AbstractIn the viewing process of every film, there exists an intimate relation between the spectator and the screen. This encounter has always been a central focus of the field of cinema studies and its critical engagement with cinema as a system of meaning. While cinema studies tends to privilege aesthetics and cinematic language inherent to this encounter, this article will instead examine the visual regime of cinema. That is, the relation between the forms and modes of address of cinema, and the ways in which it influences viewers’ perceptions of other media texts. In particular, the role of pace in this cinematic encounter will be considered, as it foregrounds cinema’s visual regime. Joel and Ethan Coen’s film No Country for Old Men (2007) exemplifies this use of pace in facilitating engagement, as it slowly and self-reflexively showcases that a film is always a form of address to a viewer, and that it manages the viewer’s entry into the film. When watching this film, the viewer is invited to enter the film’s deliberate slowness as a form of knowledge in the world. In doing so, the film’s pace and visual regime serve to deconstruct the mechanics of cinema logic. By focussing on the visual regime of cinema, this article strives for deeper understanding of the relationship between the spectator and the screen.
In a documentary on the pleasures of cinema, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, (Sophie Fiennes, 2006), Slavoj Žižek explores the particular relation between the viewer and cinema as a generator of desires. In the opening moments of the film, he states that “cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It does not give you what you desire. It tells you how to desire”. Whether Žižek’s statement and the documentary’s mise-en-scéne, special effects, and discourse are accurate or not, the point is that Žižek asserts the existence of an intimate relation between spectator and screen. The terms of that relation are the results of, among other things, history, and cultural and film literacies. For Žižek, cinema wants something from and of us; it teaches us and trains us in the pleasures of watching but it also establishes the pattern and context of an economy of pleasure, and aural and visual reactivity as the foundation of cinematic spectatorship. While this relation might be characterised by intensities, surprise, affects, emotions, the play with speed and slowness, whether it be in the narrative unfolding, the deliberate privileging of long takes or contemplative editing, is a form of this connection and this economy. While the screen always wants something of viewers, the experience of watching the film does not have to be all encompassing and resolved, and the pace of the film can work as a slow and tentative negotiation of the encounter. There are plenty of reasons why films such as the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men (2007), only partially complete the affective transactions Žižek identifies, or leave the viewer in suspended puzzlement but still rely on the meaningfulness of the encounter. Every film’s opening sets up this relation anew, as it negotiates the familiarity with the context, its intertext, and the specific occasion of this new transaction. The repetition and familiarity with the experience generates a form of investment of the viewer into cinema as cultural institution. And to appreciate cinema, to renew the declaration of love, is to come back to that basic experience of cinema as cultural object, and as a social interaction facilitated paradoxically by the absorption into cinematic space. Contemporary cinema is, beyond its economic and institutional existence, also an imaginary relation with the object, an investment in the “potential” of cinema. (1)
The opening onto the space of the screen, and the repetition of this encounter, constitute a key thematic trope in filmic discourse and film theory. Another way to think about this is to recognise that all films are a moment of opening to the regime of the visual. Every film’s opening shots are a means of communicating to the viewer its particular logic, and disposes the viewer to take the film on its own terms within the shared notion and experience of genre and authorship. This can be conscious on the part of the filmmaker, connected to the economic logic and imperatives of big-budget film, and/or part of the (generic) conventions upon which a film draws. For instance, the establishing shot in a Western connects the characters to their environment and to the iconography and mythology from which the genre emerges. The first shots are therefore the opening unto an auditory, visual and narrative space, as well as an inscription of the film in its generic context. All films, screened in theatrical conditions, arise out of darkness and silence, and the first sounds and images open to the premise and promise of a world. Of course, it is the familiarity of the experience, rather than surprise, that one might experience in the movie theatre. Yet, it still constitutes some form of expectation on the part of the viewer, and a logic to which he or she agrees to or is compelled to participate. Cinema studies and its critical engagement with cinema as institution and system of meaning has always been focussed on this encounter.
Joel and Ethan Coen’s film No Country for Old Men reminds us that a film is always articulated as a form of address to a viewer, and that it manages the viewer’s entry into the film, what I call here the visual regime of cinema. In this instance, the viewer’s apprehension of the filmic world parallels one of the main character’s deciphering of visual and aural clues (Llewelyn Moss played by Josh Brolin), and his progressive, and not entirely intentional, transformation from distant observer to active participant, and ultimately victim in the narrative. What is particularly interesting aboutNo Country for Old Men, and which constitutes the object of this analysis, is the deliberate slowness and self-reflexive manner with which this process unfolds. While narrative slowness can alternatively be seen as the scourge of bad cinema or the virtue of reflexive story-telling (the modernist and Bazinian gesture par excellence), (2) this essay proposes to consider slowness in the film as a foregrounding of cinema’s visual regime. While criticism of the Coen brothers has emphasised the postmodern, ironic, pastiche-like tone of their films and wondered about the allegorical implications of their portrayal of American life, (3) here I want to stress the inaugural dimension of their films. If the Coen brothers seem to have mixed forms of allegiance in relation to their characters and their predicaments and what we might learn from them, this essay aims to demonstrate that there exists in their cinema an ethical and existential investment in the cinematic forms of knowledge in the world.
A visual regime is an economy of looking and seeing which has specific configurations at specific moments and places in history. (4) A visual regime can be associated with forms of knowledge and understanding which can emanate from different technological, cultural and institutional configurations. The field of cinema studies is, and has been, foremost about the analysis of operations of cinematic vision as part of a visual regime. While a cinematic visual regime is not solely connected to cinematographic technologies (Paul Virilio sees in the military apparatus and logistics traces of the cinematic, and vice versa),(5) the focus in cinema studies has been to privilege aesthetics and forms and their associated categories such as cinematic language, taste, appreciation and distinction. Visual regime however extends to the relation between the forms and modes of address of cinema and the ways in which it predisposes us to look at other media texts and the world in a certain way. For Gilles Deleuze, cinema is not an image of thought but a form of thought in its own terms, what he calls a “psychomechanics”. (6) For Deleuze, cinema does not represent ideas but generates thoughts: “it consists of movements and thought-processes (pre-linguistic images), and of points of view on these movements and processes (pre-signifying signs)”. (7) Cinema is a philosophical machine before it is social body. While cinema emerges out of a history of modes of representation, it mobilises a unique combination of sensory perceptions, and narrative. Cinema’s relation with technology is therefore not so much about what means of production are used by filmmakers, but rather what forms of perception, what modalities of creative and spectatorial involvement are facilitated by the operations of cinema’s visual regime and what they tell us and teach us about the world in which we live. Deleuze qualifies the particular place of cinema’s visual regime when he states that “The cinema must film, not the world, but belief in the world, our only link. The nature of cinematographic illusion has often been considered. Restoring our belief in the world – this is the power of modern cinema (when it stops being bad)”. (8)
Jonathan Crary in Techniques of the Observer (9) and Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle and Modern Culture (10) has shown that technologies of visual representation formed, at the end of the nineteenth-century, a new visual regime intent on creating, liberating, but also controlling and arresting visual attention. Crary deals with the relationship between modernity, technology, and visual representation, and argues that this new visual regime emerges out the ways in which technologies organise vision as a cultural practice with codes, conventions and rules. Crary identifies two intersecting logics at play in this new regime: one affirms “the sovereignty and autonomy of vision derived from [the] newly empowered body”; the other provokes the “increasing standardization and regulation of the observer… toward forms of power that depended on the abstraction and formalization of vision”. (11) The two logics intersect in the cinematic experience. On the one hand, film spectatorship is always embodied, actualised, and mediated by the senses and especially through the development of narrative structures and affects which mobilise attention and reaction. On the other hand, film production, distribution and exhibition quickly became standardised around the forms and lengths of feature films, the reliance on genres as basic narrative material, the development of the star system, and the architectural and social designs of movie theatres, and later, multiplexes. The former point can be developed even further in relation to the transition and parallels between the collective experience of the movie theatre, and later on, through the organisation of domestic space around and comprising of the positioning of screens, especially, computer and television screens. Crary’s notion of visual regime therefore allows us to understand cinema’s technology as producing not only texts and experiences, but forms of relations with the social and space.
In an analysis of Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (1903), Crary infers the key characteristics of this new visual regime:
we can identify what is of course a larger process of perpetual displacement and re-creation of positions and relations. It is hardly a question of a mobile point of view, but instead the serial reconfigurations of a kinesthetic constellation of moving forces, in which the idea of coherent subject position is a irrelevant as the idea of Cartesian coordinates in a kaleidoscope. (12)
For Crary, cinema participates to “new conditions of perceptual experience”. (13) Cinema constitutes a visual regime which, while relating to technologies of the nineteenth century, still functions as a mode of apprehension of contemporary moving image culture. While focused on the emerging visual regime of modernity, Crary’s study is a genealogy of the contemporary. Cinema is a way of seeing, and the object of this glance is not so much reality (the common term to resolve equivocation in cinema’s visual regime), as a structure of aural and visual perception, emotion, immersion and affect. The specific visual regime of cinema is the combination of immersion and distraction which, rather than being as polar opposite as Walter Benjamin argued, are understood as necessary and interconnected elements:
…attention and distraction cannot be thought outside of a continuum in which the two ceaselessly flow into one another, as part of the social field in which the same imperatives and forces incite one and the other. (14)
Sean Cubitt expands upon Crary’s analysis and states that “the fragmentation that was intended to produce attentiveness also produces the oneiric stance”. (15) This captures the specificity of the visual regime of cinema: not a uniformisation of attention as stated in apparatus theory, but a mode of entry into the cinematic world which mobilises the senses and generates the mobility of an exploratory subject caught in the process of differentiation.
Joel and Ethan Coen’s film No Country for Old Men provides a good example of the fact that a film is always articulated as a form of address to a viewer, and that it manages the viewer’s entry into the film, what I have called here the visual regime of cinema. In No Country for Old Men, the viewer’s apprehension of the filmic world parallels one of the main character’s deciphering of visual and aural clues, and transformation from distant observer to active participant. This is a premise common to many of the Coen brothers’ films, and in this particular way, the Hitchcockian influence and lineage of the Coen brothers’ cinema is especially evident. The suspense in the first part of the film is in great part related to the fact that characters might see each other, witness or collect clues about strange and criminal activity, but they cannot hear conversations or can only capture cryptic statements. Their point of view is never the representation of a form of totalising self-presence but rather an act of reluctant investment in their world, which might be and often is misplaced. We see them seemingly gathering evidence, reading signs in the landscape, pondering on what is in front of them; and because they always seem to delay their reactions, more often out of stupidity than strategy, we are interpellated by the problematic and often disjointed and discontinuous sequence of observation, reaction, action, and consequences, what Deleuze identifies as the inherent logic and promise of the movement-image. (16) The Coens’ narrative tension seems to be about the delays, misdirection and incomprehension of its main characters while the action around them always seems to require a response. We learn this quickly in No Country for Old Men when in one of the first shots of the film, a policeman is on the phone talking to an officer, his back turned to the man he’s just arrested. He does not realise that the man stands up, walks towards him with the intent of strangling him. The policeman does not connect the objectivities of his situation with the impending dangers. His aggressor catches him in a fatal grasp at the exact moment when he states “I got it under control”. But the viewers saw the fateful progression of the sequence in the static, shallow focus shot: but this does not so much generate suspense as reveal the failures of his and other characters ability to read their environment. It foregrounds their partial and interrupted reflexive processes. The characters of Pete and Delmar in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), respectively played by John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson, whose faces are caught in a permanent frozen and incredulous expression, are emblematic of this situation. The world around them is full of sings, clues, riddles and peripatetic trials that often require their responses, if anything, out of the imperatives of self-preservation. The world is asking something from them; that, they can sense as a most basic form of unqualified emotion. But what they might, should or could do next, or translate as knowledge and as informed and directed action is a practical and existential conundrum. The social, under the guise of enigmatic characters and occurrences endowed with magical characteristics, constantly erupts upon them and the narrative, but the formulation of a response is neither automatic nor logical. While we become deeply aware of the necessity of their deploying their sensory faculties to make sense of things, they always seem to miss the beat, at best. Alternatively their responses are out of all proportion and produce unintended consequences they could never have foreseen. In this situation and in the dilemma of the Coens’ antiheroes, there lies the key characteristic of cinema’s visual regime: it is connected to the production of knowledge rising out of the technological and formal structures of cinema and its kinaesthetic logic. The Coens’ cinema does not represent forms of knowledge, nor produce unequivocal plans for action, but deconstructs, mostly through slowness and disjointed connections, the mechanics of cinematic logic and action.
Gilles Deleuze’s characterisation of the logic of classical cinema can be especially useful to understanding how the visual regime of cinema is related to forms and processes of thought, a key aspect of visual regimes. Deleuze characterises the movement-image as a form of cinema which is generative, self-moving, and able to produce mobile conceptual modes of thinking. The movement-image moves in time and space and is caught only in its ephemeral passage. One shot follows another in a continuity which produces a linear progression through a relational logic between instant and whole, what Deleuze calls an “open totality”. (17) The “open totality” is not the sum of all moments of the filmic progression nor the manifestation of a pre-existing ideal, but the incessant flow and the instantaneous disjunction which constantly reinscribes itself in the superior consciousness of the whole. The relational logic performs an instant re-linking between images by following the laws of association, contiguity, resemblance, contrast and opposition. It is always performed at the level of each cut while turned towards a totalising interiority. This interiority is the superior consciousness of the whole, the open and shifting totality which in turn exteriorises itself in the association of images. The principle is essentially that of a molecular structure.
Three complementary types of movement-images are identified by Deleuze. The “perception-image”, the “affection-image” and “the action-image”. (18) The three types of images denote the intervals which appear in the space-time continuum produced by the movement-image when there is a delay between action and reaction. These intervals constitute what Deleuze calls centres of indetermination: they require something like a sensorimotor processing in order to be reinscribed in the flux of the film.(19) Classical American cinema stands in this regime as the organic principle in which the reactive processing takes the form of an action which responds to and transforms the coordinates of the situation. According to Deleuze, these are the characteristics which made “the universal triumph of American cinema”. (20) The coordinates of the situation
act on the character, throw him a challenge, and constitute a situation in which he is caught. The character reacts in his turn (action properly speaking) so as to respond to the situation, to modify the milieu, or his relation with the milieu, with the situation, with other characters, He must acquire a new mode of being (habitus) or raise his mode of being to the demands of the milieu and of the situation. Out of this emerges a restored or modified situation, a new situation. Everything is individuated: the milieu as a particular space-time, the situation as determining and determinate, the collective as well as the individual character. (21)
This model becomes the impetus for traditionally American genres such as the Western, the thriller, the Capraesque social drama, and the Griffithean epic, among others. Deleuze even suggests that this organic regime of American cinema finds its historical explanation in the utopian principles of universal democracy as embodied by the American revolution, which he connects to the elusive “American dream”. (22)
Deleuze also asserts that the baroque achievement of the movement-image is to be found in Hitchcock’s cinema and his constitution of what Deleuze calls the “mental image”:
it is an image which takes as objects of thought,objects which have their own existence outside thought, just as theobjects of perception have their own existence outside perception. /t is an image which takes as its object, relations, symbolic acts, intellectualfeelings. It can be, but is not necessarily, more difficult than the otherimages. It will necessarily have a new, direct, relationship withthought, a relationship which is completely distinct from that of theother images. (23)
Hitchcock’s cinema alters the movement-image by disrupting the sensori-motor connectivity, and by making all actions respond to a mental interiorisation which has for effect to impede or at least delay the reactive flux. A slow and contemplative mood might qualify this mediating reflexivity, and at times can take the form of a supernatural suspense as in The Birds (1963), Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960). Characters and spectators become observers of the chains of events and frozen in, or self-conscious about, their powers of intervention. For Deleuze, the Hitchcockian mental image implicates the viewer:
in the history of the cinema Hitchcock appears as one who no longer conceives of the constitution of a film as a function of two terms: the director and the film to be made but as a function of three: the director, the film and the public which must come into the film, or whose reactions must form an integrating part of the film (this is the explicit sense of suspense, since the spectator is the first to ‘know’ the relations). (24)
The result is that characters, and to a certain extent viewers, are inhibited by their cerebral faculties and even though there are still actors in their environment the spatiotemporal unfolding of their actions is constantly qualified by their paradoxically paralysing insights or puzzlements. The figure of the Jimmy Stewart character in Vertigo becomes the exemplary manifestation of this narcissistic and conceptual absorption. The spiritual automaton of the movement-image who was able to generate automatic responses to the stimuli of the situation has become acrophobic, and more spiritual than automatic.
This is where we find a similar conundrum in the Coen brothers’ characters. In the opening sequences of No Country for Old Men, like other Coen brothers’ films, the narrative, visual and discursive premise of the narrative is that of a disconnection between the predicament of one or several characters with their environment, and the intrusion of demands on their precarious equilibrium. Llewelyn Moss spends a lot of time in the opening scenes of the film scanning the horizon, looking through binoculars, or silently deciphering the signs of human and animal activities in the barren landscape. The first time we see him in the film, or rather his point of view, he is hunting; he’s looking through his gun’s scope and shoots an animal. He then follows the maimed animal’s tracks, as well as the drops of blood interspersed in the sand. The sequence of editing combines point of view shots from the perspective of the character; reverse shots of him looking at the landscape; and finally, shots of the camera tracking him. Of course, these are the strategies associated with a narrative of suspense, but they also organise our relation with the film in the forms described by Deleuze with the mental image: we’re seeing him seeing. The viewer’s perception of this double operation of vision (does the character know he is being watched?) becomes the direct manifestation of Deleuze’s point that the mental image requires the participation of the viewer. The deliberate slowness of the scene functions as a form of Hitchcockian suspense, warns us that the hunter will, of course, become the hunted, and that the viewer’s perception and investment is what is being negotiated and called upon in this instance. The effect is an interiorisation of the logic of cinematic storytelling. Every one of the character’s steps is accompanied by the sound of his boots in the dried-up soil. Like other aural signs in the film, sounds are over-determined in their signification. The sounds are both descriptive and motivated by the action, but they are also reflexive; they make us consider, with the characters, the logical connections between traces, signs, facts and actions. While the experience for characters and viewers is that of seemingly gathering empirical evidence in a way which privileges their points of view and asserts, to use Crary’s terminology, the “autonomy of vision” (25) as a means of reading and understanding the world, what unfolds is an incomplete and even fractured “psychomechanics”. (26) As one of the policemen states later in the film while scanning the scene of a drug deal turned bloody battle: “It’s a mess, ain’t it sheriff?” “If it ain’t, it will do until the mess gets here” responds Ed Tom Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones, as he looks around, itemising all the bodies, their positions, the arrangements of trucks, their tracks and the range of weapons. His physical stance suggests the cataloguing might make sense of the events. However, and like other characters in the Coen brothers’ films, observations do not lead to understanding or timely and effective reaction. Ed Tom Bell here, and throughout the film, uses slowness as a survival strategy, and as means of calibrating his engagement in the world. In this sequence, as in many other instances in the film, the editing coordinates shots of characters scanning their environment with point of view shots of what they see. The effect is to implicate the viewer in the meaning-making unfolding of the narrative, but ultimately in the disjuncture of the mental image, it leads to a paralysing and contemplative stance. This self-reflexivity works as metanarrarive (the telling of the telling of the film), and as revelation of the production of thought and thinking in the visual regime of cinema, even if it fails to generate fluid sensori-motor cognition and action.
No Country for Old Men plays with this double logic of narrative (the story and the telling of the story) by taking viewers on false tracks and by producing juxtapositions that seem overdetermined and infuse into the context an element of complexity and irony which at times turns into self-aware gesture. The most emblematic example of this is the bottle of pressurised oxygen the evil character of the narrative (Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem) carries around with him as a weapon. Two sounds become quickly associated with him: firstly, that of the character opening the valve and therefore pressuring the gun-like end of a rubber tube connected to the tank; and secondly, that of the release of the compressed gas through the rubber tube and the attached metal barrel-like ending which also releases a projectile which acts as a bullet. Of course there is something deeply mannerist in this use of the oxygen tank and other sounds in the film, in the same way that Anton Chigurth’s haircut is also on the verge of self-parody. Those affectations foreground the fact that the character’s mind is working in slow mention: his actions tend to be slow, deliberate and brutal but more reflexive of a limited perspective than a grand plan. We see him thinking and processing visual clues, such as when he glances at an open envelope with a telephone bill found on the floor of Llewelyn Moss’ trailer and which contains a list of phone numbers which will help him track down his running preys.
Through the mediation of the characters’ immersion into an increasingly compromising web of violence, false hopes and despair, the viewer learns how to watch and listen to the film, and how to relate, or try to relate, the statements from the voice-over of an invisible character, with the visual evidence and the narrative thread. It is not so much that the viewer needs to resolve a puzzle, decipher a mystery or establish causal relationships, but rather that he or she needs to learn to watch the film in the terms that is posited in front of them. The visual regime of the film is not that of the real and/or its representation (as if to make sense of this film I need to apply my experience in the world), but an internal logic which can be explained and contextualised by the activity of watching; it constitutes a cinematic economy of senses which requires the viewer to align himself or herself with the slowness of the characters despite the urgency of their situation. The tagline of the film, “in the open country you can find anything”, reiterates and emphasises this economy, and parallels it with the narrative. Being a spectator in the film is, in this case, an end in itself, not a substitute for being a participant in the world.
The first twenty minutes of the No Country for Old Men contain very little dialogue, except for a voice-over narration from a near-retirement sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones. At the opening of the film, the voice-over speaks of the character’s puzzlement over his work in law enforcement, his encounters with violence and his struggle with reality. While he speaks, a montage of desert images and a few shots representing the arrest of the central evil character of the film requires the viewers to imagine and visualise the relation between the visual and aural tracks. This disjunction of sounds and images is of course a classic narrative devise of cinema (27) and functions as a kind of pedagogical entry into the visual regime of the film; it does interpolate the viewer and ask him or her to connect these tracks, not necessarily to make sense of them, but at least to organise a suspended logic of connectivity. The voice-over concludes its monologue with the statement:
“The crime you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure. It’s not that I am afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard… He would have to say, okay, I’ll be part of this world.”
Several things work to illustrate the way the Coen brother’s film operates in the mode of the mental images and use of slowness as entry into the visual regime of cinema. Firstly, the character addresses himself directly to the spectators. It suggests the film’s awareness, as I stated earlier, that all openings establish an in-between of the film and the viewer. Of course, this is a fictional and narrative devise, and one the Coen brothers particularly like. It features in the opening of several of their other films including The Big Lebowski (1998) and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?. By talking directly to the viewer, the narrator draws them in and makes them aware of the implied contract in all forms of narrative: spectators are there to be offered the possibility of pleasures derived from suspended disbelief and/or increased or altered sensory awareness. Secondly, it introduces the moral dilemma of the character, and that of the other characters of the film in relation to the consequences of their action or lack thereof: what are the forms of engagement with and belief in the world? Is any form of engagement a compromise and the starting point of their downfall? Here the problematic situation of the characters reveals the logic underpinning the cinematic regime of cinema: cinema’s technological organisation implies and implicates the viewer. The deployment of the mental image marked by the slowed down or derailed processing of affect, thought and reaction inscribes the viewer’s reaction in the unfolding of the film, its slowness, and its narrative quest.
So what does the slowness in No Country for Old Men ask of its viewers? The predicament of characters who do not understand the world and do not approach the world with bravado (“I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand”), or who are reluctant to belong to the world, hardly constitutes the affirmative characteristics that Deleuze associated with the movement-image in its American form. Being in the world does not necessarily mean being of this world as the title of one of the Coens’ films suggests, The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001). While the voice-over of Ed Tom Bell implies the possibility of introspection and self-knowledge, everything else in the film points to the fact that achieving awareness is mediated by the slow process of partial recognition, a kind of coming into consciousness based on suggestive but ultimately inscrutable images. The film is structured around mirroring as we saw earlier, including the figure of the hunter who becomes the hunted. In one scene early in the film, Anton Chigurth is roaming through Llewelyn Moss’ trailer. He grabs a bottle of milk from the fridge then settles on the couch, in an expression of contemplative self-absorption, in front of what we later realise is a switched off television. For several seconds he stares intently off-screen. Initially the moment evokes an uncanny sense of lost or desired domesticity. Anton Chigurth is occupying Llewelyn Moss’ seat; the gesture seals their converging fates. But a reverse point of view shot shows us the television screen where the figure of Anton Chigurth looms abstracted and motionless with light streaming from a window behind his back, his figure is reduced to a projected shadow. He is transfixed by his projected image. A few moments later as Ed Tom Bell visits the same location also looking for Llewelyn Moss, he replicates the ritual. He settles on the same coach, pours himself a glass of milk from the same bottle out of which Anton Chigurth was drinking earlier. Sitting on the coach, he also gets transfixed by his projected image on the television screen in the same affective but unqualified response. Both emblematic moments require the viewer’s deciphering: the repetition of actions, composition and editing structure invite a symbolic reading which would parallel and link the fate of these two characters. Yet this over-determined interpretation hardly captures the significance of the moment. What seems to matter more is the viewer’s invitation to enter the economy of the film’s deliberate slowness as a form of knowledge in the world.
This article has been peer reviewed.
- Dudley Andrew, What Cinema is! Bazin’s Quest and its Charge (West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000), XVIII.
- See Matthew Flanagan, “Towards an Aesthetic of Slow in Contemporary Cinema,” 16: 9 (November 2008), accessed 27 May, 2011, http://www.16-9.dk/2008-11/side11_inenglish.htm. Flanagan states: “whereas speed perpetually risks gratuitous haste, fragmentation and distraction, reduction intensifies the spectator’s gaze, awareness and response”.
- See Tracy Seeley, “O Brother, What Art Thou?: Postmodern Pranksterism, or Parody with a Purpose?,” Post Script 27, no. 2 (Winter/Spring 2008): 95-105.
- Tony Schirato and Jen Webb, Reading the Visual (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2004),67.
- Paul Virilio, War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception (New York: Verso, 1989).
- Gilles Deleuze. Cinema 2: The Time Image (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 262.
- Ibid., 262.
- Ibid., 172.
- Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998).
- Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of Perception: Attention Spectacle and Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999).
- Crary, Techniques of the Observer, 150.
- Crary, Suspensions of Perception, 347.
- Ibid., 347.
- Ibid., 51.
- Sean Cubitt, The Cinema Effect (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004), 32.
- Deleuze, Gilles Cinema 1: The Movement Image (London: The Athlone Press, 1986).
- Ibid., 205.
- Ibid., 61.
- Ibid., 62.
- Ibid., 141.
- Ibid., 141-2.
- Ibid., 144.
- Ibid., 198.
- Ibid., 202.
- Crary, Techniques of the Observer, 150.
- Deleuze, Cinema 2, 262.
- Michel Chion, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994).