The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology (Lexington: Basic Books, 2000), p. 4.

[17] Ibid., p. 124.

[18] Ibid., p. 163.

[19] Ibid., pp. 31-32 (italics mine).

[20] That these modes of subjective development subsist and continue into adulthood marks Stern’s theory as a significant departure from many of the core tenets of developmental psychology. For example, this understanding of the enduring nature of our pre-verbal senses of self runs counter to Freud’s theorising of the infant’s progress through developmental phases, wherein returning to a previous phase is described pathogenically as regression. It is important to note that this departure is not offered by Stern as a critique of developmental psychology and psychoanalysis. Rather, he argues that psychoanalysis is misapplied to infancy; it better describes the period of childhood after the acquisition of language. ‘Many of the tenets of psychoanalysis appear to describe development far better after infancy is over and … when speech is available’. Ibid., p. 11.

[21] Ibid., pp. xviii, 67.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid., pp. 45-47.

[24] Ibid. pp. xviii–xix.

[25] As I am not seeking to apply Stern’s approach scientifically, but rather as an analogy or framework for exploring a logic of affect, in looking at the processes at play in the formation of the emergent self, my main concern is with two of the four modes he identifies. For an analysis that extends into other senses of self, notably the sense of the subjective self and the process of affect attunement, see Raymond Bellour (trans. Paul Fileri & Adrian Martin), ‘Going to the Cinema with Félix Guattari and Daniel Stern’, in Éric Alliez & Andrew Goffey (eds), The Guattari Effect (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011), pp. 220-234.

[26] Daniel N. Stern, Interpersonal World, p. 51 (italics mine).

[27] Ibid., p. 54.

[28] Baudry, ‘The Apparatus’, in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (ed.), Apparatus, Cinematographic Apparatus: Selected Writings (New York: Tanam Press, 1980), p. 55; Susanne K. Langer, Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art Developed from Philosophy in a New Key (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Limited, 1973), p. 372.

[29] Langer, Feeling and Form, p. 27.

[30] See Richard Dyer, Only Entertainment (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), pp. 19-35. In the chapter ‘Entertainment and Utopia’, Dyer looks to Langer in developing his argument about representational and non-representational signs in film musicals. Dyer argues non-representational signs, which include ‘colour, texture, movement, rhythm, melody, camerawork’ reference feeling, doing so through ‘resemblance at the level of basic structuration’. Dyer, Only Entertainment, pp. 20-21.

[31] Langer, Feeling and Form, p. 412.

[32] Ibid., p. 414.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Hadzihalilovic quoted in Sobchack, ‘Waking Life’, p. 69.

[36] Raymond Bellour, ‘Figures aux allures de plans’ (‘Figures in the Guise of Shots’), in Jacques Aumont (ed.), La mise en scène (Brussels: De Boeck, 2000), pp. 122-3; translation by Adrian Martin.


© Julie Banks and Screening the Past September 2013

About the Author

Julie Banks

About the Author

Julie Banks

Julie Banks is a PhD candidate in cinema at Monash University. She has written for Undercurrent and Screening the Past.View all posts by Julie Banks →