Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 8

Bresson'sfundamentaldiscovery,foreshadowedinPickpocketandassertedinTheTrialofJoanofArc,

wasofacinematicarticulationirreducibletoanyother,whichweshallcallsuture.
Suturerepresentstheclosureofthecinematicnoncinlinewithitsrelationshipwithitssubject(the
filmicsubjectorratherthecinematicsubject),whichisrecognized,andthenputinitsplaceasthe
spectatorthusdistinguishingthesuturefromallothertypesofcinema,particularlythesocalled
"subjective"cinema,wherethesuturedidexist,butundefinedtheoretically.Atfirstfilmmakershad
onlyexperimentedquiteintuitivelywiththeeffectsoftheprofoundnecessityofsuture,butnotwithits
causeswhichremainedhiddengiventhesubjectiveconceptiontheyhadoftheimageandtheir
confusionofthefilmicsubjectwiththefilmedsubject.Havingdeterminedthefilmicsubject,Bresson,
nolessradicallythanGodard,hasputthefilmedsubjectbackinitsplaceassignifyingobject.However
andthisdistinguishesbisworkfromthewholeofmodemcinemaBressongivesmorethanhetook
away;heputsthefilmedsubjectwithinastructureandinasymbolicplacewhicharethoseofcinema
perse,nolongerasafictivesubjectlocatedinanillusoryexistentialrelationshipwithitssurroundings,
butastheactorinarepresentationwhosesymbolicdimensionisrevealedintheprocessofreadingand
viewing.
Sutureisbestunderstoodthroughaconsiderationofwhatisatstakeintheprocessof"reading"film.
Thepropertiesoftheimagemanifestedthereandrevealedinparticularbythe"subjective"cinemaarc
currentlybeingnotsomuchchallengedasrepressed(withtheresultthattheyarethenoften"re
revealed"intheresearchofyoungfilmmakerssuchasPollet).Thesecharacteristicsmeanthatthe
cinemaitselfengendersthecinematic,thattheimageofitsownaccordenterstheorderofthesignifier.
andthatbyandinthisprocessofreadingaredeterminedtheproperties,theconditionsandthelimitsof
itssignifyingpower.Sucharecognitionshouldentailoncemorequestioningthetheoreticalproblems
ofthecinematicandofsignificationinthecinema.Tounderstandthisdemandsreadingtheimagetoits
detriment,areadingwithwhichthecontemporarycinemahassometimesmadeusloseourfamiliarity,
sinceitsuseofimageswithoutdepthhideswhatthedepthoffieldcinemarevealedallthetime:that
everyfilmicfieldtracedbythecameraandallobjectsrevealedthroughdepthoffieldeveninastatic
shotareechoedbyanotherfield,thefourthside,andanabsenceemanatingfromit.
Quitesimplythenandprioralmosttoanysemanticconsideration,wearegivenaccesstothelogicof
thecinematicbymeansofthissecondreadingwhichrevealsthefunctioningofitsimages.Everyfilmic
fieldisechoedbyanabsentfield,theplaceofacharacterwhoisputtherebytheviewer'simaginary,
andwhichweshallcalltheAbsentOne.Atacertainmomentofthereadingalltheobjectsofthefilmic
fieldcombinetogethertoformthesignifierofitsabsence.Atthiskeymomenttheimageentersthe
orderofthesignifier.andtheundefinedstripoffilmtherealmofthediscontinuous,the"discrete".Itis
essentialtounderstandthis.sinceuptonowfilmmakersbelievedthat.byresortingtocinematicunits
asdiscreteaspossible,theywouldfindtheirwaybacktotherulesoflinguisticdiscourse,whereasitis
cinemaitself,whendesignatingitselfascinematography,whichtendstoconstituteitsownnoncin
"discrete"units.
Inasecondphase,thesignifierofabsence,likeafrozenletter,isgivenasasignifyingSum,thewhole
oftheimagetendingtoformanautonomousunitofabsolutesignification:afundamentallypoor
signification,likethatofadiscoursewhichisspeltout,morelikeasignifyingdiagramthanactual
speech.Atthisstageofthereadingthesignifier,abstractedfromthefilmicfield,isnotyetanchoredto
it.IthasbecomeafloatingsignifyingSum,certainofwhoseimages(thosewhosesymboliccharacter
givesthemarealsemanticautonomy,asforinstanceinLang)demonstratethetendencytoabstract
themselvesfromthechainofthenonc,orrathernottobeintegratedwithinit.
Itisthereforeeasytoseethedifficultiesofacinematicdiscoursewhich,likethatofmostfilmmakers,
isasimplearticulationofsuccessiveshots.For,iftwoconsecutiveimagesdonottendtowards
articulationtogether,butinsteadfunctioninitiallyasautonomouscells(although,beingvictimsof
linguistichabits,webelievetheoppositetobetrue),thentheirarticulationcanonlybeproducedbyan
extracinematicelement(i.e.alinguisticnonc)orbythepresenceofcommonsignifyingelementsin
eachimage.Inbothcases,theformationofthesyntagmdemandsaredundancyofthesignified(which
mustnotbeconfusedwiththeduplicationofthesignifierwithoutwhich,asweshallseelater,the

readingoffilmwouldbeimpossible);thisinevitablyentailsasubstantiallossof"information"anda
realfissurebetweentheelementsformingthechainofthediscourseandthoseunarticulated,excessive
elementswhichendupformingamagmawhichparalysesthefilmbyitsinertia.InLaChinoise
Godardpoeticallyexasperatesthisfissurebetweenwhatmightbecalledthe"thing"oftheimageand
itsfragileandprecioussigns,betweenitsreifeddiscourseandthebackgroundofopaquenessagainst
whichitstandsoutandtowhichcolorgivesaquasipictorialdensity.
TheoppositeofsuchaformofthecinematicisthatwhichweencounterinTheTrialofJoanofArc,
wherethemostimportantprinciple,madefamiliarbythe"subjective"cinema,isthattheimagesare
notfirstmutuallyarticulated,butthatthefilmicfieldisarticulatedbytheabsentfield,thatisthe
imaginaryfieldofthefilm.Thisthenraisestheproblemofthesuture,which(toavoidtheambiguity
presentinBresson'ssubsequentwork)willbedefinedasfollows:priortoanysemantic"exchange"
betweentwoimages(Bressonassertsthatimagesmustonlyhavean"exchange"value),andwithinthe
frameworkofacinematicnoncconstructedonashot/reverseshotprinciple,theappearanceofalack
perceivedasaSomeOne(theAbsentOne)isfollowedbyitsabolitionbysomeone(orsomething)
placedwithinthesamefieldeverythinghappeningwithinthesameshotorratherwithinthefilmic
spacedefinedbythesametake.Thisisthefundamentalfactfromwhicheffectsderive.Asaresultthe
fieldofAbsencebecomesthefieldoftheImaginaryofthefilmicspace,formedbythetwofields,the
absentoneandthepresentone:thesignifierisechoedinthatfieldandretroactivelyanchorsitselfin
thefilmicfield;the"exchange"Bressontalksoftakesplacebetweenthesetwofields,atwhichpoint
thesignifiedtrulyappears.Thereforethesuture(theabolitionoftheAbsentOneanditsresurrectionin
someone)hasadualeffect.Ontheonehanditisessentiallyretroactiveonthelevelofthesignified,
sinceitpresidesoverasemanticexchangebetweenapresentfieldandanimaginaryfield,representing
thefieldnowoccupiedbytheformerwithinthemoreorlessrigidframeworkoftheshot/reverseshot.
Ontheotherhand,itisanticipatoryonthelevelofthesignifier:for,justasthepresentfilmicsegment
wasconstitutedasasignifyingunitbytheAbsentOne.thatsomethingorsomeone,replacingit,
anticipatesonthenecessarily"discrete"natureoftheunitwhoseappearanceitannounces.
InfactthefundamentalcinematicfiguresofTheTrialofJoanofArcshouldnotbecalledshot/reverse
shotbecausetheynolongerhaveanythingincommonwiththoseofthe"subjective"cinema,which
realizedveryquicklythatitcouldonlyusethemobliquely,lesttheydenounceitsfiction.Infaceoneof
theonlytrueshot/reverseshotseriesinthehistoryofthecinemaistheaberrantseriesinKriemhild's
Revenge,wheretheprotagonistsseemunrealbecauseofLang'scategoricalrefusaltoallowthecamera
tomovefromthepositionoftheirviewpoint.InTheTrialofJoanofArcthecamera'sobliqueness,at
lastopenlyadmittedandestablishedasasystem(ifonlyBresson'scuriousideaoftheuniquepointof
viewfromwhichanobjectdemandstobefilmed,weresimplyabouttheneedtosearchfortheright
angle,therightmarginofobliquenessforthecamera)revealsbyandforwhomtheoperationofsuture
works:thefilmicsubject,thespectator.fromaplacewhich,althoughremainingemptywhenhe
vanishesintothefilmicfield,mustneverthelessbekeptforhimthroughoutthefilm;otherwisethe
spectatormayfailtofulfilltheroleofimaginarysubjectofthecinematicdiscourse,arolewhichis
onlypossiblefromalocusdisplacedinrelationtothefieldoftheImaginaryandtheplaceofthe
AbsentOne,sincethespectatorisnottheAbsentOne.
Thespectatorisdoublydecentredinthecinema.Firstwhatisenunciated,initially,isnottheviewer's
owndiscourse,noranyoneelse's:itisthusthathecomestopositthesignifyingobjectasthesignifier
oftheabsenceofanyone.Secondlytheunrealspaceoftheenunciationleadstothenecessaryquasi
disappearanceofthesubjectasitentersitsownfieldandthussubmerges,inasortofhypnotic
continuuminwhichallpossibilityofdiscourseisabolished,therelationofalternatingeclipsewhich
thesubjecthastoitsowndiscourse;andthisrelationthendemandstoberepresentedwithintheprocess
ofreadingthefilm.whichitduplicates.
Nothingcanbesaidabouttherelationshipbetweenthesubjectandthefilmicfielditself,sincenothing
issaidinitsprocess,althoughthissyncopatedjouissancenullifyinganyreadingandcutofffrom
whatisexcludedfromthefieldbyperceptionoftheframecanonlybereferredtoineroticterms(or
atleasthasconstantlyinspiredthecinema'sowneroticcommentaryonitself).Letussaythatitisthe
phenomenalsupportwhich,giventhematerialsathand(i.e.thecinemaitself),helpsthespectator
organizethespaceandtheprogressionottherepresentationofhisrelationshipassubjectwiththechain

ofhisdiscourse.
Thecomplexprocessofreadingafilm,whichhasalwaysseemedtobeadelayedandduplicated
reading,is,primarily,onlytheprocessoftherepresentationoperatingbetweenthetwofieldswhich
formtheelementarycellofthePlaceofCinema.Thisexplainstheuseoftheatricalmetaphorsabout
thecinemaaswellastheprofoundrelationshiplinkingthecinematothetheatre:theplaceofa
metaphoricalrepresentation,atoncespatialanddramatic,oftherelationsofthesubjecttothesignifier.
Thuswhatweareherecallingthesutureisprimarilytherepresentationofthatwhich.underthesame
heading,isnowusedtodesignate"therelationshipofthesubjecttothechainofitsdiscourse":a
representationslidingunderthesignifyingSumandburdenedwithalackthelackofsomeoneand
withanAbsentOnewhichabolishesitselfsothatsomeonerepresentingthenextlinkinthechain(and
anticipatingthenextfilmicsegment)cancomeforth.Giventhatthekeytotheprocessofanycinematic
readingisprovidedbythesubject,which,however,doesnotknowthatitsownfunctionisatworkand
isbeingrepresentedinthereading,thenBressonisprobablythefirstfilmmaker,notsomuchtohave
putintopractice,astohavepositedtheprincipleofthecinematicwhichpreventsthisfunctionfrom
operatingoutoftimeorinthevoid.TheTrialofJoanofArcisthefirstfilmtosubjectitssyntaxtothe
cinema'snecessaryrepresentationofthesubject'srelationtoitsdiscourse.
However,itisunfortunatethatBressonhasneglectedhisdiscovery,andhiddenitfromhisowneyes.
byhisalmostobsessiverecourse,inAuhasard,Balthazar,tohisfavoritetrickslikeshowingtheeffect
beforethecause.Suchtricksarenearlyalwaysimpoverishingexceptwhenusedwithdeliberate
terroristintentions,astheyarebyLang.(Indeeditisnoaccidentthatallgreatcreatorsofthecinema
havehadsomerecoursetotricksofthiskind.Bysystematicallyresortingtoretroactiveeffectsof
signification,theywere,unwittingly,experimentingwiththeplayofthesignifier.)Unfortunatelythis
showsthatBressonincreasinglyseesthe"exchange"asoperatingbetweentwoimages(hencethe
irritatingabandoninAuhasard,Balthazarofalldepthoffield)whereas,aswehaveseen,that
exchange,astheeffectofthesuture,takesplacefirstandforemostbetweenthefilmicfieldandits
echo,theimaginaryfield.Moreseriously,thesignifiedinAuhasard,Balthazarwhichappearsonlyat
theendoftherepresentationbearsthecost,asitwere,ofarepresentationwhichcannotberesolved
becausesuturingisimpossible,theimaginaryfieldalwaysremainingoneofabsence,sothatonlythe
(dead)letterandthesyntaxofthemeaningareperceived.
Theidealchainofasutureddiscoursewouldbeonewhichisarticulatedintofigureswhichitisno
longerappropriatetocallshot/reverseshot.butwhichmarktheneedsothatthechaincanfunction
foranarticulationofthespacesuchthatthesameportionofspaceberepresentedatleasttwice,inthe
filmicfieldandintheimaginaryfieldwithallthevariationsofanglethattheobliquenessofthe
camerawithregardtotheplaceofthesubjectallows.Thisidealchainconsists,asitprogresses,ofa
duplicatingrepresentation,whichdemandsthateachoftheelementscomposingitsspaceand
presentingitsactorsbeseparatedandduplicated,andtwicereadorevokedinatoandfromovement
whichwouldneeddescribingmoreprecisely.Thisisitselfpunctuatedbytheperceptionoftheframing
whichplaysanessentialrole.sinceanyevocationoftheimaginaryfieldreliesuponit:thatisthefilmic
fieldandthefourthside:thefieldofAbsenceandthefieldoftheImaginary;thesignifierofAbsence
andthesignifyingSum;theAbsentOneandthecharacterwhoreplacesit...
ThatthesignifiedcantrulyappearonlyattheconclusionofthatacthencenotproducedbytheSum
alone(paralyzedsolongasitisthesignifieroftheAbsencethatmakesitanentity)butoftherelation
betweentheelementsofthetwofieldsmadepossiblebyitsdisappearancedemonstratesthesymbolic
significationofthisrepresentation.Forjustasthe"signifiedtothesubject"seemslike"aneffectof
significationgovernedbytherepetitionofthesignifier"itselfcorrelativewiththedisappearanceofthe
subjectanditspassingasalack,sothesignified,inthecinema,onlyappearsattheendofaplayof
eclipses,attheendofanoscillationofthesignifier,alternatelyrepresentingtheAbsenceandthe
artificialsignifyingSum,whosesubversiveeffectonthespectator(whichLangmasteredsowell),
correlativewiththemomentarydisappearanceoftheAbsentOne,isthenannulledwhentheAbsent
Oneisreplacedbysomeone.
MoreoveritiseasiertounderstandtheroleplayedbytheAbsentOneinthisprocess,sincethe
structureofthesubjectisarticulatedina"flickeringineclipses,likethemovementwhichopensand

closesthenumber,whichdeliversupthelackintheformofthe1inordertoabolishitinthe
successor"acomparisonbetweenthesubjectandzero,alternatelyalackandanumber,"takingthe
suturingplaceoftheAbsence(oftheabsolutezero)whichmovesbelowthechain(ofnumbers)inan
alternatingmovementofrepresentationandexclusion".Itdesignatesgloballytheobjectsoftheimage
asasignifierthusrequiringthatthefilmiccontinuumbedividedintounitsasdiscreteaspossible.But
italsodesignatesitselfasalackthatis,toreturntoJacquesAlainMiller'sdefinitionofthesubject,as
"thepossibilityofonemoresignifier"announcingthenextlinkinthechain,andanticipatingthe
cuttingupofthenonctofollowandfinallyvanisheswhenthatlinkappears.ThustheAbsentOne,
thatfrozenproductionofthespectator'simaginary,isthedirectdemandofthesignifiertobe
representedinannoncsubjectedtoitsorder,anditseclipseensuresthesuturingfunctionofthe
subjectofthediscourse
Wehavehereonlygivenaroughsketchofthefunctioninganidealtypeofcinematicnoncwhose
totaloriginalityliesinbeingspokenfromaPlacewhichisalsothatofarepresentationtherelationsof
thesubjectspectatortothechainofhisdiscoursecarriedoutwiththeveryelementsofthatnoncthus
illuminatingthefundamentalambiguityofthecinematic.Thisambiguitystemsfromthecapacityto
producethisnecessaryrepresentation,possiblewithitsownelementsandgoverningtheir"reading"
withoutit,ultimately,noreadingispossible,anditbecomesduplicatedspeech,inwhichsomethingis
saidtopunctuate,articulate,andeveneclipsewhatissaidinthemeantime,anditsprocesssubjectsitto
itscinematicPlace.
Havingcastlightonthetrulyscenicplayofthecinematicsignifieritnowremainstoexamineat
greaterlengthitseffectsofsignification.InTheGeneralthereisascene,orratherafragmentofa
sceneinscribedwithinasingleshot.whichrevealsthecharacteristicsoftheimageasinslowmotion;
thisiswhenthetwoarmiesmeetonthebanksoftheriverneartheburntbridge.Agroupofsoldiers
crossestheriver,framedbythecamerainhighanglelongshot(butinfact,atthisstage,thespectator
doesnotyetperceiveeithertheframing,orthedistance,orthecamera'sposition:theimageisstillfor
thespectatoronlyamovingandanimatedphotograph).Suddenlytheenemysoldiersriseintheframe
atthebottomoftheimage,inordinatelylargerthantheothers.Thespectatortakesamomenttorealize,
likethePoecharacterwhoseesabutterflyaslargeasaship.thatthesoldiershaveoccupiedarise
abovetheriver,whichwashiddenbythepositionofthecamera.Thenthespectatorexperienceswith
vertiginousdelighttheunrealspaceseparatingthetwogroups;hehimselfisfluid,elastic,and
expanding:heisatthecinema.Amomentlater,heretreats;hehasdiscoveredtheframing.Suddenly,
hesensesthespacehecannotsee,hiddenbythecamera,andwonders,inretrospect,whysucha
framingwasused.Thatquestion,althoughunanswered,willradicallytransformthespectator'smodeof
participation:thisunrealspacewhichamomentagowasthefieldofhisjouissancehasbecomethe
distanceseparatingthecamerafromtheprotagonistswhoarenolongerpresent,whonolongerhave
theinnocent"beingthereness"ofamomentago,butinsteadhavea"beingthereforness".Why?In
ordertorepresentanAbsentOne,andtosignifytheabsenceofthecharacterwhichthespectator's
imaginationputsinplaceofthecamera.Atthesametime,orratherinthemeantime,thefilmicfield,
dilatedbythespectator'sreverie,hasbeentightenedup.Itsobjects(thetwoarmies,theslope,andthe
river)nowformasignifyingSum,closeduponitselfliketheindivisiblesignificationofakindof
absoluteevent.YetthehauntingpresenceoftheotherfieldandoftheAbsentOneremains.
1.Thismetamorphosisoftheimagewillnowbedescribedmoresystematically.Intheprevious
examplementionwasmadeofastage,whichcanbeignoredfromnowon,inwhichtheimagewasnot
perceivedasafilmicfield,butmorelikeananimatedphotograph.Thisstage,priortocinema,reveals
nothingofitsnaturebutdoesdemonstratehow.ultimately,itisonlythefilmicspaceonlythedepthof
itsfield,thatarcechoedbytheotherfield,thesideofthecamera.Itiswithinthetrajectoryofthis
reciprocalechothatthetransitionfromthecinematothecinematic,andviceversa,takesplace.Ina
hypotheticalandpurelymythicalperiod,whenthecinemaalonereigned,enjoyedbythespectatorina
dyadicrelationship,spacewasstillapureexpanseofjouissance,andthespectatorwasofferedobjects
literallywithoutanythingcomingbetweenthemasascreenandthusprohibitingthecaptureofthe
objects.Suddenlyhowever,prohibitionisthereintheguiseofthescreen;itspresencefirstputsanend
tothespectator'sfascination,tohiscapturebytheunreal.Itsperceptionrepresentsthethresholdat
whichtheimageisabolishedanddenouncedasunreal,beforethenbeingreborn,metamorphosizedby
theperceptionofitsboundaries.(Itisofcourseasimplificationtosaythatthespectatorperceivesan

image,framedanddelimited,sincehedoesnotperceivesimultaneouslytheframing,thespace,andthe
Filmedobject.Perceptionoftheframingalwayseclipsesvisionoftheobjectatthesametimeasitputs
anendtothespectator'sjouissanceinthespace.)
Instead,avacillatingimagereappears,itselements(framing,space,andobject)mutuallyeclipsingone
anotherinachaosoutofwhichrisethefourthsideandthephantomwhichthespectator'simagination
castsinitsplace:theAbsentOne.Therevelationofthisabsenceisthekeymomentinthefateofthe
image,sinceitintroducestheimageintotheorderofthesignifier,andthecinemaintotheorderof
discourse.Inthismetamorphosis,thefilmicfield,anexpanseofjouissance,becomesthespace
separatingthecamerafromthefilmedobjectsaspaceechoedby:theimaginaryspaceofthefourth
sideand,similarly,theobjectsoftheimagebecometherepresentationoftheAbsentOne,the
signifierofitsabsence.Whatthenremainsoftheundefinedbodyoftheimageisliterallyonlya
signifierofinsignificance.YetoutofthisreductiontheimageisrebornasasignifyingSum,theuniting
ofitssemantictraitswhichareinawaysummonedtosignifysomethingtogether,asignifyingSum
alwaysechoedbyalack(absence)whichthreatenstoannulitbyreducingittobeingnothingbutits
signifier.
2.Fromthesestageswhichwehavedescribedonlysketchily,withoutgivingmorethanan
approximateaccountofthelogicoftheirprocesscanbededucedthetragicandunstablenatureofthe
image,atotalitysynchronicallyelusive,madeofstructurallyoppositeandmutuallyeclipsingelements.
Thecinemaischaracterizedbyanantinomyofreadingandjouissance,becausethespaceinfact
alwaysabolishestheobject,andthedepthoffieldmakesthebodiesinscribedwithinitvanish(in
PremingerandMizoguchi);butthisisonlypossiblewithaneclipseofsignifiance(andviceversa)
whichenablesthespectator,inhisdaydreaming,tocapturetheexpressivetraitsoftheimage,the
unexpectedmovementofabodyorofthecamera,andthesuddendilationofspace...Throughthe
oscillationofthefilmicspace,alternatelyfieldandsign,theimageenterstheorderofthesignifier,but
onlyatthecostofitsownreduction.Theobjectisalsoinoscillation,beinginfactthemostvolatile
elementoftheimage:itisalwaysunderthreatofdissolutioninthespace,ashadowofitselfatthe
momentatwhichtheimageisliterallybeingreduced,andhiddenbehinditssignificationduringthe
image'srebirthassignifyingSum.Theoscillationofthesignifieritself,alternatelysignandletter
frozeninitsliteralnessonlytoevoketheabsenceofanyone,makesthecinemaauniqueformof
speech,onewhichspeaksitself,andsometimesspeaksonlyofitself,whosefaterestswiththeAbsent
One;fortheAbsentOne,whosenatureistovanishuponbeingnamed,disappearswhensomeone,or
indeedsomething,isintroducedintoitsfield.
Thisintroductionalonefillsthegap,erasestheabsenceoftheemptyfield,andsuturesthecinematic
discoursebyenvelopingitinanewdimension,theImaginary:thefourthside,apurefieldofabsence,
becomestheimaginaryfieldofthefilmandthefieldofitsimaginary.Thecinemawhichseeminglyis
withouthorizon,doesinfactpossessone,animaginaryhorizon,ontheotherside.Thustheambiguity
ofthefield,atoncepresentandabsent,unrealandimaginary,canbecalledcinematicsinceitis
throughthisdualitythatthecinemaengendersitself.Thesuturingeffectofanypresenceinthe
imaginaryfieldshowsbowinthecinema,thespaceandthesignifierjointheireffectsevenwhile
vanishing:indeed,asinTheTrialofJoanofArc,onlythearticulationofspacesupportsthesemantic
exchangebetweenshots,andonlytherelationshipbetweentheobjectsoftheimageandanimaginary
fieldwherethoseobjectsareechoedbyotherobjects,preventsthefixingofthesignifyingSum,the
freezingofmeaningwhichthreatensthespeechofthefilmwithhavingtomanifestitselfforeverand
thisatatimewhenthespectatorhasbeensubvertedbyitoutsidethefilmicfieldproducingtheSum,
andbeforeitisreflectedintheimaginaryfieldandmeetsitsownecho.
Tomakeafilmalwaysmeansoutliningafieldwhichevokesanotherfield,inwhichafingerrisesto
designatebyhidingthemitsobjectsasthesignifierofitsinsignificance,beforehavingthem
reappearanddieasasignifyingSum.ThissignifyingSum,echoedbytheabsenceproducingit,
doesnotsuggestaplenitudeofmeaningwhichthecameracannotattainimmediately,sinceitis
burdenedwithalackwhichmusealwaysbesatisfied.Insteaditrepresentsaparticulareffectofthe
cinematicsignifierarealterrorismofthesignwhichcorrespondstothemoment,opposedtothe
momentofliteralreduction,whensignificationactuallypenetratesthespectatorasasovereignspeech.
solitaryandwithoutecho.Therefore,thefateofcinematicspeech.abstractedfromtheobjects

conveyingit,istomanifestitselfalternatelyasafrozenletter,whichsignifiesanabsenceduringits
advent,andasaterroristicandsubversivespeech.Betweenthesetwoextremephases,cinematicspeech
encountersanechointhefieldoftheimaginarywhichenablesittoanchoritselfinthefielditcomes
from.Butiftheimaginaryfieldremainsthefieldofabsence,itsonlyechoisitsfutilityandthe
anchoringcannottakeplace;theobjectsnolongercarryit,thespeechfloats,speltout,anditbreaksas
aresultofbeingunsupportedbytheimaginary.
3.Uptonow(exceptamongahandfulofgreatfilmmakerswhounderstandthattheabsentfieldisas
importantasthepresentfieldandthatthefateofthesignifierisgovernedbytheirmutualarticulation)
theproblemofthecinematichasonlybeenraisedbymodernfilmmakers.Inrejectingaspacewhich
todayisstilllargelyonlyoneoffiction,theyhaveputcinematiclanguageunderexemplarypressure,
butattheriskofleadingittothethresholdofreification.Surprisingly,inthelightofTheTrialofJoan
ofArc,asimilarreificationaffectsAuhasard,Balthazar,afilmwhosefailure,inouropinion,
symbolizesthatofanycinemawhichrefusestocometotermswiththedualityofitsspaceandto
articulateitintocinematicfields.ThismakesBressonwithoutdoubtthemostambiguousfigurein
modemcinema.InAuhasard,Balthazar,astrictlylinearfilm,inwhichthecameraonlyfunctionsasa
fingerpointingoutthesignifyingobjects,whetherthosewhichitfollowsorthosewhichitfindsinits
path,Bressonseemstohavewantedtoquestionallhissyntacticproceduresand,atthesametime,asit
were.suturethroughmovementthediscourse,whichasaresultisinevitablystrewnwithblanksand
gaps.Thecameramovementsthemselvespreventthespectator'simaginaryfromfunctioningandfrom
suturingthediscourse,throughtheabsencetheycontinuallyproduce,anabsencewhichisonlyfilledin
rarescenesrecallingTheTrialofJoanofArc,suchasthemeetingbetweenGrardandMarie;asa
resultthediscourseendlesslysignifiesitselfasadeadletter,anditssyntaxemergesateveryinstantas
theonlysignifiedofthefilm.Thereisacontinuallynoticeabledecompositionofsyntagms,for
instance,inthesceneinwhichGrardandhisacolyteloadthedonkeyattheendofthefilm:afterthey
haveloaded"theperfume,thestockings,andthegold",thecamerahaltsonasordidmessjustasthe
charactersleavetheframe;theintentionofmeaningdesignatesitself...
Nevertheless,TheTrialofJoanofArcremainsthemodelofthecinematicwhichtakesonthe
specificallytragicnatureofitslanguage,evenaccentuatesit.andallowsthesutureofadeliberately
syncopateddiscourse.Tobeginwith,Bressonveryconsciouslyworkedonthetimesoftheimage,
sometimesinordertocreateasdidLangafantastiqueofthesign(shotsoftheregistrar'shandsand
ofthepriestwhomakesasigntoJoan,sobriefthatultimatelytheycanonlybeperceivedas
insignificantsignifiers,illegiblemessages),andsometimesinordertopreservethesignsofthe
alterationtheyundergoduringtheliteralreductionoftheimageintheconfrontationsbetweenJoanand
herjudge,theslighttimelapseseparatingthemomentofsuccessionoftheshotsfromtheappearance
otherwiseimperceptiblewithoutthatdelayonJoan'sfaceoftheeffectsofthejudge'swords,the
tighteningofthethroat,themovementofthelips,liketheresultsofaninvisiblewhiplash.Afterthe
syncopeproducedbythechangeofshot,aftertheerasingoftheabsencebythepresenceoftheother
characterontheothersideofthecamera,andthereconstructionasacinematicfield,throughcamera
position,ofthesceneoftheconfrontationbetweenthecharacters,thismomentallowsthesigntoburst
atitspointofgreatestefficiency,followingtheoperationofthesuture.
Withinfinitesubtlety,Bressonhasoutlinedandalmostreinventedcinematicfields.Dispellingthe
illusionsandambiguitiesofa"subjective"cinema,hehaswilfullyaccentuatedthedivergencebetween
thecamera'spositionandthatofthecharacterplacedonthesameside,therebyintroducinginfinite
modulationsofshootingangles:thecharactersmayeitherbealmostfaceon(thejudge)orinthree
quarterview(Joan).Thevariationofthisangleofattack,whichresultsintheexecutionerseeming
strangelymorevulnerablethanhisvictim,would,ifnecessary,provetheimportanceofthefield
outlinedbythecamera,whoseobliquenessindicatesthespectator'sownposition.Thattheonly
possiblepositionforthecamerashouldbethatobliqueangle,showsthatthespectatordoesnotidentify
withanyothercharacterintheinvisiblefieldofthefilm,butoccupiesapositionoutofalignmentboth
withthecharacterandwiththepositionoftheAbsentOnewhichisonlypresentintheimaginarywhen
thecharacter,whotakesitsplace,isnotthereitself...
4.ThustheAbsentOne,thisfrozenproductionofthespectator'simaginary,manifestsitselfbetween
twomoments:one,whenthecinema'sspeechisabolishedinthespectator'scosmomorphicjouissance,

andtheother,whenthatspeechtraversesthespectator.Inbetweenthesetwomomentsthespectator
recuperateshisdifference,anoperationbywhichheishimselfplacedoutsidetheframe,bypositioning
theAbsentOneasthesubjectofavisionwhichisnothisown,andtheimageasthesignifierof
absence.Onlyduringtheintervalsofsuchborderlinemomentsisthespectator'simaginaryableto
functionfreely,andhencetooccupytheplaceevidencedbyitsspatialobliquenessofavanishing
subject,decentredfromadiscoursewhichisclosingitself,andsuturingitselfinit,andwhichthe
subjectcanonlyassumeintheImaginary,thatisatonceduringtheintervalwhenhedisappearsas
subject,andwhenherecuperateshisdifference,andfromaplacewhichisneithertheplacewherethe
characterispositionedbythespectator'simaginationacharacterwhoisnomorethespectatorthanhe
isthesubjectoftheimageasfictiveimage(hencetheuneaseproducedbyashot/reverseshotsuchas
inKriemhild'sRevenge,andnearlyallLang'sshots,wherethecameraoftenactuallyoccupiestheplace
ofthecharacterinthatposition):norisitanarbitrarypositionforcingthespectatortopositperpetually
theAbsentOneasthefictitioussubjectofavisionwhichisnothisownandonwhichhisimagination
wouldstopshort.Inacinemafreeofsubjectiveillusion,onecanimaginewhatscopetherewouldbe,
onceagain,foralinkingofshotsbythelookdeterminedbytheuniqueanglewhichwouldallowthe
suturetotakeplaceasuturewhichalonewouldallowonetoreach,beyondfiction,thepointdreamed
ofbyBressonwhereeachimagewouldonlyhavean"exchange"value.Thefieldofsuchacinematic,
notyetborn,wouldbelessthespaceofaneventthanthefieldofemergenceofthesymbolic;its
symbolcouldbetheadmirableshot/reverseshotinLaChasseaulionl'arcwithinwhichRouch
framesthedyinglionessandthegroupofhuntersprayingbeforeher.InTheTrialofJoanofArc
Bressononlyallowshimselftoshowthesignsofcommunication,unlikeFlahertywhocomplacently
purportedtorecreatetheeventofcommunicationitself.Bressondoessowithinacinematicfield
which,becausehedoesnotattempttoproducetheillusionofitsimmediacy,givesbacktothecinemaa
symbolicdimension,revealedintheveryprocessofreading.
5.Afterexperimentingwithitscharacteristics,naivelyatfirst.thenmoreandmoredeliberately(as
withLangandHitchcock),thecinematodayspeaksofnothingelse.Yetnowthatthesepropertiesare
recognized,welooktothatspeechtorecreatenotanobjectbutasite,acinematicfieldwhichwillbe
nolongertheprivilegedmeansofembodyingafiction,butthatforcinema'sspeechtounfolditself
accordingtoitsproperties,sinceitisthroughspacethatthecinemaisbornintotheorderofdiscourse,
anditisfromtheplacewhoseabsenceitevokesthatitisdesignatedasaspeechandthatitsimaginary
isdisplayed.Itwouldbeabsurdlyacademic,however,todeducefrom"howtoarticulatethatspeech"
onlyamoreefficientwayofdistributingthecinema'ssignifier.andsimplytoexposea
misunderstandingofitscharacteristics,aswithAuhasard,Balthazar.Foritisneverthelessessentialto
recognizethat,inarticulatingtheconditionsandthelimitsofitssignifyingpower,thecinemaisalso
speakingoferoticism.
ThatinBresson'smasterpiece,whichisaboutcommunication,andevenmoreabouteroticism(around
whichitstragedyexplodes),hecouldonlytalkaboutitbycreatingacinematicfieldwhich,atthesame
time,isthespaceofhisowndiscourserecreated,andthefieldofspeechofthecinematic,indicates
clearlyenoughthesymbolicspecificityofeventhemostsimplecinematicspace,reducedtoits
minimalunitanabsenceandapresence;thatis.(hestagingofa"passion"ofsignifiers,amiseen
sceneofbodiesandofthespectatorhimselfwhoisprivilegedtorepresentthepassionoperatingin
communication,andineroticismespecially.Fortoolongeroticisminthecinemahasonlybeen
exploitedorlocatedonthefilmiclevel;peopletalkedabouttheeroticismofacameramovementas
improperlyastheydidaboutthecameraeyeandpossessionoftheworldbythefilmmaker,etc.A
substantialshiftinpointofviewhasinfacetakenplace;todaythephenomenonofquasivision,
peculiartothecinema,onlyappearsastheconditionofaneroticismrecognizableinthearticulationof
thefilmicandthecinematic,andaffectingthesignifiersandthefiguresconveyingthem.thereby
demonstratingthattheverynatureofthecinematicdiscourseisinquestion.Thediscoverythatthe
cinema,inspeakingitself,speaksoferoticism,andistheprivilegedspacewhereeroticismcanalways
besignified,shouldprobablybecreditedtoLang;andalthoughalltheconsequencesarefarfrombeing
drawnyet,thisdiscoveryengagesthewholecinema.
Postscript
Thefollowingremarkssumupandattenuatesomewhattheextremismofthearticle.

1.Intheveryprocesswhichisatthesametimejouissanceand"reading"ofthefilma"reading"
whichinturnissignifiedandannulled,andbywhichthespectatorissubvertedsomethingissaid
whichcanonlybediscussedineroticterms,andwhichisitselfgivenastheclosestrepresentationof
theactualprocessoferoticism.
2.Subjectionofwhatissaidinthemeantimeinthefilmisunavoidablefortworeasonsandintwo
ways:firstthefateofthecinematicsignifierisgivenbythearticulationsoftheprocess;second,and
moreimportantly,theprocessitselfandallthatissaidinit.whichtakesplaceinacinematicspace
makingthefilmasymbolicspace,alwaysdesignatesthesealofthesymbolic,modifiedbyitsechoand
modeledbyitsgrid.
3.Thus,tosaythatthecinema,inspeakingitself,initsplaceandfromitsspecificplace,speaksof
eroticism,leadstoquestioningitssymbolsandfigures,beyonderoticism.Indeedbeyondthat
eroticism,theessentiallyfigurativerealityofthecinemaisrevealedinsuchfilmsasTheTigerof
Bengal,TheTrialofJoanofArc,orTheImmortalStory.