Semiotics of Strangeness and Andrei Tarkovsky's "Dream"

Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

In this article I intend to reflect upon the ways in which Andrei Tarkovsky has decided to represent "facts". I believe that for Tarkovsky this project involves questions about time and history in a way it does in few other contemporary artists. For Tarkovsky the approach of transforming facts into what is most commonly called "fiction" is based on sophisticated reflections upon the relationship between history and the present, and these reflections transcend, so I think, the playfulness of many classical "postmodern" approaches. Tarkovsky developed his ideas on time in cinema by overcoming the most important cinematic principle of modernity: the Formalist method of montage. Tarkovsky is opposed to modernism if we perceive the Formalist avant-gardism that has brought forward classical modern devices like montage, juxtaposition and alienation as a typical manifestations of modern aesthetics. However, Tarkovsky's expressions are at the same time incompatible with those of "postmodern"' attempts of overcoming modernity; and this is due to Tarkovsky's particular view on history, memory and time.

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1. Empathy against Estrangement

The aesthetic phenomenon of "dream" is elaborated by Tarkovsky into a much more consistent version of anti-realism. In regard to dream become important the considerations of the formalists and of Tarkovsky concerning another notion that has also often crossed the field of the modern and postmodern problematics: the concept of empathy (Einfühlung). In the middle of all Formalist film theory there is the idea that the montage of different scenes produces cinematic time. Montage creates a conflict between different shots and time, as a purely functional relationship between shots, arises out of montage as an abstract element. The central figure in Formalist film theory is Sergei Eisenstein whose aim was to overcome "intuitive creativity" through "rational constructive composition of effective elements." (Eisenstein, 1988, p. 175) In a Futurist manner, Eisenstein designs artistic activity as the process of organizing raw material. A large part of this cinematic theory is based on the principle that represents the main theoretical notion for the philosophy of Russian Formalism, the notion of ostranenie (alienation, estrangement, German: Verfremdung). Within every shot there is, so Eisenstein, a conflict between, for example, an object and its spatial nature or between an event and its temporal nature. To combat, as Eisenstein says, "intuitive creativity" by basing one's aesthetic strategy on the combination of raw cinematic material (for example, shots) is also in agreement with another main Futurist-Formalist project: to overcome an aesthetic theory of Einfühlung. We are here provided with a further aspect of the concept of time in Formalism. Cinematic time is no longer seen as an element that can be perceived through Einfühlung but time exists "as such" not as "real time" but as a quality that can only be experienced as an artistic-technical device. Accordingly, Eisenstein insists that the result of montage will never be represented by a certain "rhythm", by a certain regular pattern of series of shots. The reason for this is that such a cinematic "rhythm" as a temporal quality of film still relies too much on, so Eisenstein's expression, "artistic feeling". In "The Montage of Film Attraction" (1924) he writes:

A rhythmic schema is arbitrary; it is established according to the whim or the 'feeling' of the director and not according to mechanical periods dictated by mechanical conditions of the course of a particular motor process. (...) The audience of this kind of presentation is deprived of the emotional effect of perception, which is replaced by guesswork as to what is happening. (Eisenstein, 1988, p. 48)

Eisenstein quotes even the German philosopher Theodor Lipps, the foremost theoretician concerning the philosophy of empathy, to make clear the absurdity of one of Lipps's point if we apply it to theory of cinema. Lipps's theory, so Eisenstein thinks, would rely only on the "emotional understanding of the alter ego through the imitation of the other" (ibid., p. 49). Finally, this would lead to the "tendency to experience one's own emotion of the same kind" (ibid.). This means that the rhythm that we "feel" in cinematic time is an illusion in so far as it is the rhythm that we transfer from our own being into the films that we see. Eisenstein has moved away from Meyerhold's idea that, film "is all a matter of the rhythm of movements and actions. This rhythm with a capital R is precisely what imposes responsibilities on the cameraman, on the director, on the artist, and on the actors." ("Portret Doriana Greiia, Iz istorii kino: Dokumenty i materialy," [1965] p. 22, quoted from Ivanov, 1973, p. 30) However, for Eisenstein as for Formalist film theory in general, time is a matter of montage which creates not even rhythm. The images that are linked through montage provide no subject for Einfühlung. For Formalists, montage, like poetry, is not equivalent with "thinking in images". This Formalist idea of montage is inspired by Shklovsky who criticizes in his manifesto "Art as a Device" Potebnja's conception of poetry as a "thinking in images". Potebnja's conception, so Shklovsky finds, leads to the creation of symbols as the main aesthetic occupation. For Formalism, however, artistic activity, does not consist in the creation of symbols but in the reorganization of their constellations:

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The more you understand an age, the more convinced you become that the images a given poet used and which you thought his own were taken almost unchanged from another poet. The works of poets are classified or grouped according to the new techniques that poets discover and share, and according to their arrangement and development of the resources of language, poets are much more concerned with arranging images that with creating them. Images are given to poets; the ability to remember them is far more important than the ability to create them. (in Lemon and Reis, 1965, p. 7)

An art, which consists only of symbols, will be artistically expressionless like algebra; the task of formalist artists is to "de-automatize" the fixed schemes of automatization. In the first place this means to retransform symbols into "things", into "material", and to capture then, by means of the artistic camera shot, original constellations of this material. The different shots will then be assembled through montage out of which time flows as a dynamic cinematic notion. This means that cinematic time is not "staged" like in theatre, but seized through unusual combinations of diverse material. It is worth while to show that, through this particular concept of time in cinema. Formalist film theory undertakes the task to combat (exactly like formalist literary theory) naturalism and impressionism simultaneously. Formalist film theory finds that the "image" is always the photographic image, which is nothing other than a simple reproduction of reality. In this way it corresponds to both naturalism and impressionism because both of these artistic tendencies had their particular ways of seeing things as, generally speaking, "they really are". Formalist cinematography believes to have discovered a means to overcome the concept "image" of both schools. In this sense the theoretician B. Kazansky writes in "The Nature of Cinema":

The naturalists severely limited the problem of art to the reproduction of reality. Impressionism was a definite, almost technical way of seeing things 'as they are,' eliminating the attraction toward any kind of personal feeling, evaluation or fantasy. And since for them the genuinely visible was the genuinely paintable 'planar' phenomenon of the world, in drawing mere 'naked reproduction' did not constitute an significant problem, since skillful hand motion did not enter into their aesthetic method. Thus, their artistic method was theoretically 'photographic.' (in Eagle, 1981, p. 108)

The strong point of cinema is that it does not need to rely on "the mechanical copying of nature,' [and on] the purely technical reproduction on the screen of some real object" (ibid., p. 110) as does, in a Formalist view, photography. Cinema has the capacity to "transform nature" by relying on the verfremdende effect of montage. Here, for the first time in Formalist film theory, the motto "ostranenie against (impressionist or naturalist) Einfühlung" has become a matter of time. Eisenstein's and the Formalist's visions of an 'intellectual film' developed into the direction of a cinematic semiotics in which some critics miss a kind of original expressiveness. Having overcome symbolism, for Formalism shots are no symbols but signs. A shot cannot exist isolatedly as can a symbol but it exists only as a sign within the whole organism that is created by the director and his film montage. Consequently, an object in a film is not represented but denoted. Within Formalist, and in particular Eisenstein's cinematic structuralism, "meaning" is produced through the fact that every sign functions within a certain timely structure. Shots become now only functions. It is well known that Andrei Tarkovsky combated several of Eisenstein's main ideas though it has rarely been examined how he proceeded with this project in particular.

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Ivanov states correctly that one of Tarkovsky's aims was to emphasize the significance of the shot as a means of representation of objects and not of their denotation and that he therewith overcame Eisenstein in a remarkably effective way (Ivanov, 1985, p. 300). Ivanov points, however, also to the immense difficulties that we meet when trying to describe Tarkovsky as being directly opposed to Eisenstein since Tarkovsky combats like Eisenstein symbolism in cinema (ibid., p. 291). The truth must be looked for in a new concept of cinematic time that is proper to Tarkovsky. It is a concept of time that is in the truest sense of the word "post-modem", as I will develop in the further course of this article.

The concept of time in Formalism is that of a "non-staged" time that is produced exclusively through montage. This means that for Formalism cinematic reality is not staged nor does the director try to transfer reality on the screen by means of any kind of direct intuition (as it was intended, for example, by impressionism); at the same time. Formalism does not adhere to naturalist concepts of representation. Also Tarkovsky refuses impressionism as an art which, as he writes in Sculpting in Time "sets out to imprint the moment for its own sake" (Tarkovsky, 1986, p. 192) and as an ideology which he finds artistically insufficient. He equally rejects the "staged", painterly, arrangement of shots, as it is common, for example, in the films of Fellini. Mikhail Romadin wrote about Tarkovsky's relation to Fellini's aesthetics: "Fellini's method, where each scene is put together in the same way as a painting is on canvas, was (...) unacceptable for Tarkovsky. What will you have if, instead of a figure drawn on canvas by the artist we see a live actor? This is a surrogate painting, a live picture? ("Film and Painting" in Tarkovskaja, 1990, p. 145) The 'live picture' remains a transfer of an idea to reality, which lacks reality, and, as we will see, which lacks time. To analyze Tarkovsky's artistic strategy of expressing reality and time (or a timely reality) through film we can look at one of his statements of an apparently simple kind:

I once taped a casual dialogue. People were talking without knowing they were being recorded. Then I listened to the tape and thought how brilliant it was written' and 'acted'. The logic of character's movements, the feeling the energy - how tangible it all was. How euphoric the voices were how beautiful the voices. (Tarkovsky, 1986, p. 65)

There is "feeling" as well as "rhythm" in this conversation but this rhythm is not staged by the director. As a consequence, it cannot be duplicated through "imitation". Tarkovsky derives everything that he appreciates in this dialogue from this dialogue by means of observation. This means that the circularity of an aesthetics of Einfühlung that Eisenstein mocked at in regard to Lipps's aesthetic theory does not apply to Tarkovsky's taped conversation because the reality Tarkovsky captures is not "staged reality". It has neither been produced by an "artistic feeling" nor will it be perceived through the imitation of an empathic rhythm. In fact, Tarkovsky's procedure when taping this dialogue is neither realist nor impressionist. Would it then be right to say that what Tarkovsky did is similar to what Eisenstein and the Formalists propagated as the "capturing of raw material"? The temptation to say so is great because, obviously, Tarkovsky records the dialogue of the persons "as it is", without altering it aesthetically in the slightest way. Everything is due to, as he says, pure "observation". Almost no violence destroys the intimacy of the scene and the tape recorder has not even the amount of presence that would have a voyeur.

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The "rape" of reality that Derrida once reproached Levi-Strauss in De la grammatologie when seeing him watching his object of research is reduced, by Tarkovsky's discreet aesthetics of taping, to a minimal degree. Derrida says that already "the simple presence of the voyeur is a rape. First, pure rape: a silent, immobile stranger assists the little girl's game." (Derrida, 1967, p. 166) The game that is assisted by Tarkovsky, however, seems to remain, even whilst being observed, both innocent and a game. One of the reasons for this is that Tarkovsky does not capture "reality" in the way Eisenstein suggested to capture material. In other words, he does not try to "think the unique within a system" which would, once again according to Derrida, be another act of violence. In De la grammatologie Derrida writes: "Il y avait en effet une première violence a nommer. (...) inscrire dans une différence, à classer, à suspendre le vocatif absolu. Penser l'unique dans le système, l'y inscrire, tel est le geste de l'archi- écriture." (ibid., p. 164)

However, reducing reality to systematizable material is an act that is much too violent to be committed by Tarkovsky. The reason for this is that his concept of cinematic time is fundamentally different, Formalist time exists only as and through the relationships between different shots: the shots themselves have no "inner" time. Consequently, a Formalist would condemn the dialogue taped by Tarkovsky because it represents for him a realistic, "naked reproduction" of reality which comes very close to the kind of aesthetics that Kazansky has attributed to photography. Photography, so Kazansky claims, is "stupid, dry, and boring, like statistics, because it has no choice and is incapable of generalization. It is obliged, like a mirror, to reflect everything that lies in the field of its lens." (Eagle, p. 109) Also Tarkovsky's tape recorder undertakes no selection and no artistic "dynamization" of the matter that is provided by reality. However, Tarkovsky still perceives in this single scene, in this unique "little girls' game", a fascinating rhythm and a brilliantly `acted' scenario. For Formalists a single shot (of which photography seems to them a caricature) is static and mechanical because it contains no time. As we have seen, for Formalists a dynamical notion of time arises only through the montage of several shots.

For Tarkovsky, on the other hand, also a single shot has time; it contains a, as he says, kind of "dynamic of the mood". It is interesting to observe that Tarkovsky tends to define this kind of dynamic quality by using conceptions that are similar to those used by Formalists. Eisenstein sees the cinematic quality of a shot in the fact that it contains an inner conflict "between an event and its temporal nature". This conflict was supposed to be produced through montage. It is slightly confusing that also Tarkovsky points to the importance of "unusual combinations of, and conflicts between, entirely real elements", (1986, p. 72) since also Eisenstein's conflict is based on the principle of ostranenie, of the "making strange" of the filmed reality. However, Tarkovsky "makes things strange" not by transferring a scene from "real time" to "abstract time". Tarkovsky refers to a domain, which he understands as an intermediary between abstractness and concreteness: dream. In principle this means that the impressions Tarkovsky wants to create do not follow the kind of abstract logic by means of which montage tried to produce cinematic time, but they are founded on what Tarkovsky calls the "logic of the dream".

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I will examine this by concentrating on the example of the taped dialogue. If the dialogue was "brilliantly acted" though obviously nobody really acted, does this not remind us of a dream? Also while we are dreaming, we do not act. Our action is no action: it is not guided by motives, nor are there any results materialized by consuming "real" energy. The action proceeds like all alone, and through this aspect dream is quite reminiscent of a game. The idea of dream as an action that implies no "real" action has since time immemorial fascinated philosophers. Hamann writes in his Schriften : "Mir scheint die Ansicht gewisser Philosophen, die der Menschenseele im Schlaf einen hoheren Grad zuschreiben, von groBer Bedeutung sein. Die Fahigkeit, die Zukunft zu entschleiem, ist nach ihrer Ansicht dann am starksten, wenn die Seele nicht damit beschaftigt ist, sich in Bewegungen und Handlungen des Korpers umzusetzen." (Hamann, 1921, p. 371) Similarly, Bergson points to the special state of "indifference" of the dreamer by writing: "Veiller signifie vouloir. Cessez de vouloir, détachez-vous de la vie, désinteresez-vous: par là même vous passez du moi de la veille au moi des rêves, moins tendu mais plus étendu que l'autre." (Bergson, 1922, p. 136) (It is interesting that also Bergson insists that the dreamer's reasoning is not "illogical" but that it follows its "own logic", that the dreamer simply "raisonne trop".) Also for Tarkovsky the (philosophical) problem of realism that we encounter in "staged" dialogues is solved not by simply refusing the process of staging and by working instead only with material, but by letting the actions be non-actions that do no longer follow the logic of experience of everyday life.

The kind of action that cannot be seen, from an exterior point of view, as an action because any neutral position outside the dream is non-existent confronts us with new problems in regard to the phenomenon of ostranenie. For Formalist theory, even of the later phase, the definition an exterior point of view, from which the author can observe and redescribe reality, is immediately linked to the device of ostranenie. Boris Uspensky's definition of the interior and exterior points becomes here important. Uspensky writes: "The external point of view, as a compositional device, draws its significance from its affiliation with the problem of ostranenie or estrangement. The essence of the phenomenon resides primarily in the use of a new or estranged view point on a familiar thing (...)." (Uspensky, 1973, p. 131) The thing is "made strange" by looking at it from the outside. The object of everyday life becomes an object of aesthetic interest because an author looks at it. The distinction between inside and outside is a necessary precondition for "making a thing strange" through the device of ostranenie. For Tarkovsky, however, dream is not simply everyday life that is made strange. The "logic of dream" is no anti-logic that an author would have brought forward by "making strange" what he still recognizes clearly as "logical thinking", as a thinking that is proper to him and that is imbedded into an intellectual framework of an authorial discourse. We should refer here for a moment to Freud and mention that already Freud rejected the view that the interior and exterior spheres of a dream could be linked, all by remaining clearly distinguished entities through direct interrelationships. It is the more interesting that Freud rejects this idea by making a case against Lipps. In The Interpretation of Dreams Freud declares that a convincing explanation for the fact why one dream motive has been selected by the dreamer rather than another one, could not be provided on the grounds of a redescription of exterior stimulations and their possible effects on the interior sphere of the dream.

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Freud quotes from Lipps' Grundtatsachen des Seelenlebens to show the limited character of Lipps' (together with Wund's and Strumpell's) theory because what they do not consider is that the exterior stimulations themselves effectuate "oft genug bei ihrer reproduktiven Wirksamkeit" a "sonderbare Auswahl," a choice that is due already to the intrinsic logic of the dream itself Freud wntes: "Die Lehre von Strmpell und Wundt ist aber unf„hig, irgend ein Motivanzugeben, welches die Beziehung zwischen dem „uáeren Reiz und der zu seiner Deutung gew„hlten Traumvorstellung regelt, also die sonderbare Auswahl zu erkl„ren, welche die Reize oft genug bei ihrer reproduktiven Wirksamkeit treffen.' (Lipps Grundtatsachen des Seelenlebens, p. 170)." (Freud, 1945, p. 154) Freud's interest in dream derives, very generally speaking, from his conviction that the lack of logic and coherence that we observe in dream should not be dismissed as a failure of intellectual achievements but that it contains its own form of intelligence which needs to be analyzed and understood, (cf. ibid., pp. 38ff) Also Tarkovsky thinks (though, in principal, being as far away from psychoanalysis as possible) that the strangeness of the dream should not be measured by means of a logic that is different from the logic of the dream itself. Another thinker who comes to mind here, when reflecting on forms of human imagination that can dispense with a centered, authorial position, is certainly Bakhtin; and indeed, Bakhtin's ideas about the non-distinction of interior and exterior points of view are very relevant in this context. This becomes particularly clear in a lecture that Bakhtin gave in the 1920s on the history of Russian literature (that has been noted by R. M. Mirkina) where Bakhtin alludes to the way how, in his opinion, Dostoevsky would produce dreamlike narrations (though he later rectified some of these points in his Dostoevsky book). Still, in the notes of Mirkina we can read: "The world of our fantasizing, when we think of ourselves, is quite distinctive: we are in the role of both author and hero, the one controlling the other we accompany the hero all the time, his inner experiences captivate and absorb us. We do not contemplate the hero, we co-experience with him. Dostoevsky involves us into the world of the hero, and we do not see the hero from outside." And further on: That is why Dostoevsky's heroes on stage produce an entirely different impression from the one they produce when we are reading. It is in principle impossible to represent the specificity of Dostoevsky's world on stage.... There is no independent and neutral place for us; an objective seeing of the hero is impossible. That is why the footlights destroy a proper apprehension of Dostoevsky's works. Their theoretical effect is - a dark stage with voices, and nothing more." (Bakhtin, 1990, p. 236 note 49)

It is interesting that Bakhtin sees the dreamlike fusion of several different points of view especially as an alternative to traditional narrative forms that are derived from the technique of "staging". Bakhtin accepted certain formalist anti- theatrical tendencies leading to reflections on ostranenie, but he did not develop these ideas into the direction of avant- garde experimentalism; rather prematurely, his initial idea was to develop them into the direction of Tarkovsky's "logic of the dream".

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Tarkovsky's principle of "making things strange" is the most radical and therewith the most profound one. Tarkovsky designs a new concept of time that overcomes the "direct" forms of representation (for example those of realism and impressionism) and he also overcomes the "logic of traditional drama" (p. 20). What is remarkable, however, is that his solution is not the "modem", abstract time of Formalists. Tarkovsky's ostranenie is the ostranenie of the "absolutely strange". It is a new aesthetic quality, which has not simply turned over the logic of "real" everyday life by converting it into an "unreal", verfremdete world. Tarkovsky's expressions do neither represent the "real" no do they symbolize the "unreal". They remain in the domain of the "improbable" between symbolization, representation and verfremdete expressions and this is what gives them their "strange" character. Through this "device" Tarkovsky overcomes cinematic metaphorism and symbolism. The problem of "symbolism" and "metaphorism" has to be seen in the context of this strategy. The "zone" in Tarkovsky's Stalker does not "symbolize anything, any more than anything else does in my films; the zone is a zone, it's life, and as he makes his way across it man may break down or may come through." (ibid., p. 200) However, the "zone" remains strange just because it claims, in such a tautological way, the absolutely self-sufficient state of being only what it is. The metonymical tendency of showing the detail only for the detail's sake that has so often been praised as an effective device of overcoming cinematic symbolism (see Ivanov, 1985, p. 291) is also used by Tarkovsky.

However, we might say that with him it has permeated deeper levels of cinematic philosophy. One cannot insist enough that the "logic of dreams" is, like ostranenie in Formalist film theory, a matter of time. This means that dream is not simply a matter of "form" in a rhetorical sense, as it has once been claimed by Roland Barthes by writing that "it is even probable that there exists a single rhetorical form, common, for example, to the dream..." ("The Rhetoric of the Image" in Barthes, 1986, p. 38) In Tarkovsky's films the "unexpected combinations" of real elements have their dreamlike effect not because they follow a certain characteristic, formal, rhetoric, but because they take place in the time of dream. One can ask: what is the form or the structure of this time? It is better to say that this concept of time possesses a basically non-structural quality? The time of the dream is produced through experiences, which come to us through memory: this means in the first place that they come to us as experiences, which have no temporal structure. We might remember a certain day in our life but, so Tarkovsky asks, "how did this day imprint itself on our memory?" he concludes that they come to us that they come to us "as something amorphous, vague, with no skeleton or schema. Like a cloud." (p. 23) The vagueness of this kind of memories is a timely vagueness, this means that they lack a "skeleton" in the form of an abstract temporal structure. Tarkovsky wants to seize these "memories" by using the expression of dream. (One should mention that also for Freud the "forgetfulness" about time and its illogical distortion (confusion of years, time of the day, etc.) was one of the main characteristics of dream). In film, "dream" is a matter of time but for Tarkovsky this does not imply to make a given piece of reality strange by shifting it from one timely level to another.

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This concept of dream existed in Formalism and it was understood as an ostranenie, which stylizes "normal" time into the "non-normal" time of dream. "Stylization" has here a very limited character. The Formalist theoretician A. Piotrovsky, for example, writes about this kind of Stylization: "It is possible to produce a shift of normal time relations, motivated by a `dream' or by `intoxication', but these stylized features (...) are always necessarily perceived as artificial and not organically cinematic, they soon become irritating." ("Toward a Theory of Cine-Genres", in Eagle, 1981, p. 137) Piotrovsky makes an interesting point concerning the importance of "organicalness" in Formalist film theory (an idea that can be traced also in modernist art). Formalism freely juxtaposed "raw material" up to a point that, being confronted with the result of ostranenie and montage, we are unable to perceive, as Eisenstein declared, a "feelable" rhythm. However, it seems that for Formalists there still remains a quality of timely "organicalness" that they are anxiously trying to perceive even in the most verfremdete kinds of films. A restricted logic of cinematic time reveals here also the limits of the concept of ostranenie as it has been used by the Formalists. This is the reason why Piotrovski finds that the "time of dream" that is produced through a dreamlike stylization on the time level of a film can soon become "irritating" for the spectator. This irritation is, clearly, a matter of feeling or Einfühlung into the logical organism of different time levels in film. Formalist film (in spite of its theoretical elaborations of the principle of contrast and juxtaposition) still clings to an organic concept of time that is based on the clear definition of ("normal") temporal levels and their respective deviations.

Tarkovsky's innovation consists in a deconstruction of even this concept. In the dialogue that Tarkovsky has recorded, the "logic of the character's movements," and "the feeling" do not exist in regard to an organic whole; the rhythm that Tarkovsky perceives so clearly in these dialogues does not exist in regard to any "normal" or "non-normal" time. It exists as such, all alone, creating its own rhythm and "feeling". In this sense Tarkovsky claims that "rhythm" as a temporal quality has not been produced through montage but that it is a kind of rhythm of no-rhythm that produces an original quality of cinematic time; "Rhythm, then, is not the metrical sequence of pieces; what makes it is the time-thrust within frames. And I am convinced that it is rhythm, and not editing, as people tend to think, that is the main formative element of cinema." (op. cit., p. 119) It remains to say that the Formalist approach to the "strange" has survived up to modern semiotics' ambitions to undertake a systematical research into the "fantastical". Still Yuri Lotman, as a theoretician who depends, when it comes to the explanation of aesthetic phenomena, to a great extent on the concept of ostranenie, sees the "fantastical" as a case of "redistribution of the system" of the real world by means of unexpected combinations. For Lotman the semiotic web of the expression of the strange possesses a higher degree of complexity which provides us with the experience of the strange as the one of the "unexpected", representing like this a "transgression of a norm of convention". However, Lotman is also tempted by the deeper insight of Todorov who depicts the fantastical as an intermediary between the logic of the real world and the non-logic of the supra natural. So, also Lotman points to the timely character of the fantastical which for Todorov takes place within a "temporal space of undecidedness" between the logical language of the real world and it's counterpart, the irrational. This means that within this temporal space is written the new logic of the fantastical.

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2. Poetics of Dream

I have shown that the phenomenon of "dream" is not reached in its depth as long as it is only seen as an ostranenie of non- dreamed reality. It is well known that in 20th century theory the definition of "poetic language" as opposed to a "non-poetic language" created enormous difficulties; it goes without saying that the definition of a "poetics of dream" as a deviation from non-dreamlike expressions is even more problematical. Gerard Genette pointed once to the complexity (and insolvability) of this task when writing about the aesthetically self-sufficient state that we are confronted with when we encounter the phenomenon of dream its particular strangeness: "Du langage poétique (...), qu' il vaudrait peut-être mieux nommer le langage à l'état poétique, ou l'état poétique du langage, on dira sans trop forcer la metaphore, qu'il est le langage à l'état de rêve, et l'on sait bien que le rêve par rapport a la veille n'est pas un écart, mais au contraire... mais comment dire ce qu'est un écart?" (Genette, 1969, p. 152) Dream creates its own laws which belong fully to the domain of neither man's conscious - nor his unconsciousness. They belong neither to reality nor to what man might call the sphere verfremdete, irrational non-logic. Strictly speaking, dream is not even "strange", Bergson has said that "c'est la veille, bien plus que le rêve, qui réclame une explication." (Bergson, 1922, p. 136) Compared to the chaotic everyday life of the wake, dream is not strange but rather clear and candid; it is like the water that Tarkovsky, in his films, uses incessantly. This should remind us some thoughts of Gaston Bachelard who is not at all the wrong person to quote here. Bachelard found that "les miroirs sont des objects trop civilisés, trop maniables, trop géometriques; ils sont avec trop d'évidence des outils de rêve pour s'adapter d'eux-mêmes à la vie onirique." (Bachelard, 1942, p. 32)

This is why Bachelard finds that we need the even stranger reflection of the water. The mirror's reflection of our own face evokes, just because of its scientific clearness, our irritated scepticism and makes us disinclined to accept the mirror image as "real". However, it is remarkable how much more we are inclined to accept our face's image when it is reflected by water. Having been made "strange", our face appears suddenly less strange and we are ready to accept it as a representation of reality itself. In this sense, the reflection of water as a mirror without a tain, makes, like the dream, reality less strange by making it stranger. "The dream" is, as said Maurice Pinguet, source of all lies," but dreamers like writers "feel guilty only of the lies of the others because their own lies have the innocence of a game." (Pinguet, 1973, p. 50). In this sense, Tarkovsky's use of water as an artistic device, which helps to transform reality into dream, appears also in accordance with the dream's concept of time. The liquid element expresses the flow of time, which becomes a dream itself. Also Bachelard writes that "the being given to water is a being in vertigo. It dies every minute." (op. cit, p. 9). We have seen that dream is unthinkable without its intimate time, dream is a temporal phenomenon. When Bachelard says, "one sees with aesthetic passion only those landscapes that one has first seen in dream," (p. 6) this means that we can experience these landscapes now, after we have seen them in a dream, also as temporal phenomena. From the strangeness that is produced through the experience of dream arises an aesthetic passion. Bachelard' idea about dreamed landscapes (which reads like a comment of Tarkovsky's work!) provides a decisive moment for cinematic aesthetics. Dream tells us a landscape "in time" - and so does film. Bachelard's philosophy which recognizes only "earth, air, water and fire" as elements of imaginary experience, has once been opposed by Todorov to the structuralist "structure" which would reduce itself to "a disposition in space." (Todorov, 1970, p. 22).

AS/SA nº 15, p.56

Completely opposed to what the metaphysical tradition once thought, "time" is the element which imagination needs in order to leave the domain of the abstract! It finds this element in the sphere of dream. "Logic of the dream" means for Tarkovsky that every scene produces its own temporal laws, its own time or, as he calls it, its own "time truth" (p. 120). A timely rhythm is not produced through a scene's logical relationship with other scenes. The temporal laws of the scene are absolutely "true" in the sense that they are absolutely "necessary" in regard to the material itself. Tarkovsky says that the artistic expression "has to come from inner necessity, from an organic process going on in the material as a whole." (ibid.) The organic whole of the material from which this necessity arises and which Tarkovsky puts forward in his argument is not the abstract, structural, organism of a film that has been produced by montage. It is an organic whole formed by artistic necessity, an "inner necessity", (p. 121) which arises out of the "inner dynamic of the mood of the situation" (p. 74). For Tarkovsky there is no "free" combination of raw material like in Formalism, whose ostranenie is, as we have seen, free and unfree at the same time because, in spite of its freedom in regard to any contents, it still follows the structural rules of an abstract organism. Being based on such a structural, abstract organicalness but lacking the inner timely organicalness, cinematic action becomes unnatural.

In this sense Tarkovsky finds that Eisenstein's combination of sconces in Alexander Nevski produces a formally perfect, abstract, quality of cinematic time. However, he thinks that "what is happening on the screen is sluggish and unnatural. This is because no time-truth exists in the separate frames." (p. 120) "Dream" as a phenomenon of cinematic time arises out of this "inner", "temporal" necessity since any "time pressure must not be gained casually" (ibid.). Distortions of time as they appear in the cinematic dream must try to mould time according to this necessity; they should not be introduced as "technical" time shifts that are destined to underline, for example, the plot of a story. In this sense dream is a matter of "sculpting in time." The belief that a director can make, "like a sculptor", from a "lump of time (...) an enormous, solid cluster of living facts" lets Tarkovsky join the group of creators who strive to transform the liquid and permanently flowing element of time into the paste-like material of dreams. Bachelard has much meditated upon a special kind of human creativity, which is nourished by the conviction that "dream" must be a kind of "paste". Bachelard writes: "Les objets du rêve mésomorphe [ne] prennent que difficilement leur force, et puis ils la perdent, ils s'affaissent comme une pâte. A l'objet gluant, mou, paresseux, phosphorescent parfois - et non lumineux - correspond croyons-nous, la densité ontologique la plus forte de la vie onirique. Ces rêves qui sont des rêves de pâte." (Bachelard, 1942, p. 144)

The organical nature of the paste is not represented by a stable and abstract structure. The paste is through and through concrete, in the same way as the "paste of dreams" has no abstract temporal frame: it is through and through time and also through and through real. What is true for Tarkovsky's conception of time applies to his entire cinematic language As we have seen already, Tarkovsky's strongly metonymical tendency, his use of close ups of details and pars pro toto create neither signs nor symbols but only "reality". The (semantic-artistic) relevance of his shots does not flows out of its relationship with a larger semiotic web as do the shots of Eisenstein (cf. Ivanov 1985, p. 304). Nor do they symbolize or represent reality. They simply are the objects and are reality.

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The deconstruction of the process of presentation in Tarkovsky functions only because Tarkovsky's anti-symbolist and anti-realist concepts of the shot are accompanied by a theory of time that functions accordingly. Were his detailed shots that insist so much on their non-symbolical quality not supplemented by a parallel theory of time, Tarkovsky would have remained there where the Formalists had arrived: at a cinema of signs that are held together through the abstracting work of montage.

3. Cinéma de la Cruauté

Tarkovsky's cinema relies on the principle that every scene can produce its own time. The "dream" is one of the means of carrying out this project. Being convinced that "sometimes the utterly unreal comes to express reality itself," (p. 152) Tarkovsky designs an aesthetic of "making things strange" that develops and at the same time overcomes the principle of ostranenie. We could say that it accomplishes Formalism in a way similar to that in which so called post-structuralism accomplishes structuralism. The time of the dream communicates reality as something "unreal" which affects us nevertheless at least as harshly as could reality itself. Formalists, on the other hand, thought of dreamlike reproduction of reality as a reality that is "softened" and stylized into an image, which is vague and obscure. However, for Tarkovsky the reality that pervades the time of the dream speaks to us in a clear language. Its linguistic rules are even so clear and logical that they produce pictures of "cruelty' It is in cruelty especially that time gains the absolutely self-sufficient state that it usually has in dreams. In this context Tarkovsky refers to two scenes that appear to him model scenes for cinematic expression. The first one reads as follows:

A group of soldiers is being shot for treason in front of the ranks. They are waiting among the puddles by a hospital wall. Its autumn. They are ordered to take off their coats and boots. One of them spends a long time walking about among the puddles, in his socks which are full of holes, looking for a dry place to put down the coat and boots which a minute later he will no longer need. (op. cit., p. 26)

This scene is expressive because its action follows the impulses of a strong inner necessity. The necessity we feel here is not one created by a plot, nor has it anything to do with the montage of elements. Action seems here to create here its own rules; no "exterior" power to dictate how the scene "must" be can be perceived. There is, in this scene, "fatality" or "irony of destiny" and this is why it appears to us as cruel. We can make the same observations (even more clearly) in the second scene:

A man is run over by a tram and has his leg cut off. They prop him up against the wall of a house and he sits there, under the shameless gaze of a gaping crowd, and waits for the ambulance to arrive. Suddenly he can't bear it any longer, takes a handkerchief out of his pocket and lays it over the stump of his leg. (ibid.)

Also here, what Tarkovsky terms the "absurdity of the ` mise en scene'" catches our imagination. (p. 24) However, it is pushed into a particular direction. Because of the utmost expressivity of the scene we could "sympathize" with the victim; but this makes the scene even crueler. Cruelty reposes here in the fact that we watch the scene as cold-blooded observers, as a scene - and not as a tragic event. The event becomes cruel because it has been turned into a scene. This means also that it is produced through the scene and not transferred from reality to the scene. Since "in reality" the scene is tragico-dramatic, a dramatic staging would attempt to reproduce, within the scene, a certain amount of this tragic expression. It is also clear that here too much cruelty would be irritating. Tarkovsky's scene, however, functions through a paradox: the scene only evokes cruelty because it is freed from tragic expression through the director's cool observance.

AS/SA nº 15, p.58

In Tarkovsky's films the motive of cruelty occurs often and, (especially in regard to Andrei Ryublev) has brought him the charge of being too naturalist; however, as he says, there is never any "aesthetization for its own sake." (cf. Tarkovsky, p. 184) Tarkovsky's cruelty manifests itself especially at moments when he tries to purify the scenes of both tragic and symbolic elements, when he tries to let actions speak through an unpathetic realism. The peasant in Andrei Ryublev "who has made himself a pair of wings, climbs up on to the cathedral, jumps, and crashes on the ground." (p. 79) Immediately Tarkovsky's "straightforward and basic" realism becomes cruel: "The scene had to show an ordinary, dirty peasant, then his fall, his crash, his death. This is a concrete happening." (p. 80) We find this scene cruel, especially in Tarkovsky's realistic way of describing it. It is cruel because of what we see happening in the scene; also, we find it cruel because it is a scene (Tarkovsky's rhetoric helps reduce it to that). Cruelty is not produced through montage, nor does some other artistic device push us towards an einfühlende re-experiencing of what the director would imagine to be cruel. Tarkovsky's scene is a "concrete happening" in the sense that it is a "unique happening" (ibid.): and its expressive cruelty arises out of this hermetic state. Some more considerations should be raised concerning the "point of view". The point from which the action is watched in the scenes mentioned is restricted to the experience of the agent. However, all associations are, so Tarkovsky insists, "perfectly familiar to us" (ibid.). There is only the "concrete" and "real" time of the scene since Tarkovsky wanted to answer the questions: "What would this man have seen or felt as he Hew for the first time? (...) The most he could have known was the unexpected, terrifying fact of falling." (ibid.). We can only observe, but though we watch the event through this remarkably cool an unaffected distance, we are not "outside" the scene. Or, vice versa, we observe the scene from the "inside" without being affected in any way by the strategy of Einfühlung.

The terms subjectivism or realism are both out of place. Cruelty is produced through the strangeness that we feel when we are "inside" an action by observing it at the same time from the outside. And this kind of cruelty is an effect produced by the logic of the dream. At this stage of our examination of the aesthetic value of cruelty, we almost inevitably turn to the thoughts of Antonin Artaud. In his well-known work Le théâtre et son double, Artaud suggests a "theatre where violent physical images mill and hypnotize the spectator's sensitiveness." (Artaud, 1964, p. 99) and whose idea of cruelty, once pushed to an extreme, would lead to a complete renewal of theatrical culture. In the first place, Artaud's "Théâtre de la cruauté‚" is supposed to produce a theatrical reality "in which one can believe." The central "representational" models for such a kind of reality are supposed to be cruelty and the dream. Certainly, in Artaud we are confronted with the problem of "representation" in a highly philosophical way. Jacques Derrida has postulated that Artaud's theatre intends to transfer theatrical expression to a state where it has overcome all attempts to represent certain objects, life or the world.

AS/SA nº 15, p.59

Derrida writes: "The theatre of cruelty is not a representation. It is life itself, in the extent to which life is non-representable. Life is the non representable origin of representation." (Derrida, 1967, p. 343; p. 234) We have seen that Tarkovsky's idea of cinema as an "immediate art form" which needs "no mediating language" (Tarkovsky, p. 176) is that of cruelty which is life, without trying to represent it. Artaud also declares in his first manifesto of Le theatre et son double that he does not want to abolish "articulated speech" in theatre (p. 112) but that he intends to give words a new kind of "importance". This new kind of "importance", so he explains, is the one that words have in dreams'. "Le théâtre ne pourra redevenir lui-mâme (...) qu'en fournissant au spectateur des précipites véridiques de rèves." (p. 109) Both Tarkovsky and Artaud refer to an aesthetic means of expression that they call dream. Dream is the artistic phenomenon within which (as Tarkovsky says about Bresson) all expressiveness of the image has been eliminated and where only "life itself" remains expressive. Artaud also asks the public to believe "in dreams on the condition that he really takes them for dreams and not for a copy of reality." (p. 103) In this |sense dream is not an imprint of reality but an "imprint of terror and cruelty." (Artaud, ibid.) Both Tarkovsky's and Artaud's aim is to produce a "non perverted pantomime" where, as Artaud puts it, "gestures, instead of representing words (...) represent ideas, attitudes of spirit, aspects of nature." (Artaud, p. 48) This quotation shows that the gestures of aesthetic expression (for example, of actors) are to be seen as non-gestures which exist only in dreams; this means that they cannot be recognized as gestures from a point of view outside dream. Artaud evokes other, stranger, parallels to characterize the particular, dreamlike quality that gestures can have in theatre. One of these energies, which, like his non- representing gestures, function as intermediaries between dream and waking, is the plague, la peste. The plague, so Artaud says, "prend des images qui dorment (...) et les pousse tout à coup jusqu'aux gestes extrèmes; et le theatre lui aussi prend les gestes et les pousse à bout." (p. 34)

Artaud's imagery is strange in the same way that it is cruel: the plague, which is not representative of something existent (in concrete life), creates images from an unordered, sleepy stock of "dream images", p. 109) by making them more extreme. The parallel with Tarkovsky is amazing, as we see in another of Tarkovsky's suggestions of what he considers to be a model scene. Being remarkably fascinated by a scene from Bunuel's Nazarin in which "the plague" seems to have arisen out of "nowhere" or to have been produced by dreamlike imagery, Tarkovsky describes how, in the end, the plague should not be seen as a symbol but that it appears more with the harshness of a "medical fact". This is how Tarkovsky describes the scene: The street is completely empty. Along the middle of the road, from the depth of the frame, a child is walking straight towards the camera, dragging behind him a white - brilliantly white - sheet. The camera slowly pans. And at the very last moment, just before cutting to the next shot the field of the frame is suddenly covered over, again with a white cloth, which gleams in the sunlight. One wonders where it can have come from. Could it be a sheet drying on a line? And then, with astonishing intensity, you feel 'the breath of the plague', captured in this extraordinary manner, like a medical fact. (p. 73)

AS/SA nº 15, p.60

The dreamlike realism of Tarkovsky (which is so closely linked to what was called in the sixties the Russian "documentary aesthetics," cf. Mikhalkovich. 1989, p. 6) turns cinematic reality into "medical facts. For Tarkovsky it is based (as for Artaud) on a concept of artistic stylization that creates expressions with "inner necessity", and this becomes obvious in regard to the scene quoted. As we have seen, Tarkovsky's "logic of the dream," that is produced through a "distortion of time" (p. 121), is based on an artistic knowledge of "the material as a whole". "Inner necessity" means here giving the artistic expression the same degree of necessity that it usually has in reality. From this comes the idea of speaking of the plague as a "medical fact", arising from scientific necessity. Also for Artaud, the shift from reality to art takes place through a "profound stylization coming from a profound understanding of elements, of necessity." 303) He thinks "when I live I don't feel that I am living. But when I play, this is when I feel that I exist. What could prevent me from believing in the dream of theatre when I believe in the dream of reality?" (p. 181) Here also, to be "necessary" means to be part of a reality within which manifestations of dream and "medical facts" cannot be distinguished. Tarkovsky expresses the same idea when writing that for him Chaplin "doesn't play. He lives those idiotic situations, is an organic part of it. (p.151) The non- distinction of facts and dreams finally is obtained through the device of "making things strange" may remind us of a thought by Bergson, who made an interesting observation in an essay on the deja-vu ("fausse reconnaissance"). A deja-vu takes place when we believe we "remember" certain events that happen in the present, by thinking that we have gone through them already in the past.

First of all, Bergson here sees a connection with the dream, saying that this illusion is followed "by a kind of unanalysable feeling the reality would be a dream." (Bergson, 1922, p. 157). Bergson then points to the fact that "people who are subject to the deja-vu do often find a familiar word strange." (p. 158) Bergson has in mind the experience we all are familiar with, when a familiar word becomes strange when we repeat it to ourselves an infinite number of times. The interesting question is to define; in which way the word has become "strange" by means of this endless repetition. In fact, the word itself has not been changed; it keeps its orthography as well as its pronunciation. Still, after having been repeated so often, the word has adopted a strange character. It is clear that, through a particular kind of "defamiliarization, the word has ceased to be a word, and, so I would claim, become a fact. It is finally, only what it is, only a fact without any symbolical (semantic) meaning. And only through this "factness" has it become so strange. Bergson also likens this phenomenon, as would probably also have done Tarkovsky, to those experiences that we usually have in dreams. Derrida has recognized the character of "inner necessity" that Artaud attributes to aesthetic dreams, i.e. dreams which play their game within an "espace clos" and which, in the end, play nothing but themselves. These dreams can even play their game of being to the point where they become real and, necessarily, cruel. Derrida writes: "For the theatre of cruelty is indeed a theatre of dreams, but of cruel dreams, that is to say, absolutely necessary and determined dreams, dreams calculated and given direction, as opposed to what Artaud believed to be empirical disorder of spontaneous dreams." (Derrida, p. 355; p. 242) It is the absolute strangeness of the dream, of the dream which, finally, claims to be real; all this is simply cruel.

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Very obviously, we have here moved away from the concept of ostranenie as a simple device of making things strange. The strangeness of the dream follows its own rules, has its own necessity and is, as a consequence, not strange at all. It is, as a kind of new reality, only cruel. Consequently, Derrida is perfectly right when concluding that the theatre of cruelty is against any form of theatre of ostranenie (foreign... to all theatre of alienation, p. 359; p. 2W. Derrida's intention of reflecting Artaud's concepts of the dream against one of the most fundamental ideas of Russian Formalism testifies his shrewdness. We need to agree that it is not more than true that dream is opposed to ostranenie. However, we should (in a more constructive way) consider quite attentively the fact that Tarkovsky's and Artaud's dreams do show us how to rethink and to extend the concept of ostranenie itself. "Logic of the dream" and "theatre of cruelty" settle down within a space of absolute ostranenie within which the "effet de distanciation - (French for "Verfremdungeffekt"') produces a distance (of observation). However, this distance does not at all make "spirit (...) distinct of force" (Derrida, ibid.), as Derrida reproaches the conventional theatre of ostranenie (of "distanciation"). In Tarkovsky the observing distance of the spectator projects the spectator (in a paradoxical way) right inside the time of the film; in the same way for Artaud the spectator resides "au milieu tandis que le spectacle l'entoure." (Artaud, p. 98). When Derrida writes that the Verfremdungseffekt has so far remained "prisoner of a classical paradox" (ibid.) of European art, we can state that Tarkovsky and Artaud have twisted the Verfremdungseffekt out of this prison.


Artaud, A., 1964: Le théâtre et son double (Oeuvres compl. IV (Paris: Gallimard)

Bachelard, G., 1942: L'Eau et les rê:ves (Paris: Corti)

Barthes, R., 1986: The Responsibility of Forms (Oxford. Blackwell)

Bakhtin, M., 1990: Art and Answerability (Austin: University of Texas Press)

Bergson, H-, 1922: L'Energie spirituelle (Paris, Alcan)

Derrida, J., 1967: De la grammatologie (Paris: Minuit)

Eagle, H., 1981: Russian Formalist Film Theory (Ann Arbior: Michigan Slavic Publications)

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Eisenstein, S., 1988: Writings 1 (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press)

Freud, S., 1945: Die Traumdeutung (Wien: 1945)

Genette, G., 1969: Figures 11 (Pans: Seuil)

Hamann, J.G-, 1921: Schriften (Leipzig: Insel)

Ivanov, V., 1973: "The Category of time in Twentieth-Century Art and Culture" in Semiotica 8, Nr. 2, 1973.

----- 1985: Einfahrung in die allgemeine Semiotik (Tubingen: Narr)

Lemon, L. & Reis, M., 1965: Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press)

Pinguet, M., 1973: "L'écriture de rêve" in Revue des lettres modernes Nr. 336-339, 1973.

Tarkovskaja, M., 1990: About Tarkovsky (Moscow: Progress Publishers)

Tarkovsky, A., 1986: Sculpting in Time (London: The Bodley Head)

Todorov, T., 1970: Introduction à la littérature fantastique (Paris: Seuil)

Uspensky, B,, 1973 : A Poetics of Composition (Berkley: University of California Press)


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