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David Lynch, Francis Bacon,

Gilles Deleuze: The Cinematic Diagram

and the Hall of Time

Jeremy Powell


In contrast to his book about Francis Bacon, the initial French

edition of which was accompanied by a lavish supplementary vol-
ume filled with color reproductions of Bacons paintings, Gilles
Deleuzes two books on cinema contain no visual illustrations
whatsoever. By way of explaining this, Deleuze simply claimed at
the start of Cinema 1: The Movement-Image that it is in fact our text
alone which aspires to be an illustration of the great films.1 Still,
he may well have had a serious theoretical motivation for refus-
ing to include film frame reproductions in his cinema books. Inas-
much as Deleuzes approach to cinema is founded on a Bergsonian
philosophy of time as irreducible dure, frame reproductions could
function beneficially only as degraded aide-mmoire, likely to help
the reader in recollecting his or her own past encounter with the
cinematic passage (mobile cut of dure) in the film from which
the still image (immobile cut of dure) has been extracted, yet
equally likely to distort that recollection by arresting the mobility

Discourse, 36.3, Fall 2014, pp. 309339.

Copyright 2015 Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Michigan 48201-1309. ISSN 1522-5321.
310 Jeremy Powell

Figure 1. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, 1992).

of the recollected cut, reducing the cinematic passage to a sort of

painting. When matters of cinematic ontology are at stake, then,
it might seem better to eschew frame reproductions entirely, as
Deleuze did, rather than to risk reducing cinema to photography.
Yet despite such concerns, here they are: still frame reproductions
of images from the films of David Lynch, peppering my Deleuz-
ian text beginning with the Lynchian invitation presented here as
figure 1. The justification for this is simple and provides my essay
with its first important claim: images found in Lynchs films must
be thought in relation not just to the cinema but also to painting.
This claim doesnt only apply to Lynchs early experiments
with projecting film images onto sculptural painted screens, nor is
it limited to his animated shorts. It applies to all his films; painting
is essential to Lynchs cinema. A suggestive utterance taken from
one of the many extant interviews with Lynch implies confirmation
of this contention. One of the things that strikes me, he said,
is how exciting it must have been to have been a filmmaker in
the early days of cinema, because not only was it so magical to see
paintings begin to move, but they could start altering time.2 The
lengthier second part of this essay will therefore show that cine-
mas ontological capacity for mobilizing inhuman forces (via a cin-
ematic diagram) is put to work in Lynchs film practice in order to
produce an image of that most profound of Deleuzian inhuman
forces, the Virtual, and that Lynchs recurrent image of the Vir-
tualas the Hall of Time, a hallway and exhibition space where
time itself is put on displayis no mere illustration but a properly
philosophical intervention into our concept of time in the wake of
Deleuzes work.
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 311

But we have not yet exhausted the richness of Lynchs utter-

ance. There is a suggestion too that for Lynch, filmmakers do not
perform their work only on celluloid, or only on canvas, but also on
time itself. What cinema shows us of time can, in time, alter time so
that our concepts of time require revision. This proposition does
not go beyond Deleuzes thought but instead affirms it; Deleuzes
philosophy of time should be conceived as a response to the his-
torical obsolescence of earlier concepts, an obsolescence provoked
by developments not only within philosophy proper but also within
the arts.3

The Cinematic Diagram

Greg Hainges commentary on Lynchs film Lost Highway (1997)

asserts that Lynchs filmic expression employs techniques nor-
mally reserved for painting and that Lost Highway employs such
techniques in order to break conventional narrative so as to
bypass the intellect and reach the viewer on an affective, sensa-
tional level.4 Hainges analysis relies on a lucidly summarized ver-
sion of Deleuzes reading of the paintings of Francis Bacon, which
is worth reproducing at length:

primary Figure: the chromatic juxtapositions of the backgrounds, the

lines of force inscribed on the canvasBacons inimitable circles, arrows,
parallelepipeds and evanescent cubesand other elements all exert a
centripetal force on this primary Figure. By doing this, Bacon isolates the
Figure from the surroundings and thus breaks all notion of representa-
tion, narration or illustration. Estranged from the very context in which
it is situated, the narrative of the Figure can no longer be determined
by its context. . . . Having undergone this process, the Figure releases
centrifugal forces as it attempts to escape itself through its very organs
in a spasmodic movement so as to fade into the background, the very
materiality of the painting. The effect of this, of course, is to further the
narrative dissolution and thus intensify the pure immanence of the paint-
ing which is thus able to bypass the reflective mechanisms of mind and
intellect to act directly on the spectators emotive [i.e., affective] core on
a plane of immediacy.5

Hainges principal argument is that Lynchs films cannot achieve

an aesthetics of sensation merely by the means of narrative frag-
mentation that worked for Bacon, because as an art, cinema pro-
vides a greater degree of perceptionality and consequently entails
a more powerful realist illusion. These ontological characteristics
312 Jeremy Powell

of film motivate Lynchs deliberate heightening of artifice and

self-referentiality in order to permit an aesthetic of sensation to
connect with the viewer.6 In this first part of my essay, I will show
that contrary to Hainges claim that cinemas so-called realism
works against its potential for a Baconian aesthetics of sensation
and figurality, such an aesthetics is actually supported precisely by
those aspects of cinemas ontological condition that so often have
been reduced, by theorists and filmmakers alike, to notions of real-
ism and representation.
As for the influence of Bacon, we can again turn to Lynchs
own words for confirmation. He has proclaimed Bacon to be, in his
estimation, the main guy, the number one kinda hero painter.7
Bacon has exerted an influence, both superficial and profound, on
Lynchs own paintings. This can be observed in Lynchs exhibition
catalog The Air Is on Fire, most readily in certain surface borrowings:
the directional arrow in Wajunga Red Dog (2005) and the shape
of the couch in Well . . . I Can Dream, Cant I? (2004).8 Lynch has
called Man Walking Dog an homage to Bacon,9 and this attitude
also extends to the photographs: in the collection Images, the pho-
tographed sculptures Clay Head with Turkey, Cheese and Ants (1991)
and the bubble gumheaded Man with Instrument both exhibit
cephalic deformation reminiscent of Bacon paintings such as Seated
Figure (1961) (figure 2).10 In the series of digitally manipulated
found photos Distorted Nudes (found in The Air Is on Fire), deformed
faces and bodies vividly produce the Baconian bodys intense effort
to, in Deleuzes words, escape through a point or through a hole
that forms a part of itself or its surroundings.11 If Lynchs paintings
and photographs are more unequivocally unsettling in tone than
Bacons, perhaps sometimes to a risible excess in which Bacon sel-
dom indulges, nonetheless we see in each of them a similar project:
to present the actions of invisible forces upon bodies, rendered in
a preintellectual sensation of intensities.12
Lynchs films, too, exhibit Bacons influence. As Hainge shows,
the fact that Lynch praises Bacons paintings as fragments of nar-
rative should pique ones interest at a time when, since Twin Peaks:
Fire Walk with Me (1992) generally and particularly with Inland
Empire (2006), Lynchs film style has reached extremes of narra-
tive fragmentation.13 But Hainge could be more attentive to the
specificities of Deleuzes account of Bacons de-narrativizing prac-
tice, and the deepest connections between Lynch and Bacon lie in
those specificities.
If Bacon had made a movie, Lynch has wondered, what
would it have been like and where would it have gone? And how
would cinema translate those textures and those spaces?14 J. G.
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 313

Figure 2. Seated Figure (Francis Bacon, 1961).

Ballard summed up Blue Velvet (1986) as The Wizard of Oz reshot

with a script by Kafka and dcor by Francis Bacon.15 Dorothy Val-
lenss apartment, in particular, vividly recalls Bacons work. In the
film still reproduced here as figure 3, Bacons touch first emerges
in the set dressingchairs, couches, fleshy mauve carpet. Lynchs
meticulously balanced composition is wide enough (roughly the
ratio of Bacons triptychs) to show portions of the wall on either
side of the frame, as Bacon often does. As is common in Bacon,
the scene evokes a theatrical stage, an effect heightened by the
unnatural poses of the unmoving male figures. Dorothys kitchen,
though it projects backward from the images primary space rather
than floating within it, serves a function quite like that of the
314 Jeremy Powell

Figure 3. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986).

parallelepiped in Bacon, isolating the seated figure with his stand-

ing attendant, and a solid contour (the black half-wall and counter-
top) further isolates this primary figure.
But we do not yet see anything precisely like Bacons asignify-
ing marks, which are so crucial to Deleuzes analysis of the figural
in Bacon.16 Can we have them at all in the cinema? The traits mani-
fested by certain avant-garde practicessuch as those of Stan Bra-
khage, who painted directly onto exposed film stock in order to
create cameraless nonfigurative filmsmight qualify. The brush-
strokes in Brakhage certainly meet Deleuzes requirement that
such marks must be manual. But for Deleuze, the construction of
a graph or a diagram through asignifying marks presupposes that
there were already figurative givens [donnes] on the canvas (and
in the painters head), more or less virtual, more or less actual.17
And though the removal of these givens through the work of asig-
nifying lines and zones (traits and taches) is the key to creating a
figural art, this removal must not go unchecked. Even if one could
locate traces of figuration in Brakhages painted cinematic works,
they fail to become figural in the same way that, Deleuze claims,
abstract expressionism failed by maximizing chaos and neglecting
to form any sort of contour to limit the diagram: the diagram pro-
liferates to cover the entire image and creates a veritable mess.18
Unlike in Brakhage, abstractions in Lynchs films consistently
arise in figural form. BOB, who appears in Twin Peaks as well as in
many of Lynchs paintings, is, Lynch claims, an abstraction with a
human formand, he is quick to note, thats not a new thing.19
BOB is not only an abstract concept rendered aesthetically but is
also a visual figuration-becoming-abstraction, that is, a figurality. A
body is irreducibly unstable: it is constantly subject to the actions of
invisible forces, and not all of these forces tend toward its enduring
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 315

coherence. Any of Lynchs figures is thus subject to distortions of

size, texture, or form, by any number of means. At the limit, an
arts technological apparatus must itself be mutated or assaulted
in order to reach the most intense distortion of figure, as when
one of Lost Highways images can be obtained only by removing the
lens itself from the camera while filming.20 Though the resulting
image may present itself as an indistinct blur, nonetheless the mias-
mic movements here are still evidently associated with some figure,
however vaguely delineated, rather than being the products of
some spiritually ascetic savior or some manually explosive actant.21
Lynchs own early films might be said to contain properly manual
asignifying marks, since they are essentially animated paintings,
but perhaps there is no need to be so strict: the manual is impor-
tant for Deleuze only because here it is as if the hand assumed an
independence, and began to be guided by other forces, making
marks that no longer depend on either our will or our sight. These
almost blind manual marks attest to the intrusion of another world
into the visual world of figuration.22 The distinguishing character-
istics of the asignifying marks that install a diagram are thus that
they must be irrational, involuntary, accidental, free, random[,]
. . . nonrepresentative, nonillustrative, nonnarrative.23 Is this not
precisely the ontological condition of both the photographic and
the cinematographic image?
As is well known, Andr Bazin answered this questionor at
least part of itaffirmatively in an article that grounds Deleuzes
own investigation into cinema: [With photography], for the first
time, between the originating object and its reproduction there
intervenes only the instrumentality of a nonliving agent. For the
first time an image of the world is formed automatically, without
the creative intervention of man.24 The registrational, nonde-
liberative aspect of photography and cinema thus ensures that
every image must undergo the intrusion of another world into
the visual world of figuration that depends on human will and
human sight. Whereas Bazins principal interest in the cameras
automaticity is usually taken as realist and representationalin
the language of cine-semiotics it is said that the photographic or
cinematographic image, while it remains (like painting) an iconic-
symbolic representation of reality, also enjoys a relationship to
that reality that is privileged relative to the other arts inasmuch as
it is also an indexical relationship, that is, a necessary and causal
relationshipnonetheless Bazin and other classical film theorists
also emphasized that the cameras automatic functioning opens it
to what is sometimes called the contingency of that reality. A film
shot may be orchestrated by a human brain, but in its process of
316 Jeremy Powell

Figure 4. Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997).

registration as well as in its specific details, it is executed by forces

that are necessarily inhuman: a camera functions, and because this
is so, cinema gives us marks of the irrational. Thus, in the image
from Blue Velvet reproduced above, we have the web of fractured
glass on the broken television screen, the stain on the kitchen
wall above Dons head, the peculiar swaying of the standing Yel-
low Man. Each bears the mark and is the mark of an inhuman
force that has in turn been registered by the inhuman force of
the camera. Such necessary effects of the cinematic techn are far
subtler and more pervasive, and therefore less immediately arrest-
ing, than the techniques of extreme de-focusing in Lost Highway,
but both have the same effect: to summon a diagram, an acciden-
tal and irreducible graph, that necessarily pervades the cinema.
Thus, the mobilization of inhuman forces in cinema (unlike in
painting) does not depend on a manual technique perfected only
by the great masters; rather, the cinematic diagram is inherent to
cinema as such.
The only remaining question is the biggest one: the question of
art. How best to orchestrate the forces that enter the work through
that diagram?25 Lynch understands this problem well; speaking of
the need to let accidents happen in his work, he says that you
always have to leave an opening for other forces, you know, to do
their thing.26 In works such as Lynchs, these diagramed forces
may in turn indicate the most baleful forces to which a body can
be subject.27 His works are full of open doors through which such
forces come, and if a certain paranoia is not always absent from the
affects of Lynchs films, this is surely because he effectively shows
that we are constantly surrounded by bodies capable of destroying
our own bodies, if only we happen to enter into the wrong relation
with them. In Lost Highway it is not a weapon but an ordinary coffee
table that makes pitiable meat of Andys head (figure 4).
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 317

The Hall of Time

Grounded in this aesthetics of sensation that runs throughout

Lynchs oeuvre but also pressing beyond it, something genuinely
new emerges in Lynchs later films. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me,
Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr. (2001), and Inland Empire: these are
Lynchs puzzle films.28 In them we are challenged to keep track
of recurring elements, whether objects, phrases, colors, or move-
ments, in order to discover associations that have been obscured
through narrative or spatial fragmentation or even through visual
or sonic interference. In Inland Empire, it is very difficult to make
out the significant phrases in Mr. Ks muffled telephone conversa-
tionCrimp? Yeah, hes around here someplaceas well as the
unsubtitled Polish phrase Czerwony, tak, which transliterates to
Red, yes.29 In Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Phillip Jeffriess and
Philip Gerard/MIKEs speeches are both obscured by interfering
sounds. In the former case, the interference comes from electronic
static as well as the dialogue of the meeting in the convenience
store, as Jeffriess monologue is, in Michel Chions suggestive turn
of phrase, parasited by another scene.30 The latter case is par-
ticularly notable: Gerard/MIKE attempts to warn Laura and to
threaten Leland/BOB, but Leland revs his cars engine and honks
the horn to prevent Laura from hearing. This also makes it difficult
for us to understand what is said, despite its importance: You stole
the corn! and so on. These strategies of obscuring form a part of a
larger subtractive process that marks Lynchs working style: the ini-
tial cut of Blue Velvet was reportedly four and a half hours long, the
recent Region A Blu-Ray release of that film includes fifty minutes
of deleted scenes, and nearly two hours of deleted material from
Wild at Heart (1990) was released in 2008 on DVD as part of David
Lynch: The Lime Green Set.31
With the puzzle films, this situation becomes quite compli-
cated. It is true that Lynch is not averse to the release of material
initially cut from his features: seventy-five minutes of deleted scenes
from Inland Empire were released in 2007 as More Things That
Happened, and ninety minutes of deleted scenes cut from Twin
Peaks: Fire Walk with Me were included as The Missing Pieces in
the 2014 Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery set. Nonetheless, consulting
leaked script drafts of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and Lost Highway
reveal that Lynch has worked on the puzzle films in much the same
way that a writer of mystery novels might: initially the text contains
too many clues or too obvious ones; these are progressively excised
or obscured until a solution is no longer obvious.32 Especially in
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and Inland Empire, it is tempting to
318 Jeremy Powell

approach Lynch as Northrop Frye approached Blake: as the archi-

tect of a symbology that is idiosyncratic, elaborate, and sometimes
(as in Blakes late prints) deliberately obscured but nonetheless
decipherable.33 Approached as Blakean, recurring elements would
bleed over from film to film, creating what seems like a larger puz-
zle film, nearly the size of Lynchs oeuvre, that would also include
Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Wild at Heart as well as some of the short
films. The Manichean black-and-white chevron floor pattern of
Eraserhead and Twin Peaks reappears in Inland Empire on Nikkis
dress in an early scene, then on the floor in the time-punch room
near the end (here transmuted into a wave pattern that recalls the
fabric weave of the silk Nikki uses to cast the gypsy spell, which is in
turn identified with celluloid via the cigarette-burn Rabbits scene).
Twin Peaks and Inland Empire go the furthest in this direction, the
latter resembling James Joyces late work in the sheer complexity
of the network of associations and in the consequent difficulty of
decipherment.34 Decipheringwhether of enigmatic symbols or of
fragmented chronologiesis perhaps the most common approach
to Lynchs work in the nonacademic literature (e.g., online discus-
sion forums or the now-defunct fanzine Wrapped in Plastic, which
ran for seventy-five issues), but it is much rarer in the academic
literature. A few academic attempts to decipher a symbology across
Lynchs oeuvre as a whole have met with some success, but strik-
ingly these seldom penetrate all the strategies of obscuring, and
when dealing with the puzzle films, they often contain inaccurate
descriptions or disregard vital clues. Thus Michel Chion, generally
one of Lynchs more persuasive commentators, is quite poor on
the puzzle films: for instance, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Mes crucial
image of the Man from Another Place consuming Leland/BOBs
creamed-corn garmonbozia is misidentified by Chion as a trivial
shot of a fruit pie.35
Against this temptation, Deleuze refuses to decipher works of
art or even to interpret them. While he is attracted to works that
seem to demand interpretation, it is usually in order to demon-
strate a noninterpretive mode of engaging with them. This is the
way, for instance, he approaches Joyce, whose novels often com-
mission a hermeneutic response from readers to the exclusion of
other approaches.36 Deleuze finds a different way to read Joyce,
whose texts, he says, [draw] together a maximum of disparate
series (ultimately, all the divergent series constitutive of the cos-
mos) by bringing into operation linguistic dark precursors (here,
esoteric words, portmanteau words) which rely upon no prior iden-
tity, which are above all not identifiable in principle, but which
induce a maximum of resemblance and identity into the system as
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 319

a whole, as though this were the result of the process of differen-

ciation of difference in itself.37 In post-Symbolist conceptions of
the imageJoyces but also Prousts and PoundsDeleuze finds
that the image functions as an autonomous link between two con-
crete objects insofar as they are different (image, concrete equa-
tion).38 Similarly, there is a strict literalism of correspondences
in Lynch, which Deleuze surely would have applauded. The privi-
leged example of this nonrepresentational connective literalism is
the creamed corn in Twin Peaks, which does not symbolize pain
and sorrow but is pain and sorrow, every bit as much as it is corn. A
subtitle near the end of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me uses parenthe-
ses to assert this literalism: BOB, I want all my garmonbozia (pain
and sorrow).
Such literalism finds one of its justifications at the diegetic level
in the form of the supernatural elements found in Lynchs late
films, but it can also be understood as a further means of approach-
ing asignification, one more particular to Lynchs own aesthetic
practice than is the cinematic diagram as such (that is, than the
registration of contingent marks in the profilmic): here the sub-
tracted material becomes a sort of invisible marking in the finished
film, causing even the most obviously significant and symbolic ele-
ments to take on some of the qualities of asignifying marks. We
would be wrong to think that the significance of an element (of
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Mes creamed corn, for instance, or of
Mulholland Dr.s blue box) decreases with each subtraction of mate-
rial, as the clues necessary to its decipherment are progressively
effaced. But we would be equally wrong to think that each subtrac-
tion instead expands the elements significance, as though a pro-
found enigmaticity inflated to fill the vacated space. Rather, each
element becomes literal: it acquires a double structure and begins
to oscillate between, on the one hand, literally being its relations
to certain other elements (as the corn is pain and sorrow) and,
on the other hand, literally being the contingent presence of the
element itself, without consideration of its relations to any other
elements, which all fade from the element as though cut away from
it. This literality in turn extends to Lynchs films themselves: only
by seeing them as literal productions, productions of literality, can
we arrive at an intuition of the absence of the cut material that
might confirm the films significance, without that absence coming
to acquire the gravitational resonance of a lack.39
Deleuze writes (and we have taken him at his word) that
the great cinema auteurs are like the great painters or the great
musicians: it is they who talk best about what they do.40 Not just
Lynchs films but his interviews too exhibit a nonmetaphorical,
320 Jeremy Powell

nonrepresentational literalism of speech, which we must learn to

take seriously. But first we must admit that not all of the foolish
remarks in Lynchs interviews may be justified. Episodes that reveal
a dangerous political navet present themselves alongside excur-
sions into crackpot science and conspiracy-minded historical revi-
sionism. There is a consistent disregard for contemporary scientific
consensus: an early attempt to persuade the Franklin Institute in
Philadelphia that he had designed a functional perpetual motion
machine perhaps predicts his more recent New Age erasure of any
recognizable boundary between science and religion. This is visible
in Lynchs 2006 book Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Conscious-
ness, and Creativity and especially in the related lecture series, in
which Lynch teamed with John Hagelin, quantum physicist and
erstwhile Natural Law Party candidate for U.S. president, to pro-
mote Transcendental Meditation (TM) as a method of accessing
the quantum Unified Field that permeates subatomic and super-
atomic strata and also constitutes the field of pure consciousness
or pure creativity.41 Like many institutions of meditative practice
in the United States, TM has been keen to advertise itself as a sci-
ence rather than a religion while blurring the boundaries between
the two. But its clear that TM is not just a science and/or a reli-
gion; it has also been a politics, however marginalized, with the
now-defunct Natural Law Party and its American successor, the
U.S. Peace Government, as its vanguard political organizations.42
A leftist such as myself, schooled in the poststructuralist variants
of Leninism and anarchism, cant help but find the politics of
both organizations problematic, and Lynchs own public musings
on political matters, obviously influenced by these TM-affiliated
political movements, are sometimes equally troubling. In Lynch on
Lynchs most scandalous passage, to take an especially indefensible
example, he flirts with a fascist political program without express-
ing the slightest ambivalence or pause:

Each year we give permission for people to get away with more. We do
it by being disorganized, being without leadership, not making deci-
sions fast enough, and not holding true to things that were in place to
begin with. . . . Somehow, by thinking were being more understanding
or something, were actually giving away some really important things;
giving permission to do things that are hurting people, and then hurting
ourselves. . . . Weve got to contain everything long enough to get a new
plan, and that plan has gotta recognize all voices. Maybe it means having
the police in the streets everywhere for five years, just to prevent anything
horrible happening while we get it together and make everything more
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 321

The response of many critics is to praise Lynchs work despite these

elements, to separate the art from the artist; this is the path taken
by Slavoj iek.44 On the contrary, I claim that we should explore
these aspects of Lynchs discourse rather than dismissing them. For
if Lynchs political views sometimes approach fascism, nonetheless
I hope to show that the way he thinks metaphysics may be surpris-
ingly resonant with one of the greatest antifascist philosophies, that
of Deleuze.45
It is tempting to think of Lynch as a wise fool, an idiot savant
artist whose work expresses truths he himself fails to grasp. But
we must be sure we understand what this would mean. At certain
moments his way of speaking calls to mind Peter Sellerss wise fool
Chauncey Gardiner. In Being There (1979), Gardiners power in
the realm of sense becomes very great due to a series of double
entendres (orchestrated by screenwriter Jerzy Kosinski and direc-
tor Hal Ashby in the manner of classic farce). These cultivate a
state of irony in which only the viewer recognizes that the other
characters belief in Gardiners oracular pearls of wisdom is really a
misrecognition of his absolutely literal use of language. Before any-
one in the film comes to realize that the bifurcation of reference
theyve ascribed to Gardiner is not part of his own understanding,
one character praises him for his clarity and straightforwardness:
Theres something about you: you dont play games with words to
protect yourself. Protecting oneself is precisely what Lynchs work
at first seems to be all about: one must vigilantly protect against the
threatening forces of the outside. The need for (and fragility of)
such protections may seem to be a dominant theme in his work,
though we will see that this theme is more complicated than it ini-
tially appears. At any rate, it is certain that in the realm of sense at
least, Lynch does not play games for self-protection. Because Gar-
diners incapacity to produce new metaphors goes unnoticed by the
other characters, they misunderstand his absolutely literal utter-
ances as very sensible metaphors. Lynch, like Gardiner, does not
speak in metaphorshe does not play gamesand never speaks of
metaphors. The terms he uses are abstractions and ideas.
What manner of ideas are these? Roger Sinnerbrink has
defined what he calls Lynchian cinematic Ideas in the following
way: visual and aural sequences that combine images and sounds
liberated from a purely narrative function with images evincing
a complex cinematic reflexivity. . . . Lynchs cinematic Ideas are
presentations of the imagination that exceed conceptual deter-
mination and linguistic expression.46 The key terms in Sinner-
brinks phrase describing that which a Lynchian Idea goes beyond
are not conceptual and expression but determination and
322 Jeremy Powell

linguistic. If stripped of its reference to a psychologized imagi-

nation, this notion of an Idea is fully compatible with a Deleuzian
approach to art. Thus, in Claire Colebrooks gloss on Deleuzes
philosophy of virtual Ideas, an Idea extends the concepts through
which we think the world to a virtual point beyond the world. . . .
The Idea is the extension to the nth power of an actual possibility.
We see this or that actually differing thing, but we can think differ-
ence as such.47 The tactics of Sinnerbrinks move are admirable:
he intends to provide an alternative to two widely cited readings
of Lynchs work, on the one hand Martha Nochimsons New Age
Lynch (the poet of a Jungian universal subconscious spiritualised
Libido, as Sinnerbrink puts it, citing ieks sarcastic characteriza-
tion of Nochimsons Lynch) and, on the other, ieks version of
Lynch as symptomatic reader of late capitalist subjectivity: an artist
who exposes the postmodern subjects fundamental fantasy, the
traumatic unconscious fantasy framework that renders consistent
the (gendered) subjects image of self-identity and coherent expe-
rience of social-symbolic reality.48 The distinction between these
approaches and the approach to cinema that Sinnerbrink shares
with Deleuze is precisely the distinction between interpretation on
the one hand and, on the other, an exercise in mutual reflection,
cinema reflecting upon philosophical questions through its own
medium, and philosophy reflecting upon cinema as a mode of
thinking in its own right.49 On philosophys side of the equa-
tion, one must create concepts adequate to the particular Ideas
expressed (actualized as blocs of sensation) in works of art.
Where, then, do Ideas come from? For Deleuze, the answer
(however difficult to grasp) is clear. Ideas come from the Outside
and pertain to the Outside: outside of that thought-of-the-inside
that we mistake for our selves. Any thought that is worthy of the
name is an event, one that cannot take place within the sensorimo-
tor schema that perpetuates doxa. The Outside is the Virtual, the
plane of immanence, which (at least for the late Deleuze of the
cinema books and What Is Philosophy?) is identified not only with
thought, becoming, and Life but also with time. The question of
where Ideas come from is equally important for Lynch. In interviews
and writings, he is very consistent: Ideas come from the Unified
Field. But what does this mean? One might dismiss the notion as
New Age gobbledygook: Exhibit A in such a prosecution would be
the nonprofit David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based
Education and World Peace, whose mission includes integrating
meditative practices into educational institutions and also, more
important, funding the construction of peace palaces around the
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 323

world from which advanced TM adherents would emanate pure

peace into the Unified Field, using their thoughts to change the
quantum substratum of reality.50 Yet Lynch does not speak of this
scheme in the solemn humanistic terms that most spiritualists use
to prop up subjective interiority through an appeal to mystical tran-
sindividuality. The peace palaces are instead discussed as factories,
where the meditation laborers psychic individuality has no impor-
tance: input food and a properly constructed meditation machine
will output peace. You build a facility like a factory, you house the
people, you feed the people, they do their meditation . . . and its a
beautiful, beautiful thing for the world.51
Statements such as these are not simply a matter of the insti-
tutions of TM or of the associated Natural Law political move-
ment that Lynch has supported. They are a matter of rendering
indiscernible the categories of subjective interiority and objective
exteriority, and it is here that we begin to see an alternative way of
understanding some of the most problematic elements in Lynchs
discourse. The indiscernibility of interior and exterior is perhaps
most notable in Lynchs odd prose piece titled Meaningless Con-
versations, which moves from a serious, though substantially ludi-
crous, statement of mystical doctrine to a final section that links
these metaphysical ruminations to a diatribe about the importance
of dental hygiene:

In order to ensure that the fundamental qualities inherent in the solu-

tions to modern philosophical questions are accurate the first and fore-
most consideration lies in the field of abstractions associated with the
laws of nature and with them the interaction of the primary sources of
life itself which have now been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to
have their basis in the field of the absolute or the vacuum state. . . . [T]he
initial thinking on a subject is critical to all that follows and can be an
excellent partner to the dark and evil forces that would have us living
forever in confusion refusing even to acknowledge that we even existed
or that there was such a thing as a bad tooth or a toothache.52

The mouth is like the home, a place where things can go wrong
and a place where inside and outside are not strictly identifiable.53
Lynch is one of the great artists of the uncanny, and perhaps because
certain scenes in Lynch seem inescapably Freudian (above all, the
voyeuristic witnessing in Blue Velvet of a primal scene between a mas-
ochistic mother and a terrifying Ur-Vater who is also a comically
helpless infant), it is psychoanalytic critics, primarily Lacanians, who
have proved most interested in producing exegeses of his work.54
Lynch astutely dismisses psychoanalytic interpretations of his work
324 Jeremy Powell

as things you can latch on to.55 Such latchings on, such capturings,
are what Deleuze, with and without Guattari, always denounced in
psychoanalytic discourse while never denying the usefulness or even
the adequacy of a certain psychoanalytic concept of the uncon-
scious. The question was never Are there structures, are there rep-
etitions? but rather How do these structures, these repetitions,
produce and reproduce themselves to the exclusion of becomings,
events that would not be repetitions? A corollary questionIf psy-
choanalytic practice sustains such capturings, how could an analytic
practice instead encourage escapes?has often been mistaken,
due in no small part to Deleuze and Guattaris hyperbolic antipat-
ernal rhetoric, for a rejection tout court of psychoanalytic claims.56
The task is to get outside of thinking our insides. And the problem
is with language: As soon as you put things in words, no one ever
sees the film the same way, Lynch has said. And thats what I hate,
you know. Talkingits real dangerous.57
What is the nature of this danger? Deleuzes Nietzschean con-
ceptual distinction between active forces and reactive forces pro-
vides an answer. In Claire Colebrooks gloss, active and reactive
become something on the order of metadata tags for conceptual
production. A concept is only one sort of a locus of forces, and
for Colebrook it is concepts, not forces in general, that may be
active or reactive. Active concepts explicitly create connections
and present themselves as creations, not as representations,
whereas reactive concepts present themselves as simple labels of
a world already ordered.58 Happiness is the capacity or power to
live ones life activelyaffirming the particularity or specificity of
ones moment in time. We live reactively, by contrast, if we try to
find some true world above and beyond the world that appears
to us.59 The philosophical concept of reactivity thus operates in
Colebrooks version of Deleuze as an avatar of determination or
identification: The problem with any moral system of good and
evil is that it takes what is essentially an active selectionI affirm
this, I reject thatand presents it reactively, as already determined
through a system of immutable values.60
It is by means of such reactivity that subjective interiority
upon which subject-object relations dependbecomes actual-
ized. In the cinema books Deleuze demonstrates that a subjective
interiority can only ever be the product of an incurving of the
universe, by means of which a subject dominated by a sensorimo-
tor schema linking perceptions to actions constructs a world that
appears as nothing more than a set of objects organized according
to the interests of the subject.61 Deleuzes great hope is to foster
modes of living in a de-incurved universe, modes of thinking for a
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 325

de-subjectivized brain. This would not be objective life or thought

but rather something other than the always already individualized,
always already identicalized distinction between subjective and
When in a Filmmaker magazine piece the interviewer asks
Lynch if he has ever experienced a feeling of disassociation from
his sense of self, the exchange proceeds as follows:

lynch: Oh, yeah. Theres really many characters inside of us, I think.
filmmaker: So would you say that what we call Iwhat we think of as
ourselvesactually contains a multitude
lynch: Its a complicated business . . .
filmmaker: Yeah.
lynch: Yeah.62

If this multitude contained within the self is itself conceived on the

model of the self, then we have not made sufficient progress. It is
not enough, Deleuze writes in Difference and Repetition, to relativize
or pluralize the self, all the while retaining for it a simple attenu-
ated form.63 In order for philosophy to foster activity, one must
reconceptualize selfhood in terms of what Deleuze calls the pas-
sive self and larval subjects: The passive self is not defined sim-
ply by receptivitythat is, by means of the capacity to experience
sensationsbut by virtue of the contractile contemplation which
constitutes the organism itself before it constitutes the sensations.
. . . Selves are larval subjects; the world of passive syntheses consti-
tutes the system of the self, under conditions yet to be determined,
but it is the system of a dissolved self.64 This dissolved self, the sum
of the larval subjects making up a particular body, is virtual. There
is no sensorimotor schema here; the bodys parts have not yet actu-
alized into the organized relations that are necessary in order for
a stable identity to be established or for a purpose to be posited.
The big self is mondo stable, Lynch has said. But the small self
were blowing about like dry leaves in the wind.65
Deleuze writes that Bacons paintings help us to feel this dis-
solved self, which he here calls the body without organs, beneath
the organized body. For the body without organs, sensation is not
qualitative and qualified, but has only an intensive reality, which no
longer determines within itself representative elements, but allo-
tropic variations.66 The human body is a strange thing, Lynch
says. Its most important function appears to be carrying the mind
from one place to another, but there are a lot of fun things you can
do with the body, too. Of course, it can also be torture.67 If the
uncanny in Lynchs work is indeed in part a feeling of the unhomely
326 Jeremy Powell

within the homely, of the outside within the inside, we can now see
that this is not merely a case of the return of repressed memories or
beliefs. It is also a matter of affect, of sensing that whatever senses
within me is active within me and is prior to the subjective interior-
ity of my reactive self-image.68 It is a matter of sensing the uncanny
world of purely perceptive larval subjects writhing neither within
nor without but with my brain.
In Kubricks work Deleuze finds an identity of brain and world
that constitutes such a confusion (in the strict sense of this term:
no-longer-separate things having been con-fused together) of
interior and exterior. Regarding The Shining (1980), for instance,
Deleuze asks how can we decide what comes from the inside and
what comes from the outside?69 Such indecidabilities pervade the
modern cinema for Deleuze, arriving along with its direct presen-
tation of time. But these indecidabilities, which are not limited
to cinematic texts, also commission and are commissioned by a
general collapse of subject-object relations. If Deleuzes theoreti-
cal maneuvers around and within psychoanalytic thinking are not
simply dismissive, this is because despite the faults of much psycho-
analytic theory, it had powerfully attacked the notion of a unified
psychical subject as the ground of subject-object relations.
Yet for Deleuze, the psychoanalytic model of the psyche was
not adequate by itself; it required supplementation by a Spinozist-
Bergsonian metaphysics. Thus, the psychological unconscious
becomes the movement of recollection in the course of actual-
izing itself, as distinct from an ontological unconscious pure,
virtual, impassive, inactive, en soi.70 This transindividual ontologi-
cal unconscious is the self-preserving virtual past, a world memory
in which every existent is retained in coexisting regions, strata, or
sheets of past that may be leapt into from a new actual present.71
Anna Powell has analyzed Mulholland Dr. in relation to
this Deleuzo-Bergsonian notion of time, arguing that the film
expresses durations affective force in the shining points of par-
ticular images and sequences, and the broader sheets or layers of
its overall construction.72 Much of her account predictably reads
various aspects of the film as straightforward instances of Deleuz-
ian cinema concepts (pure optical and sound situations, any spaces
whatever, etc.). But Powell makes two significant interpretations. In
the first, she sees Bettys blue box as a time tunnel linking co-exist-
ing layers of duration.73 (I will discuss the second later on.) This
evocative notion is not developed in her essay, but it is extremely
useful for understanding Lynchs late work.
Instances of such a time tunnel, which might with greater
precision be called a Hall of Time, are found in each of the puzzle
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 327

Figure 5. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, 1992).

films. The Hall of Time is always both a hallway and a theatrical

exhibition hall: one passes through the hallway in order to reach a
different place-moment; in the theatrical hall is staged or screened
a show of time. This dual character of the Hall of Time comes into
sharper relief with each passing film. In Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with
Me (as well as the final episode of Twin Peaks) the hall is the Red
Room, the Waiting Room, into which Agent Cooper and then
Leland/BOB enter by pulling aside a red theatrical curtain that
appears deep within a forest of the actual. It is an endless series
of rooms set end to end, each connected by a narrow hallway and
together forming an infinite hallway with only curtains for walls.
Upon entering the hall Cooper is presented first with a musical
performance (by vocalist Jimmy Scott); later Cooper endures a
series of stagings in which events from his past are mingled and
confused. Finally, by virtue of being in the hall, he comes to see
through the darkness of future past in order to affect events,
though he himself cannot escape (figure 5).
In Lost Highway, the hall is the desert locale of the backward-
burning cabin. Pete and Alices lovemaking on the desert floor of
the hall is theatrically spotlighted by the automobiles headlamps,
after which the Mystery Mans video camera first tapes Fred and
then screens prior events for the dying Mr. Eddy. Fred departs the
hall twice, in both cases traveling into the past (to the Lost High-
way Hotel and then to his own front doorstep). When we see this
films first instance of the hall, just before Freds initial transforma-
tion, an unusual wipe occurs: it is as though the interior of Freds
prison cell becomes a theatrical curtain that draws back to reveal
the cabin (figures 6 and 7). Although the curtain of the actual may
328 Jeremy Powell

Figure 6. Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997).

Figure 7. Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997).

be pulled back to give one a vision of the hall, the hall itself can
only be reached by traveling at a great rate of speed down the long,
perfectly straight hallway/highway that begins and ends the film,
a lost highway of time that is itself never lost but preserved, even if
only some of it may be regained.
In Mulholland Dr. the theatrical hall is Il Club Silencio, into
which Rita and Betty may enter normally by means of a door in the
actual, though the camera must lurch forward in a headlong rush
down an empty parking lot that suddenly appears to be a wide hall-
way (figure 8). The sleekly designed and elaborately lighted door to
the club, which the duo has entered and toward which the camera
has barreled forward, looks for all the world like a narrow receding
hallway lined on either side by blue curtains (figure 9). For the first
time with this film, the theatrical hall is immediately recognizable
as such (as it will also be in Inland Empire): an ornately decorated
auditorium (figure 10). In this hall, a ritual is performed that is
both a worshipful hymn to the techn of sound cinema (synchro-
nization of visual images and sound images) and a demonstration
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 329

of the potent knowing/not-knowing structure of disavowal that

enables our belief in it. Here as elsewhere, this techn and this
structure are the power of the hall, and if Mulholland Dr. is con-
sidered the greatest of Lynchs late films, this is surely because its
presentation of the hall reveals this condition most immediately.
The small blue box that appears in Bettys purse during the ritual
is nothing more than an emblem of the power of the hall, and after
the nonlinear and incompossible fragments of past revealed by the
box, the films final images remind us that once having entered Il
Club Silencio, we have never truly left it.
In Inland Empire, the Hall of Time itself ceases to be a definitely
identifiable zone and is dispersed everywhere throughout the film.
(This had been the case indirectly in Mulholland Dr. as well, but the
fact that even that films earlier passages take place within the hall
is visible only in retrospect.) Here Lynchs strategies of obscuring
are at their most intense and now extend to the low-information
digital video technology and the deliberately murky lighting that
sometimes makes even the actors faces difficult to identify. The
geography of Smithys House may be mapped only through close
scrutiny, but each door of its dim hallway connects to particular
other locations and times: the Polish stairwell, the posh hotel, and
the time-punch room with the wavy floor pattern. The Rabbits
sitcom set, Room 47, and the darkened room inhabited by their
human counterparts (the three Polish magicians) must be entered
by walking backward (both Nikki/Sue and Janek enter this way) so
that one cannot see what one is entering before passing through
the opening. Finally, on the screen of an old movie theater reminis-
cent of Il Club Silencio, Nikki/Sue is shown events from the past as
well as a future event and, crucially, her own image in the present
(figure 11). It is the same case in Room 205, where a television
plays Inland Empire itself for the Lost Girl, in the end displaying a
live surveillance image as Nikki/Sue enters the room to kiss her
(figure 12).
It is only in these avatars of the hall that we are given an image
of the crystal as such, a direct image of the splitting of time, what
Deleuze has called the most fundamental operation of time.74
This operation is sketched visually in Cinema 2: The Time-Image75
and most fully described in that volume: Since the past is consti-
tuted not after the present that it was but at the same time, time
has to split itself in two at each moment as present and past, which
differ from each other in nature, or, what amounts to the same
thing, it has to split the present in two heterogeneous directions,
one of which is launched toward the future while the other falls
into the past.76
Figure 8. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001).

Figure 9. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001).

Figure 10. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001).

The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 331

Figure 11. Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006).

Figure 12. Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)

For anyone engaged in recent debates in continental thought,

one question about this aspect of Lynchs work immediately comes
to mind: is the Hall of Time transcendent? The second significant
moment in Anna Powells interpretation of Mulholland Dr. implies
that it is. She sees in that films final blinding-light image a tran-
scendent nuptial between Diane and Camilla. [M]emory breaks
free from material limitations into the eternal time of Dianes ver-
sion of Heaven . . . characterized not by the frozen stasis of perfec-
tion, but by the shimmering vibration of light in intensive flux. At
this point, the nightmares of life are replaced by the eternal dream
of blissful duration outside space-time.77 The theme of Lynchs
optimism of transcendence (there is always hope of transcending
332 Jeremy Powell

to a higher plane of existence), pervasive in the critical literature

since Martha Nochimsons study, is preserved in Powells reading.
But is this reading adequate to Lynchs text?
Deleuze distinguishes between Prousts and Bergsons theo-
ries of the relation of a present brain to the pure past by noting
that for Proust, the pure past can be lived as such by virtue of a
coincidence between two instants of time, whereas for Bergson,
a person can never experience the pure past as such, only a recol-
lection image.78 A recollection image is the actual, livable result
of a successful virtual leap into the pure past; it is formed as vir-
tual in the pure past and is returned to the actual present only
through a series of precise operations.79 If one believes the Hall
of Time in Lynchs films to be a figure of the Virtual in itself and
yet also directly experienced (by characters who are supposed to
remain actual), this would indeed appear to be transcendent and
But in truth, each installment of the puzzle film series becomes
progressively more crystalline, until they reach a moment that goes
beyond the crystal as such. Deleuze describes the crystal image
(central to his philosophy of the modern cinema) as the point of
indiscernibility of an actual image and its virtual counterpart.80 The
increasing difficulty of sifting through the fragmented narratives in
order to identify which events really happened and which were
merely dreamt or fantasized reaches its apex in Inland Empire. Yet
Lynch also goes beyond the crystal that Deleuze describes: Lynchs
work does not only render indiscernible an actual image and its
virtual counterpart (as do the films of Welles, Fellini, Herzog, and
all the other auteurs Deleuze discusses in the fourth chapter of
Cinema 2). A concurrent progression is also strictly adhered to:
what was once the intrusion of an ontological outside into an oth-
erwise coherently actual narrative becomes instead the actualiza-
tion of a force of differentiation that ruptures all identities and
disperses all sensorimotor actions in an irreducible fragmentation
of narrative that permits no discernible identification of inside
or outside, even if these categories remain nonetheless distinct.
This does not constitute merely a progressive waning of transcen-
dence and a progressive waxing of immanence. At the limit, what
Lynchs work approaches would be a reversibility of immanence
and transcendence.81
If reversibility seems too dialectical a concept for a Deleuzian
framework, it should be noted that Deleuzes opposition to dialecti-
cal thinking has often been overstated. More accurately, his philos-
ophy rejects both negation and identity and therefore must refuse
the teleological process of the negation of contradictions between
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 333

identities that is traditional Hegelian dialectics. But a progressive

negation of contradictions to reveal truth (or, as Deleuze character-
izes Hegelian thought, a circulation of opposing representations
which would make them coincide in the identity of a concept) is
not the only mode of dialectical thinking.82 In the disclosure of dif-
ference and becoming that Deleuze affirms, Colebrook, for one,
reads a superior dialectic that would allow differences and con-
tradictions to remain in tension.83 Given any identity and its con-
tradictory nonidentity, this would posit not a transcendent identity
as negation of negation (Hegel) nor a transcendent nonidentity as
negation tout court (Adorno) but a nonidentity as positivity, that is,
a difference in itself that is at once transcendent of the superficial
negativity and, at a higher plane of analysis, purely immanent. A
moment of reversibility of immanence and transcendence is pre-
cisely such a point in which contradictories and incompossibili-
ties become indiscernible and undecidable without ceasing to be
distinctin this case, the contradictories and incompossibilities
of transcendence and immanence themselves. Such a moment, if
we could imagine it, might permit us to move beyond the present
deadlock of the theoretical humanities, in which the fundamental
battle line has been drawn between philosophies of immanence
and philosophies of transcendence (even if outside of phenome-
nological circles the latter category is employed primarily as a term
of approbation, with most thinkers attempting to disavow transcen-
dence and stake out territory in the immanence camp).
I will conclude by noting that the notion of a reversibility of
transcendence and immanence allows us to see even more clearly
the relation between Lynchs films and Bacons paintings. The
other world of the random and involuntary intrudes into Bacons
work via the diagram of painting (manually produced asignifying
marks) and enters Lynchs films via the cinematic diagram (auto-
matically registered asignifying details). An organism cannot help
experiencing this other world as both transcendent and imma-
nent: transcendent in that anything unorganized is utterly beyond
the organisms own constitutive logic but immanent in that the
organism exists only in and as the organization of an otherwise
asignifying body, toward which it ceaselessly tends to return (death
instinct).84 But what is the nature of this experience? The Virtual
can be conceived alternatively as truly otherworldlythat is, as a
unified transcendence (leading Alain Badiou and Peter Hallward
to reject the concept of the Virtual and therefore also the whole
of Deleuzes thought, on more or less political grounds, as a secret
theology)or as this-worldly, but this world known differently, a
pure immanence (as Deleuze himself insisted).85 With the hall of
334 Jeremy Powell

time, Lynchs late work provides us with a visible imageperhaps

the most elaborate and compelling visual image and thus the most
resourceful imagination that we currently havenot of the fun-
damental truth of only one of these two possibilities (an affirmed
transcendence or an absolute immanence) or of the higher unity
of these two (transcendence = immanence) but of their reversibil-
ity, achieved by applying the crystalline thought of immanence to
the relation between immanence itself and its conceptual contrary.


Sincere thanks to Timothy Bewes and Matt Tierney for thoughtful comments on an
earlier draft of this essay.
Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, translated by Hugh Tomlinson
and Barbara Habberjam (1983; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), xiv.
David Lynch, Lynch on Lynch, revised ed., edited by Chris Rodley (London:
Faber and Faber, 2005), 203.
This insistence on the mutual imbrication of ontological, philosophical, aes-
thetic, and historical change is very much in the spirit of Deleuzes work; his account
of the shift from the dominance of the movement-image to that of the direct image
of time performs a similar move. The specifics of this account are found throughout
the two volumes of Deleuzes Cinema works.
Greg Hainge, Weird or Loopy? Specular Spaces, Feedback and Artifice in Lost
Highways Aesthetics of Sensation, in The Cinema of David Lynch: American Dreams,
Nightmare Visions, edited by Erica Sheen and Annette Davidson (London: Wallflower,
2004), 142.
Ibid., 14041.
Ibid., 142. Hainge is not the only writer to have begun to think about Lynch
along Deleuzo-Baconian lines. Claire Colebrook, while explaining Deleuzes argu-
ment about arts power to produce disruptive affect, all too briefly invokes Lynchs
strategy of combin[ing] desiring images of eroticism with sounds and acts of violence
and decay. Claire Colebrook, Gilles Deleuze (London: Routledge, 2002), 39.
Lynch, Lynch on Lynch, 16.
Interviewer Kristine McKenna notes this couchs allusion to Bacon, in David
Lynch, The Air Is on Fire (Paris: Fondation Cartier pour lart contemporain, 2007), 33.
Ibid., 28.
David Lynch, Images (New York: Hyperion, 1994).
Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, translated by Daniel W.
Smith (1981; reprint, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 17.
Ibid., 36.
Lynch, Lynch on Lynch, 17.
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 335

J. G. Ballard, A Users Guide to the Millenium: Essays and Reviews (New York:
Picador, 1996), 30. Setting aside The Wizard of Oz, we should note that other com-
mentators besides Ballard have mentioned a link between Kafka, Bacon, and Lynch,
including Lynch himself.
Deleuze, Francis Bacon, 82.
Ibid., 81.
Ibid., 85, 89.
Lynch, Lynch on Lynch, 178.
Stephen Pizello, Highway to Hell, American Cinematographer 78, no. 3 (March
1997): 3442.
Deleuze, Francis Bacon, 8485. In addition to movement, of course, cinema
adds sound to painting. Lynchs earliest short films employ cut-out animations and are
of a piece with most of his paintings, but even here, sound is an essential aspect of his
film art, from the repetitive siren wail of Six Men Getting Sick (1967) to the haunting
childrens recitation of The Alphabet (1968). Even Premonitions Following an Evil Deed
(1995), Lynchs later homage to silent film pioneers the Lumire brothers, relies on its
brief soundtrack to set the ominous mood of the piece. No filmmaker has been more
attentive to room tone, the usually unremarked-upon low-level sound that a room
constantly produces. Although Lynch often employs professional cinematographers to
make his films, he frequently acts as his own sound designer and has been celebrated
for his use of reverb and his subtle orchestration of 5.1-channel surround sound.
When an unusual distortion is needed, the integrity of the apparatus for recording
sound images is no safer in Lynchs hands than is that of the apparatus for recording
visual images. See Lynch, Lynch on Lynch, 24041.
Deleuze, Francis Bacon, 82.
Andr Bazin, The Ontology of the Photographic Image, in What Is Cinema?,
Vol. 1, translated by Hugh Gray (1945; reprint, Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1967), 13. Damien Sutton and Diane Arnaud have recently produced use-
ful discussions of Deleuzes debt to Bazin. See Damian Sutton, Immanent Images:
Photography after Mobility, in Afterimages of Gilles Deleuzes Film Philosophy, edited by
D. N. Rodowick (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010); Diane Arnaud,
From Bazin to Deleuze: A Matter of Depth, in Opening Bazin: Postwar Film Theory
and Its Afterlife, edited by Dudley Andrew with Herv Joubert-Laurencin (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2011).
A recently released photo by Peter Braatz from the set of Blue Velvet depicts
Lynch himself swinging a sledgehammer to break Dorothy Vallenss television
screen. See Cinema and Beyond, http://cinearchive.org/post/49794669942/
Lynch, Lynch on Lynch, 1718.
Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, translated by Hugh
Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (1991; reprint, New York: Columbia University
Press, 1994), 182.
The only post-1991 feature film omitted from this series is The Straight Story
(1999), whose very title announces it as an exception to this trend. For a counter-
reading that treats this film as a puzzle film, see Tim Kreider and Rob Content,
336 Jeremy Powell

Review of The Straight Story, Film Quarterly 54, no. 1 (Autumn 2000): 2633. For
broader discussions of the puzzle film, see Warren Buckland, ed., Puzzle Films: Complex
Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). See
especially the contributions of Buckland himself, who analyzes Lost Highway as an
exemplar of the form.
The Region 1 DVDs optional French subtitles translate this line incorrectly
as Bien sr, je vais en ville, an excellent example of the effectiveness of Lynchs
strategies of obscuring. The French translator apparently mistook the muffled Polish
words Czerwony, tak for the English phrase Sure, going to town.
Michel Chion, David Lynch, 2nd ed., translated by Robert Julian (1995; reprint,
London: British Film Institute, 2006), 137.
For the running time of the initial cut of Blue Velvet, see David Hughes, The
Complete Lynch (London: Virgin, 2001), 82.
Consulting leaked scripts for Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire has not been
possible. A script has been leaked for the Mulholland Dr. television pilot but not for
the reshoots that shaped the final film. The initially self-financed Inland Empire never
had a complete script; working over a period of three years, Lynch would write a
few scenes, shoot them, wait a while, write some more, and so on. This new working
process has been misleadingly compared with that of Eraserhead (which was shot over
a period of five years but began with a completed script) or, alternatively, has been
mischaracterized as scriptless improvisation (each scene of Inland Empire was in fact
written before being shot, even if the whole was not written or even conceived before
the first scenes were produced).
Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1947).
Mark Harris has proposed an affinity between Finnegans Wake and Inland
Empire based on incomprehensibility and connection to the collective unconscious.
See Mark Harris, Movie Reviews: Inland Empire, Straight.com, May 3, 2007, http://
www.straight.com/article-88497/inland-empire. In an article that also discusses
Snow, Sokurov, and Van Sant, Andrew C. Schenker classifies Inland Empire under
A. Alvarezs concept of the terminal, that is, a unique aesthetic approach that
represents an end to a particular line of cinematic inquiry coupled with an ultimate
conception of humanity, a concept of which the privileged literary examples are
Becketts trilogy of novels and Finnegans Wake. See Andrew C. Schenker, On the
Terminal in Cinema, Senses of Cinema 47 (2008), http://sensesofcinema.com/2008/
Chion, David Lynch, 141.
For a critique of Joyces work as demanding (dismayingly) such a hermeneutic
approach, see Leo Bersani, Against Ulysses, in The Culture of Redemption, 15578
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990).
Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, translated by Paul Patton (1968; New
York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 121.
Gilles Deleuze, Proust and Signs: The Complete Text, translated by Richard
Howard (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 188.
I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer from Discourse for provoking some
of the insights in this paragraph.
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 337

Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and
Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 280.
David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity (New
York: Penguin, 2006). On the perpetual motion machine, see Peggy Reaveys account
in Lynch, Lynch on Lynch, 108: [Lynch] was utterly earnest. And this guy very nicely
explained why his plan wouldnt work and we trooped out and had a cup of coffee.
For Lynchs TM-based belief system, see the documentary film Lynch (One) (2007)
and Lynch, Catching the Big Fish. As originally posted at the David Lynch Foundation
website, The field of pure consciousness . . . [is] the Unified Field found at the base
of all matter. And its found at the base of all mind, at the source of thought. And
this Unified Field is also beyond space and time. Its unbounded and eternal; its
beyond duality. Its oneness; its unity. And its beyond all boundaries. Its unbounded.
So its a beautiful place to visit, to experience the nonrelative Absolute. See David
Lynch, What Is the Field of Consciousness, David Lynch Foundation, http://archive.
For a history of TM, including a brief account of the Natural Law Party, see
Scott Lowe, Transcendental Meditation, Vedic Science and Science, Nova Religio:
The Journal of Alternative and Emerging Religions 14(4) (May 2011): 5476.
Lynch, Lynch on Lynch, 205.
For iek, Lynchs love for the postindustrial wasteland of World War II,
represented by the ecologically ruined Lodz (which iek, borrowing a midperiod
Badiouian term, identifies as the present conjunctures privileged evental site),
confirms Lynchs extraordinary sensitivity, on account of which we should be ready
to forget his reactionary political statements, as well as his ridiculous support for a
New Age megalomaniac project of a mega-centre for meditation. See Slavoj iek,
Burned by the Sun, in Lacan: The Silent Partners, edited by Slavoj iek (London:
Verso, 2006), 229.
For an analysis of Deleuzes philosophy as post-anarchist, see Saul New-
man, War on the State: Stirner and Deleuzes Anarchism, Anarchist Studies 9, no.
2 (2001): 14763.
Robert Sinnerbrink, Cinematic Ideas, Film-Philosophy 9, no. 34 (June 2005),
Colebrook, Gilles Deleuze, 52.
Sinnerbrink, Cinematic Ideas. Sinnerbrink is quoting ieks turn of phrase
regarding Nochimsons Jungianism from Slavoj iek, The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime:
on David Lynchs Lost Highway (Seattle: Walter Chapin Center for the Humanities,
2000), 3. The study by Nochimson from which both Sinnerbrink and iek are eager
to distance themselves is Martha P. Nochimson, The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at
Heart in Hollywood (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997).
Sinnerbrink, Cinematic Ideas.
For a readable overview of the history of this claim with a scientistic rebuttal,
see Victor J. Stenger, Quantum Quackery, Skeptical Inquirer 21, no. 1 (JanuaryFebru-
ary 1997), http://www.csicop.org/si/show/quantum_quackery.
William Booth, Yogi Bearer, Washington Post, Friday, December 2,
2005, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/01/
338 Jeremy Powell

Lynch, Images, 161.
Lynch, Lynch on Lynch, 10.
In addition to previously cited works by iek and Chion, see Todd McGowan,
The Impossible David Lynch (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007). See also
Frances Rusticcia, The Blue Box: Kristevan/Lacanian Readings of Contemporary Cinema
(London: Continuum, 2012).
Lynch, Lynch on Lynch, 63.
Here I take sides in a debate over the compatibility of psychoanalytic theory
with Deleuzian philosophy. Some commentators see the two as absolutely incom-
mensurable; see the bluntly titled essay by Peter Hallward, You Cant Have It Both
Ways: Deleuze or Lacan, in Deleuze and Psychoanalysis: Philosophical Essays on Deleuzes
Debate with Psychoanalysis, edited by Leen De Bolle, 3350 (Leuven, Belgium: Leuven
University Press, 2010). For variations on the opposite view, which I share, see Sean
Bowden, The Priority of Events: Deleuzes Logic Of Sense (Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh
University Press, 2011); Levi R. Bryant, Difference and Givenness: Deleuzes Transcendental
Empiricism and the Ontology of Immanence (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press,
2008); Daniel W. Smith, The Inverse Side of the Structure: iek on Deleuze on
Lacan, in Essays on Deleuze, 31224 (Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press,
Dennis Lim, David Lynch Returns: Expect Moody Conditions, with Surreal
Gusts, New York Times, October 1, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/01/
Colebrook, Gilles Deleuze, 18.
Ibid., 19.
Ibid., 130.
Deleuze, Cinema 1, 65.
Stuart Swezey, 911: David Lynch Phone Home, Filmmaker 5, no. 2 (Winter
1997): 5253 (suspension points in original).
Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 78.
Lim, David Lynch Returns.
Deleuze, Francis Bacon, 39.
Kristine McKenna, Book of Changes (Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2001), 147.
In other words, paradoxically, the passive self is in fact more active than the
apparently active ego: the passive self is sensed as active (and indeed must only be
conceptualized by active concepts) in the sense of active versus reactive (Nietzschean
activity), but nonetheless it remains passive in the quite different sense of active
synthesis versus passive synthesis (anti-Kantian passivity).
Deleuze, Cinema 2, 206.
Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Hab-
berjam (1966; reprint, New York: Zone Books, 1988), 71.
Deleuze, Cinema 2, 9899.
The Cinematic Diagram and the Hall of Time 339

Anna Powell, Deleuze and Horror Film (Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University
Press, 2005), 196.
Ibid., 193.
Deleuze, Cinema 2, 81.
Ibid., 295.
Ibid., 81. Deleuzes account here of the splitting of time has not essentially
changed from that in Bergsonism: [T]he present that endures divides at each
instant into two directions, one oriented toward the past, the other contracted,
contracting toward the future. See Deleuze, Bergsonism, 52.
Powell, Deleuze and Horror Film, 195.
Deleuze, Bergsonism, 126.
Ibid., 70.
Deleuze, Cinema 2, 82.
For the concept of reversibility I am indebted to Timothy Bewes and his
Reification: Or, the Anxiety of Late Capitalism (London: Verso, 2002), esp. 2034 and 268.
This citation is taken from a passage in Difference and Repetition that is too often
ignored. Here Deleuze embraces dialectics, going so far as to affirm that problems are
always dialecticalprovided that one has the correct (i.e., non-Hegelian) conception
of dialectics. See Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 17879.
Colebrook, Gilles Deleuze, 49.
Patrice Haynes has argued that Deleuzes transcendental field (the Virtual)
functions as an immanent transcendenceimmanent because it is the very power
which both constitutes and sustains any particular thing yet also transcendent
because in itself its dynamic is one of infinite speed which inevitably eludes any
single categorization and so exceeds any identity. For Haynes this implies that from
the side of experience, the virtual field . . . cannot be represented or known, only
encountered, and therefore thought, when it has been felt as something that
exceeds our everyday, common-sense view of the world. See Patrice Haynes, Immanent
Transcendence: Reconfiguring Materialism in Continental Philosophy (London: Bloomsbury,
2012), 61. I am in agreement with Haynes that we experience the Virtual as, in one
sense, transcendent, but my reading of Lynchs films requires me to reject her claim
that the Virtual cannot be representedor at least figureda claim that, it seems to
me, would reduce the Virtual to a Lacanian Real. Hayness ultimate rejection of the
Deleuzian system should not prevent us from embracing her fundamental insight
regarding Deleuze: namely, that although Deleuze is absolutely opposed to anything
that might hold the place of the transcendent, he does not reject transcendence as
such so long as that transcendence is itself a process that remains immanent to the
immanent. Deleuze, I argue, is not seeking the banishment of transcendence in
generalthe movement of going beyond. More specifically, he wishes to break the
association of transcendence with the transcendent: exteriority or otherness beyond
the immanent whole (66).
See Alain Badiou, Deleuze: The Clamor of Being, translated by Louise Burchill
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000); Peter Hallward, Out of This World:
Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation (London: Verso, 2006).

Erika Balsom is a lecturer in film studies and liberal arts at Kings

College London. She is the author of Exhibiting Cinema in Contempo-
rary Art (Amsterdam University Press, 2013) and articles that have
appeared in venues such as Afterall, Artforum, Cinema Journal, and
Screen. Balsom is currently at work on a book about the implications
of the reproducibility of the moving image in artists cinema and a
long-form study of John Smiths The Girl Chewing Gum (1976).

Anna Watkins Fisher is currently a Mellon postdoctoral fellow in

the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. Her research
explores emergent points of contact between critical performance
studies and new media studies. Fisher is currently completing her
book manuscript Playing the Parasite: The Art of Dependence in a Net-
worked Age, which theorizes parasitism as an ambivalent mode of
resistance in twenty-first-century art and politics. She is coeditor,
with Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Thomas Keenan, of the new edi-
tion of New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader (Rout-
ledge, 2015).

Jeremy Powell is a PhD candidate in the Department of Modern

Culture and Media at Brown University. His dissertation, Break-
ing Up with Film: Post-Lacanian Philosophy and the Ends of Lov-
ing Cinema, uses the philosophies of love and sexuality found in
Deleuze, Badiou, Irigaray, and Bersani to retheorize cinephilia and
to reexamine key texts of global art cinema.

Rachel Price is an assistant professor in the Department of Spanish

and Portuguese Languages and Cultures at Princeton University.
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