By Henrik Gustafsson, Asbjorn Gronstad
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Extra resources for Cinema and Agamben: Ethics, Biopolitics and the Moving Image
E. 22 In these moments of uncertainty, he argues, it’s the look of images, not what they represent, that becomes the attraction—one that is extended by a further instance of focus pull almost immediately after. This time two seated figures staring blankly in a café are held in a background flux of gently pulsating colors and amorphous forms for almost fifteen seconds before being gradually pulled into focus. While Morgan is certainly right about Godard’s foregrounding here of the processes of perception, making this a supremely (meta)cinematic moment, more needs to be said about this extended formal scene and its iconography.
And just as the cinema is not acquainted with actors in the proper sense, it also no longer presents characters (or at least not characters [êthê] analogous to those of the theatrical tradition), as is demonstrated by the impossibility of effecting a real distinction between the cinematic ‘character’ and the actor. While Oedipus and Hamlet exist independently of the individuals who successively lend a person to them, Ellen Berent in Leave Her to Heaven (Stahl, 1945) or Gregory Arkadin in Confidential Report (Welles, 1955) do not allow themselves to be separated from Gene Tierney or Orson Welles.
And these hybrid beings are the characters, which result from the encounter between a flesh-and-blood individual—the actor—and the role the author has written. For the actor, such an encounter involves an extraordinary mutation stemming from the ritual in which he must subjugate himself in order to be in a position to assume his role. Usually, he dons a mask (persona), which signals his passage to a higher life, subtracted from the vicissitudes of individual existence. The contrast is even more evident For an Ethics of the Cinema 21 in certain traditions which require the actor to completely strip away his own personality before he enters the scene: Balinese theater, which so captivated Artaud, is familiar with such a trance-like state known as lupa.