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The nature of film is such that it is difficult to feel that one takes it in completely; no sooner is one frame mentally captured than it is succeeded – in a process that could be called ‘jaillissement’ – by another. Film moves too fast for even the cinematographer to be in full control of the things that it throws up (over and above the way in which any kind of text may be uncontrollable by its author). Directors and editors can choose to minimise these characteristics of the medium, manipulating both images and audience so as to create a final sense of semiotic order and unambiguous declaration: such, according to a somewhat sweeping and antagonistic Tarkovsky, was the practice of Eisenstein, who ‘makes thought into a despot’. But Tarkovsky himself does his best to accentuate the life of its own that film, with its density and speed, possesses. And often, as in The Sacrifice, it is the very profusion and inexhaustibility of the sequence of images and the possible implications and offshoots of narrative that give hope to an otherwise generally bleak set of representations of human existence.

Here, then, there is an obvious starting point for the uneasy project of comparing Levinas with Tarkovsky (or indeed with anyone): both make the most of the resources of their respective media to speak distinctively but with a kind of self-undermining. The saying of the philosophical essay of the moment, and the unrolling of time, both in simulacrum and in the real time of the audience, in film, are both held up as somehow redemptive and transcendent in their resistance to reduction and control.

Tarkovsky and Levinas: Cuts, Mirrors, Triangulations [PDF] by Dominic Michael Rainsford (via wood s lot).

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