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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Liquid Eye: A Deleuzian Poetics of Water in Film

  • Author(s): Hough, Amy Suzanne
  • Advisor(s): Waller, Marguerite
  • et al.
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This dissertation explores the poetics of water and liquidity in the works of some filmmakers, poets, and writers. With the help of Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy and cinema theory, I suggest that, at times, the image of water—on screen or on the page—becomes a sort of trace of the writer’s or filmmaker’s generativity. Furthermore, I propose that this “special use” of water both points to, and shapes, what I name “liquid visuality”: the actualization of a fluid and generative, if not “visionary,” mode of seeing.

In Chapter 1, I chart the course of the eye’s, as well as the cinema’s, relationship with water, and I show how certain poets, writers, and filmmakers, in line with Deleuze’s theory, allude to and engage a liquid mode of seeing. I suggest that liquid visuality dismantles reliance on what Deleuze calls solid perception, which often has violent undercurrents.

In Chapter 2, I argue that the sea acts as the forza generatrice, or generative force, of Italian director Federico Fellini’s cinema. Reimagining Millicent Marcus’s notion of Fellini’s “hyperfilm” as a Deleuzian-Guattarian “assemblage,” I suggest that the image of the sea within this liquid and metamorphosing intertext materializes the director’s creativity, while also calling upon and shaping the film-viewer’s liquid and generative vision.

Chapter 3 examines the prolific presence of water in Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky’s films. I argue that “Tarkovsky’s wash,” or what could be considered the director’s painting with water on screen, renders material his unique aesthetic of time. Furthermore, I show how this liquid materiality implicates the director’s spiritual “truth” as creative immanence.

In Chapter 4, I argue that the real protagonist of the Disney film Moana is liquid eco-intersubjectivity. Making use of, in addition to Deleuze’s theory, an array of Oceanian scholarship, Èdouard Glissant's “poetics of Relation,” and deep ecology, I show how the film works at dismantling the Western viewer’s solid perception with more liquid, relational modes of perceiving.

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This item is under embargo until May 14, 2021.