Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Deleuze and CinemaThe Aesthetics of Sensation$

Barbara Kennedy

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780748611348

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748611348.001.0001

Show Summary Details

Romeo and Juliet – Deleuzian Sensations

Romeo and Juliet – Deleuzian Sensations

Chapter:
(p.163) Chapter 8 Romeo and Juliet – Deleuzian Sensations
Source:
Deleuze and Cinema
Author(s):

Barbara M. Kennedy

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748611348.003.0008

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the film Romeo and Juliet in the context of Gilles Deleuze's concept of sensations, suggesting that at the narrative and ideological level, the film seems to discredit romantic love premised on a self–other relational. It argues that despite the film's exemplification as a post-modern parody of romantic love, it simultaneously valorises love through a neo-aesthetic beyond subjectivity.

Keywords:   Romeo and Juliet, Gilles Deleuze, sensations, romantic love, self–other relational, subjectivity

[O]f all things one feels, nothing gives the impression of being at the very heart of truth, so much as fits of unaccountable despair, compared to these, everything seems frivolous, debased, lacking in substance and interest.1

[T]his other plane [of immanence] knows only relations of movement and rest, of speed and slowness, between unformed, or relatively unformed, elements, molecules or particles borne away by fluxes.2

Two contradictory quotations: like the two contradictory houses of Capulet and Montague. How can we reconcile the sentiments of both, the integrities of both, the finesse of both those positions? Cioran's words seem to enthral with their respect for emotion, their respect for the finesse of life's truly important parts, the heart, the emotions, despair, the beyond of self-pity. Subjects relevant and pertinent to a tale of impossible and forbidden love and its tragic consequences. And yet, Deleuze's words seem to present, as we have seen through much of the book, a concern with the ‘outside’, with the ‘immanent’ and not with transcendent notions premised within a self–other relational, subjectivities dependent on another's dasein, another's integrity. Love of the self, through a narcissistic display of love of the other. Desire is replaced through Deleuzian ideas with the beyond of subjectivity, in becoming.

Romeo and Juliet is an interesting film to consider in the light of such contradictory or, rather, paradoxical positions and I want to take the reader back to Chapter 4, with its discussion of the proto-subjective state, where feeling resides in an existential integrity, outside of any emotional regime. Contradiction/paradox will abound in what follows. But paradox is sense and sense is paradoxical. Deleuzian philosophy, premised on Nietzschean belief in primordial indetermination and ‘life’ lived outside the exigencies of subjectivities, and self–other relationals equates ‘becoming’ (p.164) with a ‘worldly biological life’. The free mind, he argues, is built upon an autonomous and autopoietic realm, outside of any self–other relational. Life, rather, is experienced differently at each moment and each individual's becoming in the world is connected with his or her volition with the natural world.

If we take this into thinking about the movie, Romeo and Juliet, then, at a narrative and ideological level, Deleuzian paradigms seem to discredit, and distanciate, affairs of the heart, affairs of romantic love, which is premised on a self–other relational, subjectivity being an important element of that, as we saw in psychoanalysis. But it seems that there is an interesting tension at work between a narrative which seems to parody romantic love, through a post-modern pastiche3 style, and an aesthetic which articulates brilliantly an example of Deleuzian understanding of the beyond of desire through becoming and ‘sensation’ in the way that the film connects as a set of intensities, speeds and haecceities. This tension might be perceived as the space between the molar and the molecular, the space of the ‘unthought’.

In this exploration of the movie, I want to suggest that despite the film's exemplification as a post-modern parody of romantic love (and of course we can suggest that the movie is a trendy, contemporary and colourful piece of MTV, produced to sell a commodity or a set of commodities – such reductionist views, albeit they may have some validity), it simultaneously valorises ‘love’ through a neo-aesthetic beyond subjectivity, through a becoming-woman, which is presented through a new consideration of the ‘beautiful’. A different concern with love? What constitutes beauty through a variety of processual elements in the film ‘becomes’ an exemplification of love in an organic sense. The heart as an organ may indeed play a role in the biological field of proto-subjective states, despite Deleuzian ideas of the body without organs. Here is the contradiction: the heart as an organ, as part of a body without organs? Where is the heart? How does it function as a ‘biological’ organ? Or does it merely function in the arena of ‘love’ through chemical and hormonal effects distributed by the brain? Contemporary science seems set to argue that love only exists because certain neurotransmitters within the brain effect specific hormonal and chemical changes to the body: for example, serotonin or oxytocin produce, because of biological and evolutionary needs, the ‘feelings’ of love, warmth, connectivity, commitment even, as part of man's natural survival needs. Now there lies naivety!

A refreshing and tender, if somewhat sentimental and mythical, tale of courtly love, on a narrative level Romeo and Juliet gently disperses such post-human notions, and yet as I said it is also a parody of such (p.165) sentimental and courtly love,4 ideas that are outside this book, but nonetheless worth thinking about, given the parodic nature of the movie. Is there a role for the organ of fire (heart) in a body without organs? Indeed, C. Colwell seems to suspect that the organs of the body are part of the proto-subjective.5 I refer the reader back to Chapter 4 to the discussion on pathic events, or prehensive events. In the pre-personal state, Deleuze's understanding of schizoanalytic subjectivities suggests that experiences are ‘felt’ at a level deeper than the subjective, indeed at a level of singularities. Singularities are points that produce effects of transition, but they are not ‘felt’ by a subject. They are constitutive of the self. Since multiplicities are defined as qualitative, duration, movement and process are intrinsic to them. Such qualitative multiplicities are called ‘events’ or ‘haecceities’, effectuated through the processual, the transitive and fusional intensity.6 In other words, the ‘processual’ is determined by qualitative multiplicities of proto-subjectivities. It is in this autopoietic realm that we have a unity of mind/brain and body, prior to any phenomenological field, or subjectivity.

Consequently, a movie like Romeo and Juliet, which works and connects specifically through movements, processuality, duration, intensities and rhythms, expresses a Deleuzian sense of ‘becoming-woman’ (whilst simultaneously evoking a concern with its narrative and ideological concerns with romantic love – such delicious duplicities!). Becoming-woman is that process of immanence, a description of a processual experience of affect as opposed to subject. The molar and the molecular in coagulation, in collusion. But I do want to remind the reader that, as yet, scientific evidence is yet to be formulated which denies the role of emotions within the brain's functioning. Any valorisation of a neo-aesthetics or materialist aesthetic, which functions within the pre-personal realm of becoming, such as this book is presenting, does not need totally to deny or distanciate an aesthetic premised on the emotions. (Indeed, it should sit alongside all those other realms of film theory, as a perspectival paradigm for film studies.) Indeed, where is the space ‘between’? Perhaps that is what the future of film theory may develop, and is one of the consequential possibilities of my research.

An imbrication then of the narrative molar level of engagement with the film's diegesis, mise-en-scène, plot, its ‘plane of organisation’ is to an extent constituted through a more fibrous molecularity: its aesthetic configurations. Through its aesthetics, the body of the film works as a ‘body’ in collusion with other bodies. Its ‘body without organs’ might, parodically, evoke an emotional concern, with love, in a post-modern climate, which is both parodied and substantiated. A total complexity in (p.166) its denial and acceptance of the primordial world of ‘unworded experiences’ and a ‘pre-linguistic insight into life’.

In exploring Romeo and Juliet through an aesthetics of sensation, I recall Deleuze's point in Logique de la Sensation, conveyed here by Dana Polan, that,

Beyond figuration and representation, then, sensation comes from a pure power that ‘overflows all domains, and traverses them. This power is that of Rhythm, which is deeper than vision, audition etc.’ … A logic of the senses, Cézanne said, that is non-rational, non-cerebral.7

Romeo and Juliet resonates with multiple rhythms. Its very visual display is rhythmical (I mean that the visuals themselves are effectively ‘rhythmical’ before any musical connection) with a variety of specular effects enhanced by a variety of different musical genres, in different tempos, cadences, modulations and melodies. The subjective encounter is indeed, hystericised beyond subjective spectatorial (gendered, cyborg,8 oscillating or matrixial9) perspectives. The subjective is subsumed by forces of affect, through the elements of sensation: intensities, rhythms, flows of energy, lines of flight. Energy resonates vibrantly, passionately, incisively, through the scintillating score and visceral mise-en-scènes. This energy is most apparent through the musical elements in collaboration with the patterns of lines of longitude, latitude, and diagonals, much like the paintings of Mondrian or Kandinsky, traversing the frames of various sequences. A veritable moving canvas. Much of the film works like their paintings, with lines of flow, rhythmically moving across, through, above, within, and beyond the frame of the screen. These patternings of line are operative through specific sequences in the film and they function in contrast with and in vibration and resonance with the more fluid, gentler and softer sequences, where colour functions prior to line and dynamics. Semir Zeki, in his book Inner Vision, explains how, within the brain, there are five specific areas in the cortex, where the visual image, received by the ocular nerves, is translated differently, by virtue of specific cells within the cortical structure. He explains these as separate elements, from VI to V5, where colour, form and movement are differently discerned. He suggests that there is a range of varied signals which are related to colour, motion, depth and luminence. Certain cells which take signals which relate to different characteristics of vision are grouped accordingly in certain compartments. Different visual signals are sent to different visual areas I to V in the cortex. The visual brain therefore is a collectivity of multiple visual areas. These depend on the type of signal received. His argument is that vision is a modular system, that the brain handles (p.167) different attributes of the visual frame in a variety of subdivisions. It is therefore seen as a parallel, modular system. Thus, he argues, aesthetics itself is modular. As a result of such processes, colour becomes a construction of the brain. Zeki argues that colour does not exist outside in the world, but in the brain's formations. It exists within the V4 area, whilst movement, for example, is detected in V5.10 The ‘subject’ then is subsumed in the beyond of becoming, in sensation. The visual act of seeing ceases to be a merely organic activity, ‘our eye … ceases to be organic, to become a polyvalent and transitory organ; objectively, it holds before us the reality of a body, of lines, of colours, liberated from organic representations’.11

This quotation is so specifically relevant to Romeo and Juliet. A vibratory facticity, a connection of sensations, vibrations and rhythms come together in the ‘haecceity’ that is Romeo and Juliet. Indeed, we should here remember Deleuze's quote that ‘sensation contracts vibrations of the stimulant on a nervous surface or in a cerebral volume: what comes before has not yet disappeared when what follows appears’.12 How then does the film exude such haecceities?

Baz Luhrmann's richly textured, erotic and visceral post-modern rendition of Romeo and Juliet takes the original Shakespearean text as its script, but fractures it through an exuberant choreography of dizzying visuals and auditory rhythms, tones, nuances: a veritable sensory delight! Contemporary popular music, classical music and opera create an eclectic pastiche of sounds which eclipses each and every visual moment of the movie. Indeed, the film was, on release, marketed and promoted through its soundtrack. Music ‘performs’ as a fibrous core through the text, creating a post-modern opera, through an assemblage of different sounds, diegetic and non-diegetic, evoking the concerns of love, sexuality (but a sexuality outside the confines of gender; the film is in its processuality very sexy!), death and tragedy. Indeed, sounds become gestures, which are also vocal, as Deleuze writes in Cinema 2,

Where the visible body disappears … What is freed in non-desire is music, and ‘speech’, their intertwining in a body which is now only sound, a body of new opera. It is no longer the characters who have a voice, it is the voices, or rather the vocal modes of the protagonist (whisper, breathing, shout, eructation) which become the sole true characters.13

A very different film from either Orlando or The English Patient, nonetheless Romeo and Juliet takes as its thematic narrative a tale of romantic love and the ensuing tragedies. In the exploration of young romance lies a parodic and post-modern discernment of such concepts. (p.168) Death of the subject and the death of history also seem to relay the death of love.

The mise-en-scène is set within a contemporary American/Brazilian cityscape – in fact from the statue of Christ which looms out and provides an ambivalent icon of both love and death, we can see this is set in Rio de Janeiro (a Westernised Verona in several senses of the word). Here, Shakespearean lords and kinsmen are replaced with a sexy, colourful array of young popular dudes, straight and gay, transvestites, bisexuals, transsexuals, punks, bikers and sado-masochists. We are given characteristic emblems of the contemporary world of corporate finance (Paris) or else exotic, plumed and pulchral visions of excess and the carnivalesque (Mercutio). Romeo (Leonardo di Caprio) seems to fit somewhere inbetween, but his tendencies towards romantic love render him an innocent among such company! An innocent who nonetheless finds himself guilty of murder. Love and hate are yet part of the same equation of passion. However, that charming, witty and parodic post-modernism merely enthrals in its parallelism or repetition in difference of love, tenderly and sensitively enacted through the innocence of youth (Claire Danes as Juliet and Leonardo di Caprio as Romeo). The cynicism of parody is thus tinged with the proverbial delights of a ‘neo-romantic’ venture as a reply to the horrific renditions of a culture embroiled in the sometimes bereft despair and ugliness of irony, parody, deceit, critique and an all-pervading fear of the existence of ‘love’, or what that might mean in a post-post-structuralist climate! Fear of tradition, a disrespect for originations, a disdain for ‘depth’ and ‘meaning’ are ironically juxtaposed, becoming simultaneously a respect for a text and language that does speak with metonym and metaphor – a denial of everything Deleuze stands for. Such contradictions. The movie is both post-modern and yet post-post-modern in its forces, intensities and resonances of haecceity. Shakespearean language, taken out of its traditional literary context, becomes part of the ‘energies’ as it colludes and collides with contemporary sounds, diegetically and non-diegetically, through which the film impacts. Meanings, whether parodic or not, are actually not what concerns this Deleuzian exploration of the ‘event’, the ‘haecceity’, the ‘becoming-woman’ of the film.

There is across the movie a repetition-in-difference of all the various elements: generic characteristics such as character, plot, narrative, but also in terms of time and spatial zones. A difference-in-repetition across visual and aural ‘affects’ through ‘becoming’. A neo-aesthetics, here, is explored through differential relations – unlike Freudian psychoanalytic ideas on pleasure (tied up with inorganic death originations) and ‘bound (p.169) excitation’. Deleuze refers instead to ‘differential relations’, differentiated forms of material and molecular elements of our make-up. So the generic characteristics no longer hold the only validity for understanding the impact of the cinematic event. Instead, other categories impose: colours and sounds fill the in-between spaces of the filmic text. The ways in which the colours clash, coincide, resonate, the dimensions of their tones and blurring of boundaries, the linearity across and within the frames, provide rhythms and movements across the screen, and this functions as sensation as opposed to ‘pleasure’.

Rather than think of the movie as a filmic version of the famous romantic myth, I want to explore how Romeo and Juliet works as a rhythmical, processual and moving set of energies and intensities. It is an intensely rhythmical experience, set within a variety of different intonations of metre, timbre, pace, tone and voice. Certainly it does operate at the level of the molar, or semiotic, and the ideological and psychoanalytic readings could be a mechanism through which to explore its text. Such possibilities are inherent in the textual elements. (For example, the scene where Romeo and Juliet meet is replete with looks, gazes, returned stares between glass, screens and/or mirrors. Also, the Boschian-like party sequence14 has some beautiful characters straight out of Freud's ‘uncanny’.) However, the entire experience, as a two-hour event, works as a ‘body’ in connection with a rhythmical set of performances, resonant through a varied display of musical notations, scales, cadences, contrapuntal nuances, dissonances and lyrical patterns which collide and vibrate with both dialogue and visuals.

The music, I feel, provides the main structure to the film. We can discern a set of sequences, clearly defined across the different types of music. Through the music as an overall structuring fibre, we find a neo-aesthetics at work in this film. When our bodies absorb the movements of the screenic images, instead of reflecting them, our activity can be described as effort, or, as I have outlined in the book so far, as ‘affect’. The ‘affect’ replaces or at least is simultaneous to representation. One of the most exciting films which epitomises the ‘becoming-woman’ of sensation, and performs as a body, in locomotion, as a concept-imageaffect, Romeo and Juliet produces a theatricality of the cinema which is totally distinct from the theatricality of the theatre. As Artaud and the film director Carmelo Bene15 suggest, the cinema can bring about a more profound theatricalisation than theatre. Here bodies embrace, entwine and intertwine, bodies which animate the scene, as Deleuze states, ‘each body has both space and light, the body is also sound as well as vision, all components of the “image” come together on the body’.16 We see this at (p.170) work equally in Luhrmann's film Strictly Ballroom (1992). Other directors, like Scorsese, have also portrayed this ‘gestural’ or ‘pathic’ constitution of bodies in their films. I am thinking here of Scorsese's Age of Innocence, where the camera movements are a beautiful choreography through colour, texture, space and sounds, providing a bio-vital aesthetic which ennervates the emotionality of the film. Sounds and colours become attitudes of the body, gestures, categories constituting new bodies in neo-aesthetic consilience.

Any first viewing of Romeo and Juliet is set to blow the mind/body. Senses reel, distanciating any gendered subjectivity and fragmenting subjectivity beyond any sense of identity. The ‘depth’ of this neo-aesthetic experience is articulated through a sheer materiality and viscerality of the affect and sensation. This is accommodated through the many rhythms, spaces and interstices of the movie, as a ‘body’ very much relating to a wider body. But not the phenomenological ‘lived body,’ the corporeal human body, but a body at a deeper level, at a level of felt intensity. An intensity which is in and of itself, a material sensation. There is a ‘non-commensurability’ of the various images. What force enables, produces and evokes such intensities – a desire felt outside any positionality, outside any psychoanalytic, libidinal, semiotic or cultural formations of desire? Such force is felt within the depths of the body without organs, within the joyous realms of the processual, on the plane of immanence, not within any lived or phenomenological body. What is experienced is sheer nervous vibration. Here is the real ‘becoming-woman’ of the cinematic, where depth and processuality of the material emotion are emergent through a technologised body of the screen. That screen is also a facialised body.

The film quite literally begins with a small television screen, centre frame. A face (the screen is face, her face the screen) of a female presenter introduces us to the narrative of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. From an instant image of a television screen displaying a face, we are carried into the spaces of the film's mise-en-scène. The face/screen becomes a body through a vibrant choreography of camera and cinematographic rhythms and cacophony of sound. The film displays a vast array of forces, sheer velocities and movements, which are dynamic, ecstatic and jouissancial117 in their fluidity – a fluidity which is both static and dynamic. Take, for example, the opening shots of the movie. From the small television screen the camera pans out in vast sweeping gestures, as though carried on a helicopter, which then becomes part of the image.

We are carried, cinematographically, into the screen, on the helicopter, taking us into a contemporary Brazilian/American city/beach esplanade, (p.171) juxtaposing sixteenth-century Verona, through sweeping rhythms of the camera, flying across, through, from all angles and positions, in a dizzying choreography of chaos. Still, blank screens with the words ‘In Fair Verona’ or ‘A pair of star-crossed lovers’ are juxtaposed with the action shots. The materiality of both sound molecule and the felt, haptic, experience of the visual collide to carry us outside of our fixed bodies, to the extent that we feel that we do actually move, fly, swim, with the camera, in a dizzying disorientation. The heart literally races (remember the definition earlier of the affect as an autonomic physical response) with the viscerality of this sequence. We really do, as Deleuze indicated, occupy the interstices of the edits, cuts, wipes and fades of the camera, becoming part of the cinematic body and constituting a wider ‘body’ of world/body connections.18

We feel the energy exacerbated through images of heat, death and destruction. A dramatic intensity proliferates the screen. Signifiers on billboards indicate contemporary destruction. Stills are framed in close-up shots, alongside wipes and fades. The Capulet Boys and the Montague Boys invade/seduce our space on the screen, parading their sexy, angular, Romanesque bodies through a palette of exuberance: cobalt, ultramarines, violets, blues, rich warm yellows, passionate and exotic reds. Flames engulf the screen in several places, creating a haptic scenario of passion and danger together. Textures of diamond-studded metal guns/swords, gleaming, feral, feline teeth, snarling, glowing bodies in armour seem to come straight out of a neo-western, replete with Sergio Leon-esque music. The hero's cowboy image is replaced with the majesty of the Roman centurion. Tybalt's erotic bodily display is matched by his equally intense and dynamic words, ‘Peace, I hate the word …’ His words act as a figural gest, in terms of the pitch, intonation and tone, as a cadence with the music, to present a poetic vibration with the diegetic musical sounds. The intensities of the movie are felt through its processual rhythms of colour, movement and sound. The flow and rhythm are so important to the diegesis of the film as are the feelings of openings, floating and flying, effectuated through diagonal, vertical and other lines of movement.

The performativity of the film is indeed very beautiful. But not in any romantic sense of the word ‘beautiful’. The processuality of the film takes over the formality of the aesthetic form of narrative closure. Things just ‘flow’. The eye of the spectator moves in a dance of its own, in matrixial ways, imbricating the tactile within the scopic, a haptic sense of ‘relationality’. This relational space is at the interstitial space of the subject and object, the in-between as I mentioned earlier. Such eroticisation of the (p.172) eye means that the spectator's gaze functions processually to incorporate a synaesthetic assemblage: a ‘felt’ experience. The beautiful, as Brian Massumi suggests, ‘in this view of aesthetics, is the incipient perception of the vitality of matter, its dynamogenic strength or force. Its autopoiesis.’19

Post-modern in its eclecticism, pastiche and parody, the diegesis presents choreographed bodies, flying, dancing and elegantly displaying and performing, such that we experience the totality of the screen as a body in movement, constituted from several bodies in locomotion. Some of the most evocative scenes are the fight sequences, where guns/swords are projectile prostheses and become part of the owner's performance, deftly choreographed to the point of vibratory exhilaration (one recalls a similar erotic sword sequence in Terence Stamp's performance in Far from the Madding Crowd (1967)). Symphonies of classical music, Mozart's 25th Symphony and at times operatic music from Tristan and Isolde, drift into street style, bombastic rapper riffs and chords. Repetitious chords and riffs frisson through the body's depths. We are literally carried into the movie through sound as much as image. We ‘become’ part of the processuality of the film's movement, into a filmic body, as a whole harmonics of performativity. This sequence ends with the police warning the two houses of Capulet and Montague, of ensuing catastrophe in the light of their continued aggressions.

We cut to a more serene, calm and gently flowing camera action, as we follow the Montagues in their car searching for Romeo. The music of Radiohead (popular band of the 1990s) languorously drawls from their emotive lyrics: ‘You want me …’ Our first glimpse of Romeo is enhanced by the melancholy and soporific lyrics of Radiohead's music. Romeo is set against what looks like a mock cut-out image of an old dilapidated proscenium arch theatre in Sycamore Grove, which becomes a pastiched platform, as a theatrical stage: a stage, within a stage, within a world, for the setting of several sequences across the rest of the movie – most evocatively the death of Mercutio and the ensuing death of Tybalt. Here we have Romeo, his figure set in contrast with the splendour of the elements, stunning orange and apricot skyline set against threatening grey clouds, all encapsulated within the proscenium arch of a ‘theatrical, dramatic stage’. This scene acts as a forced movement, the pace and rhythm of music, camera movements and edits, changing, as a contrast with the prior sequences. Images oscillate (for example, the hooker who erotically seduces those who merely stand and stare) in gentle, erotic, slow-motion rhythms to the sound of Radiohead, enhancing the distanciation and collisions with the prior sequence.

Comedy, and carnivalesque style, in the form of the Capulet mansion (p.173) sequence, works as resonance with the previous sequence. Suddenly we are presented with a different film style. Camera movements echo silent-cinematic techniques, where characters’ movements are comedic and farcical because of the stark linearity, awkwardness and sterility of the body language. Juliet's mother beautifully epitomises this in her distraction and agitation. Repetition of Juliet's name, screamed at different pitches and timbres, by both nurse and mother, resonates (in the Deleuzian sense of the word) with the actions to the point of delirium, providing a contrast with the serenity and tenderness of the previous scene with Romeo in distraction over unrequited love. The sound works as a pattern across the accompanying images, effectuating a comic style. Such comedy is beautifully counterpointed with classical music, colliding with the images to present movement-images in patterns across the screen. Patterns of linearity and stark, harsh shapes, tones, colours and textures create a ‘malleable mass’ of images, perceived as movement-images, ‘the whole is no longer the logos which unifies the parts, but the drunkenness, the pathos which bathes them and spreads them out. From this point of view, images constitute a malleable mass, a descriptive material loaded with visual and sound features’.20

Juliet's mother, for example, displays a classical masquerade as Cleopatra, replete with exotic dark wig, but parodied by her prior parading around, dressed and made up like some clown out of a pantomime. In contrast with this, she splendidly leaves the room, elegant and monumental in gold-sequinned dress, tightly bound by breath-taking (literally) corsets, hair and dress enhanced with feathers, with the following words, ‘Juliet … ugh!’ A moment of pure delight. She performs as some sort of figural action, rather than as a character.

Cut to different music … ‘Angel’, a gently rhythmical piece, augmented with a stunning colourful mise-en-scène, brightly highlighted with fireworks of purples, pinks, turquoise and gold at Sycamore Grove. This is followed through with the move to the party scene, following Romeo's scene with Mercutio where they both indulge in drugs. Mercutio's speech to Romeo on ‘love’ in its lyricism, rhythm and volatility designates an hysterical madness, whilst performing as an intensity, a volition within the patterns of sounds, resonating and bouncing off from the previous music. What follows is a beautifully choreographed and colourful drug-induced hallucination: Catherine wheels swirl in colourful resonation in rhythm with the camera movements, circular tracking shots, which provide a reeling motion. This action, together with the primary colours, impinges on the brain/eye movements in specifically pleasurable ways; there is nothing fixed, nothing angular. All is rhythmically and beautifully (p.174) choreographed providing a processual experience. Colour is experienced before form, movement before form.21 But only ever so gently mediated, that the process is almost instantaneously ‘felt’. The variation of rhythms in the sequences contrast, complement and disrupt others, or else they work as prosthetic assemblages.

The highlight of the party sequence is Mercutio's erotic display of cross-dressing, resplendent in white-sequinned corset and stockings (contrasting with the deep purple of the other dancers), white wig resonating against the masculinity of his moustached and dark, passionate, rich features.22 A delicious delirium of erotica. He descends the staircase to the vibrant sounds of Kim Mazelle's ‘Young Hearts’ (parody intended of course). His/her dance is part of different dance modes in the film.23 In contrast with the earlier frenetic displays of flying bodies, his musical sequence gives a gentler swaying and creatively sculptural quality to its bodies and to the body, the wider ‘body’ constituted by both film, spectator and world. Bodies weave, collide, connect, oscillate and interrelate through a diegesis of ‘malleable images’. Visions of excess, tactility, sensuality and the frisson of sexual exorbitance and transgression are visualised and hapticised (from the word ‘haptic’) through shapes, colours and tones moving in time, but also dislocated from time. Demons, angels and whores become tropes from mythical fables and fabulations. Cleopatra to Caesar are masqueraded within the vibrance of the mise-en-scène and seem to come out of Freud's ‘uncanny’. This is, of course, all a hallucinatory dream, induced by drugs, but as a film it works on the brain, as a form of altered state.24 Just as drugs work on the brain in chemical ways which affect the synaptic and neuronal mechanisms of the cellular structures, so too film as matter works on the brain in similar ways. Thus, such images are not purely ‘images’ (yes, of course they do also operate ‘as’ image seen by the eye, but the eye/I is not a passive vessel of visual stimulants). Images are not merely representations, for interrogation, but ‘elements of sensation’, as the ‘stuff’ of matter, or brain formations. The colours, movements and oscillations generate/compose the brain's active processes. The act of ‘seeing’ is not a passive thing, neither is it only an eye/I relational of psychic manifestations (although of course there is still a role for psychoanalysis and the more recent uses of psychoanalysis through the work of Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger; see the Bibliography for details of her work). I am not trying to suggest we should deny this, but to suggest other frames in which film works on the brain. The brain actively creates the perception through molecular and cellular actions. Percept and affect form as a block of sensation. The ‘aesthetic composition … agglomerates in the same transversal flashes, the subject (p.175) and object, the self and other, the material and the incorporeal, the before and the after … in short, affect is not a question of representation and discursivity, but of existence’.25 Indeed, it is this rich body of percepts and affects that displaces any fixed idea of identity and thus makes room for richer creative tendencies, accommodated through the imbrication of brain/mind and body, in collusion with the wider molecular and cellular body of life.

Juliet is introduced through her angelic costume, virginal white and delicately textured, marking the ethereality and chastity of her innocence. This works both as parody and yet is in its symbolism, tenderly sincere. Metaphorically and metonymnically then, the film does have many resonances. But in a Deleuzian sense, the film impacts as matter, as a processual ‘event’ in ways outside of representation, metaphor or imagery. It connects; it constitutes a ‘worlding’ process. It is a total worlding of experience of molecular forces through a materialist aesthetic.

The party mood is counterpointed by Des'ree singing the popular track ‘Kissing You’, with its romantic, soft and delicate rhythms and intonations, romantically bringing Romeo and Juliet together for the first time, but distanced through the screens of a vast aquarium. The languorous liquidity and fluidity of the colours and tones lend a sensuality to the mood and feel of the sequence. The swaying rhythms of the music are echoed through the movement-image as liquid perception in the image of the fish, swimming and wafting in the rippling water. Water provides again one of those molecular ways in which matter effectuates brain mechanisms. Pleasure is evoked by the gentle fluidity of rippling effects. Colours – greens, turquoises, blues, opals, lavenders – are painted across a canvas which fades and wipes into a liquidity of sensuality and sensation. Dissipated lighting and rippling shades enhance the transience of the scene, highlighting the ephemerality and processuality, not only of this sequence, but the very image-concept-affect of ‘love’. This is further enhanced by a display of camera movements, in a different dance structure: a swirling set of bodies, which reflects a charming and tender pattern of gazes, glances, looks, gestures, smiles and eye contact, with matrixial patterns of looking across and between Romeo and Juliet, as Juliet dances with Paris. (Remember the dance sequence between Almásy and Katharine in The English Patient, which has similar resonances.) The dance itself is a gentle, romantic, slow, delicate and controlled action of bodies and faces, close and apart, resonances of ambiguities, sensibilities and sensitivities across two bodies which are eloquently apart – interestingly one looking, the other looked at! The depth of material emotion is part of the same canvas as romantic love. Of course, one might argue (p.176) that this is all parodic in intent, pastiched to the point of ridiculing the convention of romantic love. Such cynicism is justly valid, and yet it could be argued that this view is naively resistant of an understanding of love, and the realities of love in a wider sense.26 Such cynicism perhaps fails to engage with the depth of emotion felt in the primordiality of the body's and brain's physical experience of sexual encounter. Yes, of course, bodies collide, and resonate, chemically and hormonally effectuated, or not, but maybe, just maybe, there is something deeper, felt within the depths of a primordial state. Why else is there discrimination and distinction? It cannot all be merely biological. There is a connection at a primordial level. Everything connects. Only connect. Is it just Howards End? But, it depends on the two bodies/brains/minds in collision (that is, discrimination and distinction). The film works on a multidimensional level. It literally engages the technologised body (the act of watching a film is a technologised experience, an altered state as much as sex or drug taking) in assemblage with the sensual, the pathic and the intellectual, as much as the arena of sensation.

The famous balcony sequence offers much in the way of vibrant movements, oscillations of lines, rhythms and resonances. A haptic sense of vision is created through the liquidity of the images, and the tactility of textures. The curtains sway eloquently, softly evoking haptic sensuality. The two bodies literally collide, resonate, and force each other apart here, swimming under water, and exhilaratingly in and out of each other's consciousness. Again, reflection, colours, tones and movements work together to create the undulating sensuality of the scene. The bodies in the water modulate, through both movement and colour, a liquidity of perception, where the perceived image is diffused into vibrations, so that the liquid movement goes beyond itself into a material, energic element (see Chapter 5). The formation of the ‘image’ is defined by molecularity, not by visual representation. Sensation is accommodated through this molecularity.

The lyricism of Shakespeare's words works in delicate contrast to the post-modern parody of a 1990s pastiche. The film continues to impact through the ‘unthought’ interstitial spaces, through the molar and the molecular. Juliet's initial speech, the famous ‘Romeo, Romeo …’ speech, works as a lyrical musical refrain, setting in counterpoint, the flickering, visual movements of the camera. It also works as a delicate parody, given the humour and comedy of the acting styles here – comic, awkward, angular and farcical at times. Romeo continually falls over, colliding into things. The sequence ends with Romeo rushing off to Father Lawrence's, to the track, ‘You and Me, Always, and Forever’, a light-hearted and uplifting lyrical piece.

(p.177) Music continues to provide the fibrous tissue for the film's diegesis and impact. In the rest of the movie, the variety of tones, lyrics and melodies of the musical notation provides vibrational contrasts across and between sequences. The marriage of Romeo and Juliet is played out to the track ‘Everybody's Free to Feel Good’. But the following death of Mercutio and Romeo's revenge on Tybalt are set in counterpoint and resonance with the marriage sequence by the dramatic operatic music. Romeo's ensuing madness and banishment are further enhanced through the musical score, with intradiegetic music effecting its force upon our experience of the movie. Flash lightning, chaotic camera angling, uncontrolled fits of passion and despair from Romeo's words (first when he realises the severity of his killing of Tybalt and echoed again when he hears of Juliet's death) vibrate through the sound molecules of the soundtrack, all in contrapuntal collision with the earlier, delicate and joyous sequences. But such resonances (and I use the word resonance here in the Deleuzian sense) don't merely provide diegetic elements to a narrative. In Deleuzian paradigms of the ‘beyond of desire’ they impact with the molecularity of the brain to provide the processuality of the beyond of subjectivity, the becoming-woman of the cinematic, the aesthetics of sensation. In terms of my overall argument, then, the cinematic experience is something beyond the purely representational. If film theory has located debates within representation, semiotics and theories of desire premised on some sort of visual encounter with identity and subjectivity within that scenario, then to date such film theory has omitted to consider the wider impact upon the minds/brains/bodies of those who experience film. It works as sensation, as an experiential event of becoming. The becoming is modulated through the processes of brain/ mind/body formations in collusion with the visual and aural elements of the textual format.

The final sequence of Romeo and Juliet's romantic death effuses bright colours: blues, golds and silver and sensual lighting is diegetically created within the mise-en-scène through candlelight. Such colours collude, vibrate with the musical score, with the notational elements of the music, within the synapses of the brain's functioning processes. Of course, the emotional nuances also impinge (or maybe they are created) through the totality of the experience, a commingling of sensation, and total imbrication of molar and molecular elements. Indeed, scientific research has not yet been able to totally explain the ways in which emotion is effectuated within the brain's cellular functioning patterns. It is within the molar and the molecular perhaps. Consequently in rethinking any aesthetic within film studies, it might be pertinent for us to (p.178) engage with this imbrication of ideas – not opposing, but conjoining perspectival views.

A neo-aesthetics of sensation or a neuro-aesthetics (Semir Zeki27 refers to a new perception of aesthetics as neuro-aesthetics) then is premised, as we have seen here, on affect and sensation, rather than a subjectivity. Such a neo-aesthetic works through the molecularity of matter. Within its modulational elements, colour, as I have explored above, is specifically significant, and is the first impact within the brain's cellular functioning. Colour is extremely resonant in Romeo and Juliet, and it operates across the canvas of the film as a certain energy expenditure, conceived through certain cellular activities. Visual experiences are not necessarily premised on the mechanisms of the eye as such, or on seeing. Sensation is accommodated within the brain's functioning. Norseen's description of the instant cerebellum efferent responses is specifically appropriate to the party sequence described above.28 The various forms of motion, which are referred to as processual, and therefore pleasing to the brain's mechanisms, are prevalent throughout the movie. Gyrating wheels, circular camera movements, circular tracking shots echoing spinning wheels, swirling bodies, heads, arms, legs, shapes in collusion with the sounds are molecular elements of sensation.

Post-modern parody it may be, but Romeo and Juliet operates as a veritable ‘becoming-woman’ through its forces of sensation. In some ways these patterns are also discernible, but differently so, in the next film under discussion, Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days.

Notes

(1.) Cioran, ‘Meetings and Movements’, in Anathemas and Admiration, p. 148.

(2.) Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues, p. 92.

(3.) Pastiche here is defined as a conscious imitation. Pastiche incorporates the knowledge that the imitation is enjoyable, but understood for what it is: enjoyable cliched imitation. This enables fun to be poked at romantic love while also inviting us to enjoy it.

(4.) To each his or her own reading.

(5.) ‘Pre-personals exist as a kind of field of different forces or intensities, wills to power, that resonate with one another, that interact in ways that produce effects on one another. Sexual drives, the surface of bodies, aggression, one's internal organs, emotions, experiences, sensations are all pre-personal’ (C. Colwell, ‘Deleuze and the Prepersonal’, in Philosophy Today, p. 18).

(6.) Deleuze relates Bergson's definition of qualitative multiplicity as follows. ‘A complex feeling will contain a fairly large number of simple elements; but as long as these elements do not stand out with perfect clearness, we cannot say that they were completely realised and as soon as consciousness has a distinct perception of them, the psychic state which results from their synthesis will have changed for this very reason’; see Deleuze, Bergsonism, p. 42.

(p.179) (7.) Dana Pilan, ‘Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation’, in Boundas and Olkowski (eds), Gilles Deleuze and the Theatre of Philosophy, p. 240; his reference is to Deleuze, Francis Bacon: Logigue de la sensation, p. 31.

(8.) See Cyborg spectatorship in B. Kennedy, ‘Post-feminist Futures in Film Noir’, M. Aaron (ed.), The Body's Perilous Pleasures.

(9.) Matrixial is a word which has current purchase in contemporary film theory. It has been theorised by several film and art theorists, for example Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger in her insightful work beyond Lacan. See Lichtenberg-Ettinger's work ‘Matrix and Metamorphosis’, in Differences, A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies.

(10.) Semir Zeki, Inner Vision, ch. 9, esp. pp. 59, 83.

(11.) Pilan, ‘Francis Bacon’, in Boundas and Olkowski (eds), Gilles Deleuze and the Theatre of Philosophy, p. 241; Pilan translates here Deleuze, Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation, p. 37.

(12.) Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, p. 211.

(13.) Deleuze, Cinema 2, p. 191.

(14.) As in Hieronymus Bosch's paintings of the underworld.

(15.) Bene, according to Deleuze, is closest to the work of Artaud. Deleuze discusses Bene's work in Cinema 2, p. 191.

(16.) Deleuze, Cinema 2, p. 191.

(17.) Jouissancial is a French term which refers to orgasmic bliss and pleasures felt through specific experiences. See B. Kennedy, ‘Post-feminist Futures in Film Noir’, in The Body's Perilous Pleasures.

(18.) Deleuze, Cinema 2, pp. 191–223.

(19.) B. Massumi, ‘Deleuze, Guattari and the Philosophy of Expression’, in Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, p. 16.

(20.) Deleuze, Cinema 2, p. 158.

(21.) Zeki explains how the brain responds to colour prior to form or movement, but so acutely close are these mechanisms, that they seem almost instantaneous. In fact, they are not. Colour is recognised as primary to form. (See Zeki, Inner Vision, ch. 7, p. 58–69).

(22.) Antipodean cinema in the 1990s has shown a love of parody, pastiche, cross-dressing, and masquerade. Films such as Strictly Ballroom and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) are fine examples. Both are dynamic and visceral films.

(23.) Dance often functions in film as a way of distanciating any fixed or gendered spectatorial positioning. It articulates a matrixial space, or a matrixial gaze, where gendered identity is unfixed and oscillates. See descriptions of Basic Instinct (1992) and Romeo is Bleeding in B. Kennedy, in ‘Post-feminist Futures in Film Noir’, in M. Aaron, The Body's Perilous Pleasures.

(24.) See Anna Powell, Transformations: Altered States in Film.

(25.) F. Guattari, Chaosmosis, p. 93.

(26.) There has been a whole arena in feminist theory which has reconsidered and valorised the notion of the ‘romance’ and its validity as a reality of life.

(27.) Zeki, Inner Vision.

(28.) John Norseen, ‘Images of the Mind: The Semiotic Alphabet’.

Notes:

(1.) Cioran, ‘Meetings and Movements’, in Anathemas and Admiration, p. 148.

(2.) Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues, p. 92.

(3.) Pastiche here is defined as a conscious imitation. Pastiche incorporates the knowledge that the imitation is enjoyable, but understood for what it is: enjoyable cliched imitation. This enables fun to be poked at romantic love while also inviting us to enjoy it.

(4.) To each his or her own reading.

(5.) ‘Pre-personals exist as a kind of field of different forces or intensities, wills to power, that resonate with one another, that interact in ways that produce effects on one another. Sexual drives, the surface of bodies, aggression, one's internal organs, emotions, experiences, sensations are all pre-personal’ (C. Colwell, ‘Deleuze and the Prepersonal’, in Philosophy Today, p. 18).

(6.) Deleuze relates Bergson's definition of qualitative multiplicity as follows. ‘A complex feeling will contain a fairly large number of simple elements; but as long as these elements do not stand out with perfect clearness, we cannot say that they were completely realised and as soon as consciousness has a distinct perception of them, the psychic state which results from their synthesis will have changed for this very reason’; see Deleuze, Bergsonism, p. 42.

(p.179) (7.) Dana Pilan, ‘Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation’, in Boundas and Olkowski (eds), Gilles Deleuze and the Theatre of Philosophy, p. 240; his reference is to Deleuze, Francis Bacon: Logigue de la sensation, p. 31.

(8.) See Cyborg spectatorship in B. Kennedy, ‘Post-feminist Futures in Film Noir’, M. Aaron (ed.), The Body's Perilous Pleasures.

(9.) Matrixial is a word which has current purchase in contemporary film theory. It has been theorised by several film and art theorists, for example Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger in her insightful work beyond Lacan. See Lichtenberg-Ettinger's work ‘Matrix and Metamorphosis’, in Differences, A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies.

(10.) Semir Zeki, Inner Vision, ch. 9, esp. pp. 59, 83.

(11.) Pilan, ‘Francis Bacon’, in Boundas and Olkowski (eds), Gilles Deleuze and the Theatre of Philosophy, p. 241; Pilan translates here Deleuze, Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation, p. 37.

(12.) Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, p. 211.

(13.) Deleuze, Cinema 2, p. 191.

(14.) As in Hieronymus Bosch's paintings of the underworld.

(15.) Bene, according to Deleuze, is closest to the work of Artaud. Deleuze discusses Bene's work in Cinema 2, p. 191.

(16.) Deleuze, Cinema 2, p. 191.

(17.) Jouissancial is a French term which refers to orgasmic bliss and pleasures felt through specific experiences. See B. Kennedy, ‘Post-feminist Futures in Film Noir’, in The Body's Perilous Pleasures.

(18.) Deleuze, Cinema 2, pp. 191–223.

(19.) B. Massumi, ‘Deleuze, Guattari and the Philosophy of Expression’, in Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, p. 16.

(20.) Deleuze, Cinema 2, p. 158.

(21.) Zeki explains how the brain responds to colour prior to form or movement, but so acutely close are these mechanisms, that they seem almost instantaneous. In fact, they are not. Colour is recognised as primary to form. (See Zeki, Inner Vision, ch. 7, p. 58–69).

(22.) Antipodean cinema in the 1990s has shown a love of parody, pastiche, cross-dressing, and masquerade. Films such as Strictly Ballroom and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) are fine examples. Both are dynamic and visceral films.

(23.) Dance often functions in film as a way of distanciating any fixed or gendered spectatorial positioning. It articulates a matrixial space, or a matrixial gaze, where gendered identity is unfixed and oscillates. See descriptions of Basic Instinct (1992) and Romeo is Bleeding in B. Kennedy, in ‘Post-feminist Futures in Film Noir’, in M. Aaron, The Body's Perilous Pleasures.

(24.) See Anna Powell, Transformations: Altered States in Film.

(25.) F. Guattari, Chaosmosis, p. 93.

(26.) There has been a whole arena in feminist theory which has reconsidered and valorised the notion of the ‘romance’ and its validity as a reality of life.

(27.) Zeki, Inner Vision.

(28.) John Norseen, ‘Images of the Mind: The Semiotic Alphabet’.