EESE 1/99


Textual Cinema and Cinematic Text:
The Ekphrasis of Movement in Adam Thorpe and SamuelBeckett.

H. Martin Puchner (New York)



The impact of the emerging cinema on the established genre of the novel has long become one of the most common topoi of literary criticism, which traces narrative techniques such as montage, sudden shifts in perspective, and close ups to the modernist cause célèbre: the emerging silent film. The evident truth behind these observations tended to disregard the fact that the nineteenth-century novel had developed some of these techniques long before the brothers Lumière. Flaubert's Madame Bovary features the famous scene at the agricultural fair, which exploits a radical cut/counter-cut montage with voice over and cut-in pieces of dialogue, and Dickens zooms in on embarrassing, trivial, and symptomatic details as if he had spent most of his afternoons at the movies.1 Criticizing the simple history of influence from film to novel, Sergei Eisenstein, in a now famous essay, considered the nineteenth-century novel a precursor for the cinematic imagination.2 It is, therefore, difficult to specify the ways in which the emerging cinema changed narrative fiction. The nouveau roman--and in particular the oeuvre of Robbe-Gillet, which consists of film scripts, such as L'année dernière à Marienbad, as well as of novels--represents one of the cases in which the medium of film reshapes literature: the narrative perspective is assimilated to the single eye of the camera, and the narrative is reduced to an external, at times geometrical, description of the field of vision. Even in Robbe-Grillet's oeuvre, however, one can trace the influence of his early literary texts on the poetic strategies of his actual staging scripts. Perhaps it would be more adequate here to speak of a mutual influence of film and novel on one another. Robbe-Grillet's oeuvre therefore continues Dickens's cinematic narrative, but also translates actual forms of the cinema into textual practice. The relation between film and the novel thus has a history of multiple crossings and translations, since both depend on a narrative as well as a visual syntax; it may therefore not come as a surprise that the textual visuality of the novel and the visual narrative of the cinema constitute a closely--at times inextricably--knit web of connections, correspondences, and exchanges.

Ulverton, the first novel of the contemporary British author Adam Thorpe, engages with this intricate media history of film and text.3 Like Robbe-Grillet's oeuvre, it participates in the tradition of the cinematic novel, however not by trying to introduce the camera and its visuality into forms of narrative representation, but by using the film's own textual apparatus as a literary form: the last chapter is written entirely as a shooting script for a film, and includes dialogue, camera angles, frames, and sound track.4 This chapter thus does not attempt to replicate the experience of watching a film, but recycles the textual surplus of the cinema, otherwise seen only as the textual means to an cinematic end, to become a proper literary form. The film script has not yet been considered as a textual genre in its own right, even though we can look back to a long publication history, and even though we are no longer surprised to find film scripts included in the collected works of authors.5 Occasionally these film scripts will not have been transformed into an actual film, for various, but usually financial, reasons. However, film scripts are rarely considered outside the process of production that leads to a film in contrast to the dramatic text, which has always been considered as a proper textual genre and thus can have a long reception history without having ever been produced in the theater. The closet drama constitutes the climax of this tradition, because it transforms the dramatic genre into a literary form, which does not even depend on the play appearing in the theater; like the novel, it transposes theatricality into acts of textual representation.6 Unlike the dramatic form, the film script has not achieved the degree of canonization that would allow for a corresponding closet screenplay, or film text. In the context of Ulverton, which consists of a number of disjointed narratives set in different historical times and written in corresponding styles of narration and diction, the film script finally acquires literary status. The fact that this last chapter, which uses the film script as a narrative form, is the only one set in modern times, may appear to be a slightly heavy-handed attempt to 'modernize' the novel. Its wit and power, however, lies in the idea to see the cinema not as a threatening agent of a visual culture that seeks to extinguish the written word, but as a cultural phenomenon that can provide the novel with a different form of textuality.7 Ulverton thus can be seen as a new kind of literary rapprochement between novel and the cinema.

Interestingly enough, Thorpe's next novel does not develop the form of the film script further, even though it constitutes a more direct attempt to engage with the history of the cinema. This next novel, Still, continues Thorpe's literary interest in the cinema, but develops an entirely different textual strategy for integrating film into literature.8 Still is a novel writing back to the cinema, without either integrating the film's textual form into the novel, as Ulverton had done, or by translating cinematic techniques into narrative strategies, like Robbe-Grillet. In a surprising gesture, the entire novel is presented as a film that is being shown at a New Year's Eve party; an iconoclastic film consisting of text only.9 In order to support the main argument of the novel--namely that the text we are reading is really a film --Still unfolds a whole network of film references (as opposed to literary references). Amongst them are those in which the director-narrator is anxious to differentiate this textual film from another iconoclastic film, Derek Jarman's Blue, a film that not only has no pictures (only the blue screen) but also no text, and instead relies exclusively on the spoken words of the voice-over. Still, in contrast, presents the text--its only medium--as a visual experience: the text of the film, supposedly, is being shown on screen in a cinema. This is a crucial difference from Blue, because the textual correspondence between film and book, on which the claim that the text of the novel is being projected onto a screen relies, is one of the driving forces behind Still's narrative and formal setup.10 Every word the reader of the novel reads is part of the film that is being watched at a party, so that the film is nothing but a string of words, arranged in single words, sentences, and paragraphs, visible on a screen. The medium of film is thus essentially reduced to a text.

The imagined identity of text and film is not only supported by the abundant film references that the narrator of the novel indulges in, but also through a set of additional gestures that enable Still to point towards its double existence as text and as textual film: the introduction, for example, is called "trailer" and it is distinguished from the main body of the film/text by the count-down that usually precedes a film, "5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1" (79-84),11 printed in mirrored numbers on consecutive pages. These moments, in which the novel tries to play at being a film, systematically confuse the difference between novel and film. One could say that Still stages a chiasmus between film and novel in which the novel becomes a film and the film becomes a novel: there is nothing in this film that could not be part of a text and that does not look like a text, while the text we are reading poses as a textual film. The common ground for this congruence between film and novel is the visuality of the text.12 Because of this fundamental identity between novel and film, I will differentiate between the two by referring to the actual novel as "Still-the-novel" and to the novel posing as film as "Still-the-text-film." In order to analyze the ways in which Still crosses over to film, it is necessary to keep apart its actual, textual form, printed in a book as a novel, and its imaginary form as a film--not a script--that consists of nothing but letters on the screen.

This differentiation is necessary, because from the point of view of reception, a novel and a film can of course never be the same thing, even if they were materially identical, even if there were such a film that consisted of nothing but the text of the novel. The reader of the novel sits somewhere with a book in hand with sufficient light, typically in a secluded or quiet space, alone, in an environment necessary for a reading culture, which Philip Fisher calls the culture of engulfment. A film, on the other hand, has a group sitting in the dark, as in the Platonic cave, staring at the images that are being projected from behind onto a screen. This obvious difference between the act of reading and the act of watching a movie does not only concern the external circumstances in which each medium is being received, but it also shapes the way each medium constructs its respective works of art. Wolfgang Iser is among those who theorize the ways in which the novel thinks about its readers and develops strategies for manipulating them. The reader, which has become a function of the novel, something the novel is concerned with (and not as an empirical, actual reader), is called the implied reader.13 In a similar vein, the cinema can be said to manipulate its viewers by constructing their position within a given film: the implied film-audience.14 Still exploits exactly this difference between the implied reader and the implied viewer and thus creates a scission between the material identity of Still-the-novel and Still-the-text-film. The manipulation of the implied reader lies in the fact that Still-the-novel addresses the reader not as the reader of Still-the-novel, but as the watcher of Still-the-text-film. The readers of a novel find themselves addressed as a movie audience, sitting in chairs at a New Year's Eve party, eating popcorn, gazing upon the big screen onto which Still-the-text-film is being projected.15 The culture and practice of silent reading on which the novel depends and which it instituted, as Ian Watt and others have shown, is replaced by the culture of the movie theater.16

This substitution of the viewer for the reader is not the only way in which Still uses the assumed identity of text and film to exploit their underlying differences. Film and text cross one another yet another time, for Still includes a written account of the shooting of a film, called Haunting Mrs Halliday, which is set around 1913 and which deals with the narrator's family. This account consists of a textual description of the process of filming, the directions for the actors and the camera by the director (who is also the author/narrator/director of Still), and a textual representation of specific shots. While the description of the process of filming reads most of the time like a director's diary or an autobiography, the textual representation of the film can be seen as a particular kind of ekphrasis; not a traditional ekphrasis, in which a text represents an image--for example the paintings on Achilles' shield in book eighteenth of the Iliad--but an ekphrasis of a moving image, in other words a film-ekphrasis.17 Haunting Mrs. Halliday is a film-within-the-film and this means here, a text-film (words only) within a text-film (words only). The apparent identity between these two kinds of textual films is introduced only to exploit their differences all the more effectively. Haunting Mrs Halliday is a different kind of text-film than Still as a whole; while Still is a film that consists of nothing but text on a film screen, Haunting Mrs. Halliday is originally a "normal" film, with moving images, dialogue, and sound, which is then, in a second step, represented and translated into a text, namely a textual ekphrasis, which then in turn, as text, is projected onto the screen and joins the rest of the text of which Still is composed. Underneath the surface of a textual film, we thus find two different processes of textualization: one in which a film consists of nothing but text; and one in which a normal film is represented in a text. The latter is somewhat analogous to the narrator's style of lecturing on film at Houston University, "you know my fondness for lecturing without the moving image" (62), but again, the analogy--like most analogies in Still--is slightly off; the narrator lectures without moving images, but he uses stills, so that his mode of evoking sequences and scenes from movies proceeds through a combination of immobile image and moving narrative. Still-the-text-film, in contrast, features no images at all, not even stills, but only a moving text in lieu of the moving image.

In the course of this transposition from moving image to moving text, Still makes extensive use of film lingo for the literary purpose of reducing a film--and the process of its production--to a text: "I'm going for a long shot up at the gates. I'm the other side of the gates. I'm peeping through the wrought iron but first I am focused on the iron. It's got rust spots. . . . I'm the unseen guest, the unborn blob" (119). We do not only get a textual representation of that which the hypothetical viewer of this film would see--the gates, the rust--but also a representation of the process of filming. The "I" of the sequence is the camera eye, and we see what it sees. In this superimposition of narrative "I" and camera eye, Still for a moment comes close to Robbe-Grillet's technique of narration, which relies precisely on the identity of narrative and cinematographic perspective. This resemblance becomes even more pronounced when the references to the "I" of camera man and narrator disappears and we are confronted only with a description of what the hypothetical viewer of the film sees:

He's coming down.

He's past the second linden.

He's past his brother. (130)

The text is a moving ekphrasis of what the film is showing, careful to replicate the speed at which the figure sees his brother advancing in the text.18 This ekphrastic mode of the text-film leads to the question of what kind of strategies Still uses to represent cinematic images. In order to convincingly transpose the film-within-the-film into writing, Adam Thorpe's Still adopts not only the vocabulary of camera-angles, montage, lenses, and perspectives, but also a way of representing objects, characters, movement within a text in the form of ekphrasis.

The material from which the narrator/director builds his film comes from his grandfather's diary and from a couple of old photographs. Again, the apparent identity of photographs and stills gives way to the underlying differences, for a photograph and a still are not the same: one belongs to a string of pictures taken at a rate of 24/sec., while the other is an old family photograph. More interesting, however, is the fact that Haunting Mrs. Halliday is based on both a pictorial and a textual source, photographs and diary.19 Thus, at the origin of the film that is being described in the text of the novel (ekphrasis), we find a combination of texts (the diary) and images (photographs). The title of the novel casts a peculiar light on the various instances when stills play a role in a novel, in which everything is otherwise constantly moving. Stills, as the narrator explains, have always been his favorite parts of films--"the film was never as good as the stills" (47)--and he even fantasizes about a masterwork made, à la Glenn Gould/Bach, consisting of 32 stills (37). Stills make it again and again into Still, when it presents not only an ekphrasis of the process of filming and its (hypothetical) product, but also an ekphrasis of existing "stills" (which are strictly speaking photographs) of the narrator's grandparents. Stills are thus part of the repertoire which Adam Thorpe uses against the traditional film, but they are subjected to the same mechanisms of textualization as the film. Everything that is pictorial is reduced to textual ekphrasis, and this textual ekphrasis of the novel is the, at least hypothetically, projected onto a screen as a text-film.

While the textual representation of the film-within-the-film is an inverted mise-en-abîme of Still as a whole, the other components of Still contribute to the multiple crossings of text and film even more. The major part of Still consists of digressions from the textualized film-within-the-film to long interspersed passages that tell the story of the narrator/director, who is currently teaching film at Houston University. The story of the director/narrator explains the biographical background that lead to the filming of Haunting Mrs. Halliday. While at first, the director's story is neatly separated from the film-within-the-film, the two get increasingly intertwined, often without transitions, in the same paragraph. For this reason, the narrator's/author's story and the film he is shooting blend into one another. This oscillation between life and film leads to an central uncertainty that continues throughout the novel/text-film. Is the film that is being shown and as whose audience the readers find themselves addressed as implied viewers really coextensive with the novel we are reading; or are we reading a proper novel in which the author hallucinates about showing a textual version of a film (the film-within-the-film about the narrator's grandparents), an event which is yet to happen and may very well never happen? Is the text-film only the textual version of an actual, or of an imagined film (the film-within-the-film)? Or rather, is the text as a whole a text that is not originally a film but is nevertheless projected onto a screen? Is a text-film a film that is turned into a text, or can it also be a text, diary-style, that happens to be shown on a screen? Still maintains these ambivalences systematically, which are all versions of the underlying ambivalence reigning between film and novel. Towards the end of Still, for example, a section, called "appendix," interrupts the film and is followed by a change in perspective. Now, the narrator appears to be the previous narrator's son, reporting about the aftermath of the text-film's showing at the New Year's Eve party: "Those of us present at the party given by my father on the last day of the twentieth century . . . . at the time the film projector was knocked over have all given their own versions of events" (454). When the narrator's son concludes with a remark about his father's relationship--"- but that's something else and certainly not my idea" (456)--the next lines shift the narrative perspective back to the father. It turns out that the whole passage allegedly spoken by the son, was just a ventriloquizing on the part of the father: "It certainly wasn't mine, either. / Phantom of the Opera speaking. You'll never get rid of me that easy" (345). The assumed position after the text-film, which would place the text of the appendix outside the film-showing at the New Year's Eve party, turns out to be a false lead and the narrator/director integrates the text of the appendix back into the text-film or at least back into the ambivalence between text-film and the film shown at the party.20

is characterized by such continual crossings of film and text: a film-to-be-shot is transformed into a textual ekphrasis; a kind of director's diary is transformed into a text that is shown on a screen; the ekphrasis of this film itself is based on a diary and stills; and the audience of the still is both a movie audience and a book audience. At times, parts of Still pretend to be outside the text that is shown on a New Year's Eve party and then it seems that the entire text of Still is what a hypothetical audience is watching on a screen.21 Finally, the director/narrator himself uses language to describe films is his lectures, another mode of iconoclastic cinematography. The ambivalence between textuality and visuality appears perhaps most vividly in a slip of the tongue. Thinking about his ex-girlfriend Zelda, the narrator observes: "It'd be better if Zelda were here but writing into a void is better than not writing at all and descending into alcoholic dereliction. Did I say writing? Don't I mean filming? Oi, oi--is the purity of my calling sullied already? Can't I just zip my big mouth for more than two minutes?" (312). Is the author a narrator of a book and thus writing, or is he filming a film? If he is writing, is he writing a film script, or a novel? Is the final film simply a filming of the novel, or is it a real film, which is then described in a text? Is the author writing a text-only film, or filming a text? And if he is filming a text--the text he has written--is it the text of Still, or just the textual representation of the film-within-the-film? The Freudian slip brings these questions to the forefront and lets them hover there.22 The reason for this slip, the author speculates, may be "logorrhoea," presumably the tendency to say too much. As a film, Still is indubitably the product of a "logorrhoea," the quasi-pathological attempt to speak without cessation, to say everything and to say everything in words.23 Still is a film in which there are only words and no images, a film that shows the symptoms of an iconoclastic logorrhea, or, to put it in generic terms, a multiple film-ekphrasis. There is nothing in this film that exists outside a text and nothing that exists outside a book. The address to the readers as movie-goers, the flirtation of the book with the count-down before a film and the notion of the introduction as a trailer do not diminish the force with which language in the form of writing is haunting the cinema. At a time when the average cultural criticism is bemoaning (or celebrating) the image-orientation of modernism, which is epitomized in the success-story of the cinema, Still is a novel, perhaps one of the few novels, that show that the power of the written word still has something to say to the moving image.



One of the reasons that Still's textualization of film seems surprising and provocative may lie in the fact that in the era of the talkie, text has no essential function in cinema anymore. This was, however, different in the silent film, which projected text in the form of intertitles onto the silent film. I would like therefore to conclude by referring to a few features of Beckett's film Film, a silent film shot in 1971, which also exploits the relationship between text and image, but does so from a different perspective. Like Still, Film is interested in the translation from text onto film, and vice versa, but does so by presenting itself as a work that consists of a textual part, printed in program notes and published along with Beckett's dramatic writings, and a short film. And like Still, Film deals with the relationship between text and film through the attempt to describe images within texts. Since Beckett relates Film to the tradition of the silent film--rather than to visual culture in general--let me reconstruct for a moment the issues surrounding the relationship between the silent film and its use of textuality.

Choosing to make a film that is silent, except for a final "sshh," Beckett writes back to an aesthetic tradition that takes silent, visual gestures to be a primary guarantor of cinematic expressivity. The gestural aesthetics of the silent film led to a number of styles, such as Russian montage and mass movement, German expressionism, and the American schools around Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Textuality, however, is a essential part of the silent film, since it uses text in the form of subtitles and intertitles to organize its repertoire of expressive visuality; language entered the movie theaters not as the spoken word, but as writing. The written word was constantly superimposed onto the visuality of the film object, and thus became part of the technique and expressive vocabulary of the silent film and, most importantly, of the montage. Far from being a necessary embarrassment, writing was systematically integrated into the pictorial expressivity of the silent film. Sentences as intertitles were taken apart and cut with scenery, and directors selected their layout with care. The need to insert pieces of language into the succession of pictures testifies to the extent to which the visuality of the silent film needed to be inscribed by language. Especially when, as in the case of Russian film, these gestures were to be marked by specific political messages.24 With Barthes, one could speak here of a foregrounding of the social dimension of corporeal visuality and of an "anchoring" and "relaying" of the visual body, or rather its meaning, in a socially codified context through language.25 The silent film is, therefore, not simply a medium of visuality untouched by language. Although much the aesthetic debate in the teens, twenties, and thirties was invested in the distance between the silent film and the dialogue-based theater, silent visuality and silent writing constitute a complex network of expressive visuality, titles, and silent writing on the screen.26 The silent film constitutes a unique space in which visuality and language interact with and counteract one another. Adam Thorpe's Still is interested in the same tradition, when it sprinkles the hypothetical film-within-the-film with ornamental intertitles.27

Beckett alludes to these traditions not only because he features Buster Keaton in his film script, but also because he quotes several of these cinematic conventions. Most importantly, however, Film relies extensively on the written word, not in the form of subtitles or intertitles, but through a script that is part of the work of art. An introductory note, which is part of the textual script that precedes the film, places Film in relation to other silent movies: "The film is entirely silent except for the 'sssh!' in part one. Climate of film comic and unreal. O should invite laughter throughout by his way of moving" (123). The American tradition of the silent slapstick and its repertoire of gestures and poses--gestural exaggeration, imitations and pantomimic acts--was at the heart of Beckett's conception from the beginning. Alan Schneider, the director of Film, recounts Beckett's initial idea of getting Charlie Chaplin or Zero Mostel to play the part, then deciding on the comedian Jackie MacGowran, and finally, when Jackie MacGowran turned out to be unavailable, suggesting Buster Keaton (66). This parade of icons from the silent film turns Film into a nostalgic revue of a lost era, and it also evokes a certain expectation in the viewer, who is waiting for a comeback of the old Buster Keaton. Film, incidentally, was presented as part of a Keaton revival at the New York Film Festival (Schneider 90). This expectation of the well-known Buster Keaton, however, remains unfulfilled. Except for the conclusion of the film, Buster Keaton's face is kept hidden, and his body can be seen only visible from what Beckett conceives of as a limited field of visibility. Film embraces elements of the silent film, but at the same time rewrites it; Film stages Buster Keaton partially in his habitual role, but also imposes its own aesthetic conception onto that role.

One element of Film that does not relate to the tradition of the silent film is the peculiar way in which it thematizes and reflects on its own medium.28 Film, as its title suggests, is a film about film. Its reflexive nature is introduced at the beginning of the script when Beckett presents the project as a version of Berkeley's dictum, esse est percipi. The script contains Berkeley's dictum, an outline of the scenes, and notes specifying certain constellations mentioned in the outline. Because the script is clearly not intended to be an outline for the shooting of the film, introducing, as it does, philosophical principles and geometrical directions for the camera, the film's departures from the script do not make the script itself irrelevant. The script is, rather, an irreducible textual and graphic dimension of Film and should be considered part of the work of art. In this sense, it is a counterpart to the textualizations of film in Thorpe's Still.29 The double representation of the film as script and as film can be described, as Martin Schwab suggests, as a diptych (165). It does not suffice to consider the script as a technical blueprint of the film, for it must rather be considered as a textual version of the film, which relates in several ways to the sequence of pictures on celluloid. As in Still, Beckett blends together film theory and an attempt to represent moving bodies in texts. The film script can be seen as Beckett's version of a text-film.

Beckett stages Berkeley's theory of perceivedness as a drama, by organizing the film around a figure O who is pursued by the perceiving E. Both figures are dramatic representations of the act of perception, which is thematized in the script and in all three scenes of the film. The abstract principle, esse est percipi, is represented in the splitting of the main character into the act of seeing, E, and the state of being seen, O; E plays the eye, and O the object seen. In addition, perception is represented through a complicated syntax of camera angles and a field of vision defined by them. These angles and perspectives are explained in the notes to the script, and are only comprehensible for the reader of these notes; they remain obscure in the viewing of the film. What this textual appendix--or preview-- describes is the following: E and O, when they appear within a particular constellation and within a particular angle, enact the double relation of seeing and being seen; as long as they remain outside this angle of vision, O, the object, does not "feel" the perception of E, the eye. This syntax of camera-angles is one of the many instances in which what we see on the screen and what we read in the script is not congruent: it is simply impossible to understand what is going on with the camera-angle by merely watching the film; the text provides crucial information for the viewer without which the viewer would be lost.

Like the tradition silent film, Film depends on a textual apparatus to organize or frame the silent expressivity of the screen; but unlike the traditional silent film, Film uses a particular form of textuality to do so. Beckett's philosophical speculations, his geometrical syntax of camera angles, and the 'agony of perceivedness' are necessary textual complements to the silent film. While Adam Thorpe's Still stages a total collapse between film and text, Beckett's Film makes text and film completely dependent on one another, creating a work of art that consists half of text and half of film. Both works are retrospective, one could say belated, interventions in the debate about visual and textual culture. Beckett's Film is grafted onto the silent film only to rework its icons, gestures, and textuality into a different constellation; and Adam Thorpe's Still systematically mixes up film and text, visuality and textuality, under the auspices of a narrator who is a film historian. Both works present a vital meditation on the reciprocal dependencies of text and film, one in the form of a double work in text and celluloid, and the other in the form of a novel writing back to the screen. What trace their interventions will leave on either the textual or the visual culture, or their intersection, remains to be seen.


1. In his famous essay on Dickens, Eisenstein points out some of the ways in which the nineteenth-century novel uses quasi-cinematographic techniques. Sergei Eisenstein, Film Form, ed. and transl. by Jay Leyda (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1977).

2 As, for example, Tom Gunning has pointed out, one can speak of an imaginary cinematography throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, in which fantasies of moving images stimulate the cultural imagination. Tom Gunning, An Invention of the Devil? Religion and Early Cinema, ed. by Roland Cosandey, Andre Gaudreault, Tom Gunning (Sainte-Foy, Quebec: Presses de l`Université Laval, 1992).

3 Adam Thorpe, Ulverton (London: Minerva, 1993).

5 Dramatic authors, such as Joe Orton, whose film script up Against It (New York: Grove, 1979) has been published along with his dramatic work even though it was never produced, generally managed to publish their film scripts more easily.

6 More recent closet dramas range from the romantic closet dramas such as Shelley's Prometheus Unbound and Mallarmé's Hérodiade to phantasmagoric text such as Flaubert's La Tentation de Saint Antoine. Even the "Circe" chapter in Joyce's Ulysses could be considered a closet drama since it is written in the dramatic form, with direct speech and stage directions, but appears within the form of the novel and thus demands to be read rather than performed on the stage.

7 Generalizations about the decay of literacy and the rise of a twentieth century visual culture can be seen in Marshal McLuhan`s oeuvre, and, more crudely, in Neil Postman's repeated mourning for literacy, as for example, in Amusing Ourselves to Death (New York: Viking, 1985).

8 Adam Thorpe, Still (London: Minerva, 1959:

9 The conceit of Still, that cinema can be presented as text, is also a commentary on cinematic semiotics, which has often considered the cinematic image as (cinematic) text. This problem has benn discussed at length by Christian Metz in his Essais sur la signification au cinéma (Paris: Klinecksieck, 1968).

10 In one of the recurring passages relating his own film to Jarman's Blue, the director/narrator records a conversation with his son: "No, it is nothing like Jarma`s a few years back. Greg. It's a silent. A silent with no pictures? There are words, Greg, calm yourself, there are lots of words. How are you showing it, Dad? How am I showing it? Yeah. On a screen, Greg" (69). The relation to Blue is also part of a jealousy triangle involving the director's ex-girl-friend Zelda and her new boy-friend Lazenby, who keeps pointing out that the idea of a film without pictures is no longer original after Blue: "Lazenby said two things in reply. He said Jarman's got there first" (256).

12 In pursuing this cinematographic view on narrative textuality, Still refers to Star Wars, a film that begins with a text placed in space, providing the narrative context for the unfolding film. Instead of hearing a voice-over, the audience has to read the text on the screen.

13 Wolfgang Iser, Der Akt des Lesens (München: Fink, 1976).

14 Nick Browne has spoken about the "spectator-in-the-text," who is a figure for the actual spectator. Nick Browne, "The Spectator-in-the-Text: The Rhetoric of Stagecoach," in Film Quarterly 29: 2 (1975-76), 26-38.

15 The reader becomes an anonymous member of the New Year's Eve Party, watching grudgingly the narrator's text-film: "It'll mean that some of you people won't watch every minute of the film. . . . But this film doesn't have a sound-track. . . . It's Ossy next to you sucking the wodka out of his lemon slice and it's my granddaughter snucking her ballet feet under her thighs" (256). This technique of addressing the readers and thus pre-empting or manipulating their reaction is of course a standard procedure of the eighteenth-century novel, in particular Stern's Tristram Shandy.

16 Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957). A whole range of scholarship has been done on the culture of (silent) reading; see also Jack Goody, The Interface Between the Written and the Oral (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987) and Brian Stock, The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983).

17 On the intricacies of literary ekphrasis, especially of a moving ekphrasis, see Francoise Meltzer's Salomé and the Dance of Writing: Portraits of Mimesis in Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).

18 This can be seen as a cinematographic play between omniscient camera and subjective camera.

19 When the narrator gets hold of his grandfather's diary, he knows that it will be the source of a film, and sees the scenes it describes in cinematographic terms: "The point is, Henry, watch that ash, the diaries are an intimate account of my grandfather's life at Randle. Unpublished. Unabridged. Hey, it'll start with the linden tree avenue in deep perspective, a carriage raising dust, a gravelly voice-over" (372). One of the pictorial sources is an old school photograph of Randle College 1913 which the text described in detail (104).

20 These multiple encodings, self-references and strategic ambiguities belong to a repertoire of literary devices that are sometimes called postmodern. I don't want to get into this debate here and restrict myself to pointing out this analogy.

21 These passages also present reflections not only on the process of production, but also on the apparatus through which it is performed, as discussed by Jean-Louis Baudry in such essays as "Ideological Effects of the Basic Cinematographic Apparatus," Film Quarterly 28: 2 (1974-75), 39-47).

22 This Freudian slip, obviously, is not a slip on the part of the author, but on the part of the narrator; it is a Freudian slip made explicit and thus highlighted. This means of course, that it is not a Freudian slip at all, but rather a device that once more contributes to keeping the ambiguity between film and text open. This so-called Freudian thus does not reveal anything, but creates ambiguity.

23 One could perhaps see in this term logorhea--as well as in the project of Still as whole--an tongue-in-cheek intervention in the debate surrounding Derrida's notion of logocentrism. Logocentrism becomes an illness, but the product of this illness, Still, is not a spoken word, but a visual text.

24 Eisenstein shares this interest in the social dimension of gestures with Brecht. Brecht's notion of the social gestus not only concerns actual gestures, but can be applied to the gestural element in language, as long as language is indicative of its social codification. Rainer Nägele, Theater, Theory, Speculation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991); Roland Barthes, "The Third Meaning," in Image Music Text, ed. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana Paperbacks, 1984).

25 In his essay on Eisenstein, Image Music Text, ed. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana Paperbacks, 1984), Barthes distinguishes between two modes in which the cinematic image and text interact: anchoring and relaying. In the mode of anchoring, the otherwise disseminating and incomprehensible image is controlled by the written text, which thus exerts a certain repressive force onto the image. In the mode of relaying, the text and the image both are fragments of a more general syntagm and the message's unity occurs on a higher level. Barthes sees relaying especially at work in the cinema, when language not only controls and elucidates the image, but advances the narrative sequence of the image. In both cases, however, the text channels the meaning of the image.

26 In his essay The Third Meaning, Barthes develops the notion of an "obtuse meaning," which escapes all possibilities of codification. This obtuse meaning is that which remains in excess of codification of the inscription of the image by language. This third meaning is an aberration of communication, a signifier without a signified. Barthes reads this signifier not precisely in gestures, because he emphasized the possibility of their social and linguistic codification, but in the expressivity of the face. My understanding of the non-encoded gestures in relation to language can therefore be seen as an attempt to expand and systematize Barthes third meaning.

28 Martin Schwab's extensive study of Film offers a differentiated analysis of self-reflexivity. He argues that the self-reflexive movement of Film is not achieved through a process of self-symbolization or the exhibition of its own means of production, but rather through the attempt of making the act of seeing visible, from the point of view of the subject of seeing as well as from the point of view of the object seen. Schwab, Martin. Unsichtbares - Sichtbar gemacht. Zu Samuel Becketts 'Film' (München: Fink, 1996).