What is it about?
In his groundbreaking book of philosophy titled Difference and Repetition, Deleuze investigates how everyday identity arises from the differences and relations between the temporalities of the present, past, and future – what he calls the three syntheses of time. Furthermore, these three syntheses repeat in the spatial dimension and in consciousness. All these syntheses bind us: a coherent consciousness in comprehensive space and chronological time. However, such cohesion arises from a flux of disjunctions: temporal, spatial, mental. And here is Deleuze’s radical proposal – these myriad disjunctions are not to be feared, but embraced. Freeing such flux can release us from stasis and produce new images of thought, of life, of the world. The Hollywood film cycles of Planet of the Apes, Back to the Future, and The Terminator each play out Deleuze’s differences and repetitions through time travel, many worlds, and altered states in their own way. Each film cycle is a complex knot of atemporal, aspatial, and ahuman problematizations. And encountering a problem, for Deleuze, frees us from fixed images of thought, allowing us to think anew, time after time. Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition is often seen as a notoriously impenetrable book. But it turns out the Hollywood cinema of time travel, many worlds, and altered states offers a way in.
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Why is it important?
What is called “time travel” cinema is but one aspect in a tripartite series of interweaving modes of disjunctive narration which is also – simultaneously – a cinema of “many worlds” and “altered states”. Exploiting Gilles Deleuze's three syntheses of time, space, and consciousness from Difference and Repetition (1968) allows a conceptual development of these cinematic series through three popular Hollywood film cycles beginning with Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968), The Terminator (James Cameron, 1984), and Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985). In so doing, film and philosophy are deployed as two series which together create inexhaustible atemporal, aspatial, and ahuman disjunctions, ungrounding everyday spatio-temporal identities, and affirming productive images of cinematic thought.
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This page is a summary of: Deleuze's Three Syntheses Go to Hollywood: The Tripartite Cinema of Time Travel, Many Worlds and Altered States, Film-Philosophy, October 2019, Edinburgh University Press, DOI: 10.3366/film.2019.0119.
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