Radical Contemplation: The Metaphysics of (a) Life in Gilles Deleuze’s Film-Philosophy
“I feel I am a pure metaphysician,” declared Gilles Deleuze in a 1981 interview, and although perhaps more provocation than proof, this statement can have productive ramifications for a reading of his project. Embracing the return of metaphysical questions that propels the recent resurgence of philosophical realism and materialism, my thesis will interrogate the metaphysics of “Life” in Deleuze’s film-philosophy. I will investigate the influences of the vitalist philosophy in the Cinema books, which has its philosophical forebears in Spinoza, Nietzsche and Bergson. I will also look at the metaphysical claims that proliferate in film-theoretical discourses, from the animism of Jean Epstein to the Bergson-inspired vitalist motifs of Siegfried Kracauer. However, using Life to define Deleuze’s metaphysical project can produce a static and dogmatic image of thought. My thesis will thus attempt to complicate Life through the non-standard philosophy of François Laruelle. Deleuze’s “pure immanence” gives way to “radical immanence”: an extension of Deleuzian thought that can aid us in understanding a radically undetermined conception of Life, a placeholder for a non-philosophical posture of cinema. Through this “radical contemplation,” film and philosophy will be given equal footing, with neither form of “thinking” privileged, but the definition of thinking itself expanded.