Chapter 1: Pasolini’s Lingua X
[Dispute 1: The use of free indirect discourse in cinema:
Communication, non-communication, or the fallibility of subjectivity?]
“What is a gesture? A threatening gesture, for example? It is not a blow that is interrupted. It is
certainly something that is done in order to be arrested and suspended.”
—Jacques Lacan, “What is a Picture”1
The first phrase dispute in the différend that is modern cinema is a phenomenon that surfaced into
cinematic discourses by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s critical look into the role of subjectivity and objectivity
as witnessed by the director and character within a film. “Free indirect discourse,” “quasi-direct
discourse,” “represented speech and thought,” “free indirect subjective,” “free indirect vision,” are
all terms that apply to the conflation of subjective and objective “point-of-views” between an author
(director) and the characters of a novel or film. As a literary and cinematic technique, it is indeed a
contentious concept for reasons that will hopefully become clear in this essay. I try to argue that
through formulating a cinematic form of “free indirect discourse,” Pasolini corporates the camera as
an apparatus with a subjective “point-of-view,” one that is divorced from the subjectivity of the
authoring hand that uses it.
Pasolini’s formulation of free indirect discourse as a cinematic technique derives its theoretical
underpinnings from literary theory. The publication of Giulio Herczeg’s Lo Stile Indiretto Libero in
Italiano of 1963 inspired Pasolini to write his essay on literature “Comments on Free Indirect
Discourse” the following year. Free indirect discourse, as a literary technique, is the transcription of
reported speech and how that spoken utterance is stylistically altered into a literary genre. As opposed
to direct discourse, which places the utterance of a speaker within quotations, indirect discourse
embeds the utterance as an indirect representation of speech.
In Pasolini’s (Marxist) reading of free indirect discourse, the technique assumed a form of a certain
linguistic contamination on the part of the writer because of its indirect nature, the ability for the author
to intervene with the character. In order to create and constitute a character that is removed from an
author’s socio-cultural milieu, an author uses a language that is foreign to him because it is another
world that the author must enter via his characters. In the essay pertaining to literature “Comments on
Free Indirect Discourse,” Pasolini argues:
In the case where, in order to reanimate the thoughts of his character, an author is
compelled to reanimate his words, it means that the words of the author and those of the
character are not the same: the character lives, then, in another linguistic or
psychological, or cultural, or historical world. He belongs to another social class. And
the author therefore knows the world of that social class only through the character and
The literary technique, however, is not as simple as Pasolini makes it out to be in his writings. Indeed,
“free indirect discourse” is a complex literary, stylistic structure, one that does in fact espouse a certain
“contamination” but which, nonetheless, involves more than just “reanimating thoughts” of a character
or the indirect use of “language” inherent within the character’s social or cultural class. Pasolini’s
understanding of free indirect discourse was flawed, even when transposed into the cinematic realm.
Pasolini’s awkward restructuring of the technique into cinema, however, underscores the tensions that
are inherent in the literary style and its later manifestation in cinema. As I will try to argue, although
Pasolini’s reformulation of free indirect discourse for cinematic purposes was theoretically imperfect,
precisely because of its nascent forms in the cinema, it nonetheless exposed a technique that the cinema
had heretofore unacknowledged as such.
Transposing free indirect discourse into the cinema required Pasolini to reformulate the literary
construct of the technique and transpose it into cinematic stylistic means. It was a theoretical stretch, no
doubt, but one with implications for modern cinema. In its cinematic modernity, free indirect discourse
as articulated by Pasolini would later be taken up by Gilles Deleuze in Cinema 2: The Time-Image as a
technique that defines new relations of thought inherent in the cinematic medium’s modernist
approach. In Cinema 2, Deleuze discursively posits Jean-Luc Godard as the arbiter of the time-image
because of Godard’s use (or Deleuze’s conception of his use) of free indirect discourse.
Unlike Michelangelo Antonioni or Bernardo Bertolucci, two directors alongside Godard that Pasolini
cites as practitioners of the technique in film, Pasolini argued that Godard’s use of the medium’s
capabilities to transcribe free indirect discourse loses its power to differentiate between the objects and
subjects the cinematic camera captures. Pasolini focuses on Godard precisely because of the
complexities involved in representing free indirect discourse in the communicative medium that is
cinema. I argue that Pasolini directed his critique specifically against Godard because of the tensions
inherent in the application of representing subjectivity and objectivity in film. Through his theoretical
work on the cinema and its relation to Godard, Pasolini, I believe, shifted tactics in order to
problematize, both technically and rhetorically, the implications that free indirect discourse had in the
Deleuze’s creation of the time-image places the cinematic notion of free indirect discourse as the
harbinger of modern cinema, but in its complexity it elicits another layer to the dispute that is modern
cinema. In the discursive formation that surrounds modern cinema and the relation free indirect
discourse has with it in the writings of Pasolini and Deleuze, Godard is thereby placed as the witness to
the différend. By folding Deleuze’s conception of free indirect discourse and its relation to Godard in
light of Pasolini’s rhetorical problematizations of the latter’s cinematic practice, I hope to explicate on
the untenable nature that modern cinema is precisely because of its discursive formation.
I do this through an examination of Pasolini’s use and later abandonment of free indirect discourse in
his films. As I try to demonstrate, Pasolini abandoned free indirect discourse in favor of a more lucid
encounter with the technical possibilities cinema can capture between objectivity and subjectivity,
concepts so important to free indirect discourse. While Pasolini’s notion that the “cinema of poetry”
elucidated the flaws in the cinematic use of free indirect discourse, still in its infancy as a style, the
problematizations Pasolini himself had with the technique sheds light on the cinematic camera’s power
to underscore the dynamics between objectivity and subjectivity.
More pointedly, examples from Pasolini’s work in this essay attempt to expand his critical work in
regards to the points of view of both author (director) and character. I argue that his cinematic work
renders these points of views as fallible. Pasolini’s awkward stance towards the technique of free
indirect discourse—and as they manifest in his works Hawks and Sparrows, La Ricotta, and Il
Decamerone—indicates a tension within the notions of subjectivity and objectivity as witnessed in the
cinematic image. In the medium’s supposed “communicative” aspects, Pasolini’s abandonment of free
indirect discourse strove for a problematization of the cinematic image’s supposed “free, indirect”
subjectivity of a director. In that problematization, I argue that through Pasolini’s cinematic and
theoretical practice the camera is witnessed as possessing its own subjectivity, one independent of and
divorced from the authoring hand of a cinematic auteur.
The Theoretical Rise of Free Indirect Discourse
1) Direct Discourse/Indirect Discourse/Quasi-Direct Discourse
A discussion of free indirect discourse begins at the literary level. In discussing the early work of V.N.
Voloshinov on the technique, and later arguments as articulated by Ann Banfield in Unspeakable
Sentences: Narration and Representation in the Language of Fiction, we can begin to understand the
complex nature of Pasolini’s use of free indirect discourse as it manifests itself in the moving image.
By following the specific literary and linguistic trajectory of both Voloshinov and Banfield, I argue that
Pasolini’s use of free indirect discourse in the cinema reaches a stasis by becoming the ultimate limit
point of both trajectories. In discussing Voloshinov and Banfield, I wish to arrive at that limit point,
where the cinematic image freezes subjectivity and objectivity as expressed in Pasolini’s reading and
rejection of free indirect discourse in the cinema.
V.N. Voloshinov’s pioneering work of the 1930s, Marxism and The Philosophy of Language, traces the
emergence of free indirect discourse as it surfaces in literature. A close associate of Mikhail Bakhtin,
Voloshinov, as the title of his book suggests, was intent on placing the word and the spoken utterance
on a social/Marxist level. The word, for Voloshinov as well as Bakhtin, was reciprocal and dialogical.
The word and the utterance are social constructs that must be contextualized (whether on the social,
historical, physiological, or geographical levels); they are both “heteroglossias” in Bakhtin’s analysis.3
Being a social construct, words and utterances are derived from the concrete context of their
enunciation—their verbal interaction in the social world. “The actual reality of language-speech is not
the abstract system of linguistic forms, not the isolated monologic utterance, and not the
psychophysiological act of its implementation, but the social event of verbal interaction implemented in
an utterance or utterances.”4
In the active and reciprocal role that language plays within a social context, literature, by extension,
must take into account the active participation of the speaker and the hearer, the addressor and the
addressee. Discourse, then, is an active dialogue, not an internal monologue. The problems inherent in
“reporting speech” as a form of active discourse into a literary text is therefore what is at issue for
Voloshinov and Bakhtin. For if the word and the utterance are a social/reciprocal phenomenon, how
can such discourses surface within the mute medium of the printed words that comprise a text?
Voloshinov dissects the use of “reported speech” by a writer into three categories: direct discourse,
indirect discourse, and quasi-direct discourse. All three styles report active speech as an “objective
document” of speech reception. These textual discourses are “objective” precisely because language is
transposed from the active and contextual world from which the word or utterance was delivered and
into a represented document. “Between the reported speech and the reporting [written] context,
dynamic relations of high complexity and tension are in force. A failure to take these into account
makes it impossible to understand any form of reported speech.”5
For Voloshinov, reported speech splinters into two stylistic tendencies that are interoriented within a
text: a linear style which constructs “clear-cut, external contours for reported speech, whose own
internal individuality is minimized”; and a pictorial style which obliterates “the precise, external
contours of reported speech; at the same time, the reported speech is individualized to a much greater
degree—the tangibility of the various facets of an utterance may be subtly differentiated.”6
The linear style of reported speech demarcates the word or utterance by screening out the author’s
“intonations.” In other words, utterances are bracketed off as directly quoted speech. For example:
“Let’s make the film,” John said and turned towards the camera.
“Let’s make the film” is what John said at that moment, the author does not weaken the voice of John;
it is direct discourse as such. John’s message is conveyed directly, without mediation on the writer’s
The pictorial style, however, is far more complex. In it, the reported speech or message is weakened by
the intercession of a writer. Voloshinov sees a mixing of speech reporting, where the author intercepts
the word or utterance and transcribes the reported speech with his/her own intonations. As reported
speech becomes mixed, it becomes indirect discourse because the author manipulates the original
utterance. “Indirect discourse ‘hears’ a message differently; it actively receives and brings to bear in
transmission different factors, different aspects of the message than do the other patterns [of direct
discourse].”7 The shift from direct to indirect discourse is a matter of altering the form of the speech act
rather than its content. As such, indirect discourse is a matter of style and grammar. How an author
twists the relations of discourse from one level to the next is dependent on linguistic parameters
inherent in conveying that very shift.
For example, consider the following two sentences:
“Let’s make the film,” John said and turned towards the camera.
Let’s make the film, John said and turned towards the camera.
As is evident from the last sentence, it is a change in the form the speech takes, vis-à-vis the use of
quotations, while content remains identical to the previous sentence. However, in the stylistic and
grammatical change, a shift occurs in the intonation of the speech reported. “Let’s make the film” now
becomes past, a past that may or may not have occurred in actuality since it is represented. Without the
quotations, the actuality of the utterance is weakened—it becomes, in a sense, diluted within the
My examples thus far have remained at the most simple level of reporting direct and indirect speech. In
a sense, I, as the reporter of John’s speech act, did indeed intercept his phrase “let’s make the film”
from direct to indirect representation, but from the examples cited one cannot intimate my role in that
phrase interception. Let us add another character to the sentence:
John said let’s make the film and turned towards the camera. “Help me,” Clara said. She
realized she did not know where to begin because John appeared frantic.
The second character’s quoted phrase “help me” qualifies this sentence as direct and in the present of
Clara’s affective nature in regards to John’s appearance as frantic. Since Clara’s speech is direct
discourse, the following description of John’s appearance sustains the factuality and contemporaneity
of the narrative sentence. In other words, the reader assumes that John is indeed frantic in Clara’s eyes,
because the author intervened to elucidate Clara’s confusion in regards to John’s actions by directly
reporting her speech at the moment she witnessed John as frantic. In this instance, direct and indirect
discourse bounce off each other to create a narrative that sustains the factuality of Clara’s reported
speech “help me.” By the use of quotations the sentence is, in a sense, a fact of the characters
discourse. The character’s hesitation directly involves the confusion on “where to begin,” the author
transcribes that confusion through a mixture of first and third person narrative.
This sentence obfuscates the direct and indirect discourses of represented speech. The author uses a
quoted first person phrase in order to render the narrative as more dramatic. The quoted phrase is
“made strange,” as Voloshinov describes it, because it suits the author’s intent in creating a heightened
sense of drama, irony or humor.8 For example, suppose this sentence is excerpted from a full-length
novel with John being a conniving filmmaker ready to ambush the career of a burgeoning actress. This
sentence, then, allows the author’s attitude to infiltrate the text in that it allows him or her to place
indirect and direct discourses as colorations that heighten the drama, or irony, of the narrative. The use
of indirect and direct discourses creates, as Voloshinov describes it, a “pictorial” effect on the use of
language. It is, in other words, textured to elicit and blur both a sense of actuality and a sense of
individuality on the characters behalf as rendered by the author.
But let us remove the quotes from the second character’s ambiguous assertion:
John said let’s make the film and turned towards the camera. Help me, Clara said,
realizing she did not know where to begin since John appeared frantic.
Notice here another stylistic, linguistic shift after the quotes were removed. The past tense has become
an imparfait (imperfect) (“realizing”) rather than a historic present/aorist (“realized”). The imparfait
functions as a tense of contemporaneity with the past, it is happening within the present of the narrative
past. In this respect, the imparfait allows the reality of the fiction, or the fiction that is reality, to
flourish. The phrases in the sentence are twisted as to elicit a sense of both contemporaneity and
historicity. Contrasted to the previous sentence, where Clara’s speech was still bracketed into quotes,
this sentence elicits even more confusion.
Whereas the use of direct discourse and indirect discourse relied on the “reporting” mechanisms of the
utterance, this sentence without quotes allows the author to “act out” the role of the characters by
having a dialogue with him or her. This is possible through the removal of quoted, direct speech, and
also the verb tense of the imparfait. Rather than actions being held in the past, the imparfait allows the
author to live in the present moment of a characters past action and thought. In this respect, an author
can extrapolate on Clara’s condition unconditionally, coloring the narrative text with subjective
feelings and descriptions that move beyond being mere “reported speech.” Rather than being an interior
monologue of that character’s thoughts, it is a dialogue between character and author. For example:
John said let’s make the film and turned towards the camera. Help me, Clara said,
realizing she did not know where to begin since John appeared frantic. Her lips began to
quiver. Can he see them? At any rate, why was he running around the set throwing props
everywhere? Why? Did he not have enough coffee? Is John bipolar? Did he forget his
medication? That must be it, what a brute John is.
For Voloshinov, this is an instance of speech interference—a special strain inherent in the literary
context of the novel that Voloshinov titles as “quasi-direct discourse” (in German erlebte Rede, in
French style indirect libre, and in English free indirect discourse). In its “interference,” quasi-direct
discourse is what matches most closely to Pasolini’s conception of free indirect discourse in the
cinema. As opposed to the mixing of both direct and indirect speech, in this sentence the author inserts
him or her self directly in order to interfere in the context of the fiction of the printed text or discourse.
With quasi-direct discourse, “reported speech will begin to sound as if it were in a play where there is
no embracing context and where the character’s lines confront other lines by other characters without
any grammatical concatenation. Thus relations between reported speech and authorial context, via
absolute acting out, take a shape analogous to the relations between alternating lines in dialogue.
Thereby the author is put on a level with his character, and their relationship is dialogized.”9
In this regard, for Voloshinov, this sentence qualifies as a new form of rendering reported speech, a
new style: quasi-direct discourse—in opposition to indirect, or direct, discourse. As Voloshinov reads
it, quasi-direct discourse is “not a simple mechanical mixture or arithmetical sum of two forms [direct
and indirect discourse] but a completely new, positive tendency in active reception of another person’s
utterance, a special direction in which the dynamics of the interrelationship between reporting and
reported speech moves.”10
In its use of the imparfait, quasi-direct discourse, as Voloshinov would read it, creates an emotive
atmosphere that is “permeated with fantasy.”11 One must ask, however, how this is so? The sentence, in
its shift to the imparfait, creates an interesting juxtaposition of both a present-ness of the character
(“not knowing”) and an awkward temporality with the past of her emotive feeling (“appeared”). In this
bind, the author qua narrator has immersed him/her self into a “fantasy.”12 It is a temporality that beats
its own rhythm within the fictive ambiance of the narrative. The sentence does not seek to conflate the
notion of whether the sentence specifies the author or character; it is a matter of interference between
the author and character.
As an example, who is that understands John as a “brute”? Is it Clara that is thinking this way?
Alternatively, is the author representing her thoughts through the dialogue he/she has with Clara? The
affirmation that John is a “brute” is ambiguous, the reader, in this case, can mistake this description to
be attributed either to the character Clara or to the author. Furthermore, following Voloshinov’s
argument, this indefiniteness is the dialogic interference that quasi-direct discourse operates on. Both
the author and character think that John is a brute through the dialogue that emerges from the use of
quasi-direct discourse in the text. In this respect, the technique is not a “passive impression” that the
author transcribes of a narrative scene, it expresses an “active orientation, and not one that merely
amounts to a shift of person from first to third, but one that imposes upon the reported utterance its own
accents, which collide and interfere with the accents in the reported utterance.”13
Likewise, who is asking of the quivering lips, “Can he see them?” Indeed, we can prefix that question
with either: “She wondered” or “I wondered.” The author is in a dialogue with the character Clara,
extracting thoughts from her through the author’s fantasy of the text. Notice here that it is either a third
or first person narrative, not a second person narrative. Because quasi-direct discourse (or free indirect
discourse) is a fantasy, the second person “you” would shatter the stronghold of the narrative ambiance.
If a “you” is placed (“You wondered”), the fictive ambiance of the text would collapse, the dialogue
between author and character dissolve, and the narrative fantasy would disintegrate. Voloshinov
reiterates this line of thought consistently, “fantasy recreates the living past.”14
Indeed, for an artist in process of creation, the figures of his fantasies are the realest of
realities; he not only sees them, he hears them, as well. He does not make them speak
(as in direct discourse), he hears them speaking [notice here the imparfait]. And this
living impression of voices heard as if in a dream can be directly expressed only in the
form of quasi-indirect discourse.15
As Voloshinov highlights, quasi-direct discourse is not a “masked” discourse, it is not an
author/narrator that is disguising as a certain character, it is the character him/her self that is speaking
with the author—it is, in other words, dialogic. Quasi-direct discourse is “fantasy’s own form.” 16 The
artist who uses quasi-direct discourse “addresses himself only to the reader’s fantasy. It is not his [sic,
the author’s] aim to communicate facts or the content of thought with its help; he desires only to
convey his impressions directly, to arouse in the reader’s mind living figures and representations.”17 In
its “double-faced” representation (like “Janus” Voloshinov reminds us), quasi-direct discourse takes for
granted the notion that speech is represented as a duality, a dialogue between author and character. 18 In
other words, it is already established by the reader that authorial interferences are inherent within
whatever text the reader is engaged in.
But what is this text that a reader may engage in when it comes to quasi-direct discourse? It is the novel
as it surfaced in mid-nineteenth century France. Citing Flaubert and La Fontaine, Voloshinov argues
that the stylistic structure of the novel, in terms of grammar and syntax, encourages the reader to
apprehend quasi-direct discourse because of the “silent act” in which the medium of the novel (“prose
genres”) must be apprehended. As in our example, the apperceptive encounter the reader would have
when reading “John what a brute he is” cannot be understood if communicated verbally. In other
words, the dialogue that quasi-direct discourse initiates between the author and character cannot be
removed from the text of the novel.
Quasi-direct discourse is, in its syntactical and grammatical function, enmeshed within the structure of
the sentences that comprise the structure of the narrative act. Quasi-direct discourse must be read in
order for it to effectuate its technical and stylistic resonance, that of speech interference. Voloshinov
reiterates: “Only this ‘silencing’ [from silent reading] of prose could have made possible the
multileveledness and voice-defying complexity of intonational structures that are so characteristic for
modern literature.”19 The complexity of quasi-direct discourse is entrenched in the representation of
speech itself as represented in a novel, and, as such, such discourses are “unproducible if read aloud.” 20
The discourse that furls out of the novel is, therefore, one that remains in the novel for the reader to
2) Represented Speech and Thought
In Unspeakable Sentences, Ann Banfield also locates the rise of quasi-direct discourse (free indirect
discourse) in the mid-nineteenth century French novel. Working within a Chomskyan analysis of
generative-transformative grammar, Banfield takes the use of the technique and analyzes the syntactic
function of the sentences that comprise a novel’s text. For Banfield, however, quasi-direct
discourse/free indirect discourse are both misnomers—the technique, according to Banfield, is non-
communicative. Unlike Voloshinov’s reading of quasi-direct discourse, Banfield argues that there is no
reciprocity between author and character—no dialogue that sustains the function of the literary
technique. In this respect, Banfield shifts the technique’s title to “represented speech and thought.”
The question of “Who Speaks?” in a novel is what is at issue in regards to the use of free indirect
discourse/quasi-direct discourse/represented speech and thought. For Voloshinov the “who” was both
the author and character, which assumes that the author guides the “voice” of the text. Therefore, the
“point-of-view” of the narrated text in quasi-direct discourse assumes that there is a point of
subjectivity. This, for Banfield, is untenable. “Subjectivity is not dependent on the communicative act
[i.e. discourse], even if it is shown through language. And if it is not subordinated to the
communicative function, then language can contain speakerless sentences.”21
Banfield goes at length to separate the linguistic act of discourse from the written act of its
representation. Unlike Voloshinov, from whom she extrapolates and resituates many
theoretical/linguistic concepts, Banfield does not concur that reported speech or discourse, as it
surfaces in the text of the novel, engages in a dialogic encounter between author and character. Rather,
for Banfield, the novel, in its syntactic and grammatical function, shapes its own language divorced
from speech or dialogue—“speech is not language but linguistic performance.”22
In order to argue that sentences that comprise the narration of a novel are non-communicative, Banfield
traces the “actual distribution” of syntactic arrangements in the medium to differentiate between forms
of speech that elicit a non-dialogical relation to the narrative. Through the dissection of syntax in the
written medium of the novel (verb tenses, noun phrases, deictics, parenthetical sentences, and
pronouns), Banfield sifts through sentences of fiction in order to locate the verb tense aorist (simple
past) as that which does not speak—that is, a tense that is not used in “linguistic performance” or
The use of the tense as a function of fiction coincides with its fall as an outmoded use in speech, a
historical shift that coincided with the rise of the novel. Utilized in works by Flaubert and Zola, and
with an increasing degree of usage in the early twentieth century (Henry James, James Joyce, Virginia
Woolf, and Jean-Paul Sartre are examples Banfield employs), Banfield argues that the aorist is only
literary, not spoken. In French, the aorist is still the tense of fiction, not a tense of discourse. In a sense,
Banfield takes up Voloshinov’s notion of the “silencing” of prose by heightening that silence—not
discourse but a representation of discourse: “represented speech and thought.”
The aorist, in Banfield’s reading, is a “literary tense” precisely because it does not speak when
someone speaks in actuality—it is used only in the language of fiction, as a linguistic tense of the
fictive. Banfield gives the following simple example to illustrate the difference between the aorist and
Elle vit la lune. (aorist)
[She saw the moon.]
Elle voyait la lune. (imparfait)
[She saw the moon.]23
Distinct from Voloshinov’s reading of the imparfait as the tense that functions within quasi-direct
discourse, Banfield finds the aorist to be the tense that structures the rise of the novel as unique. The
difference between the aorist and the imparfait as a function of the novel is a matter of temporality.
While the imparfait connotes a representation of a moment that is “happening” in the past (“turning,
“rolling,” saying”), the aorist stitches that utterance to a distanced past (“turned,” “rolled,” “said”). The
imparfait, as a narrative function, allows the “now” of discourse to foreground itself without a
“present”—that is, a representation without a locatable “present”—it is represented as “happening” in
the past without knowing exactly when that past is. The aorist, however, is a representation in the novel
that is given without a “now” or “present”—it “happened” as such. The aorist is, in other words, the
absence of subjectivity because it is un-localizable as a discreet temporal entity.
Consider Banfield’s example from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway:
No crime; love; he repeated, fumbling for his card and pencil, when a Skye terrier
snuffed his trousers and he started in an agony of fear. It was turning into a man! He
could not watch it happen! It was horrible, terrible to see a dog become a man! At once
the dog trotted away…. 24
For Banfield it is the aorist, or simple past, of this passage (“he repeated,” “snuffed,” “started,”
“trotted”) that signals a shift in the perception of the representation of speech in a novel rather than the
imparfait, or imperfect (“fumbling,” “turning”). In this shift from Voloshinov, Banfield contends that
the novel, as a syntactic and grammatical function, renders the text “speechless.” It is a matter of
grammar that subtracts subjectivity, not the intervention of the author who writes it. In this respect,
Woolf is not re-living the moments of the characters “fumbling,” she is representing the thought or
consciousness of that expression in a past of a character that is removed from her. The subject of that
narration lives in a past that is its own and represented by Woolf. In other words, Woolf does not
discourse with the text.
All parts of the text [of the novel] are composed by the author, but their relation to their
creator is different from their textual relation to any fictional subject of consciousness or
speaker. The text speaks, not the author in it. He has written it, which […] is a very
different act from speaking. The author, unlike either narrator or character, is not
ordinarily represented in the text; his ordering hand is perhaps “betrayed” in it, but not
in the form of a fictional person and can only be reconstructed by the form of
argumentation called “interpretation.”25
This exact shift is what prompts Banfield to banish the notion of subjectivity from sentences of
narration—it is “speechless” because speech in the novel is represented not performed. This in turn
leads Banfield to argue that, “The process of reading a narrative text involves determining the status of
each sentence—is its force object and fiction-creating or must it be interpreted with the caution due any
The distanciation the aorist makes allows Banfield to formulate that very distance as the mechanism
that subtracts the subjectivity of the author. In other words, there is no dialogue between the “writing
hand” and the words “written.” Rather, because of the literary use of the aorist, there is a temporal
abyss that separates the two. In this regard, there is no second person narrative with “represented
speech and thought.” A “you” would cut the time gulf between the fictive universe of the novel and the
present-ness of contemporaneity in regards to the character’s fictive milieu. In this sense, the novel is
its own whirlpool of sentences as represented speech and thought that are attached to characters that
remain within the novel at a distance. Narration, then, assumes a disembodied form since it does not
speak to anyone, but only itself.
Unlike, yet extending, Voloshinov’s notion of the “fantasy” inherent in the relationship between
author/character in quasi-direct discourse, Banfield’s analysis retains the fantastical element of the
fiction, but locates it within the narrative itself as a distanced grammatical function that, as such,
excludes the author as a subject within a text. In the use of the aorist, the author, then, is distanced too.
All is fiction, in part due to the grammatical function of fiction: its rise as a distinct literary style from
In arguing that “represented speech and thought,” as articulated in the novel, is non-communicative,
Banfield’s problematizes the concepts of objectivity and subjectivity. This distancing, in Banfield’s
argument, is what wrests authorial subjectivity, or the authoring hand in the guise of a “narrator” that
sustains a narrative, from the text—hence making the novel a “non-communicative” and “speak-less”
Since the language of narration is not “speech” as such, for Banfield it excludes subjective intonations
or accents. For the sentences that comprise a narrative are not a form of dialogue or speech, they are
representations of them. Therefore, Banfield’s reallocation of discourse into non-discourse within the
medium of the novel assumes a standardization of representation. For what does happen when, for
instance, a dialect or an idiomatic expression (skaz, or speech forms, a term Banfield borrows from the
Russian Formalists) surfaces within a text?
In this instance, dialects can only be represented as direct discourse. Since the novel is not dialogue but
a representation of dialogue, in order to sustain its mechanism as a coherent form of representation, vis-
à-vis a narrative text, it must exclude what it cannot plainly represent in a written format—accents or
stratifications of language. The novel, then, assumes that the representation of language is a transparent
fact. For if the sentences that comprise the novel are non-communicative, those sentences must be
rendered comprehensible as transparent. Accents, therefore, cannot be re-presented, they must be
presented in order for them to be understood as such through direct (i.e. quoted) discourse. The
sentences of narration are therefore accentless.
Only in the form of direct discourse, or speech fragments that are quoted, can dialects or linguistic
stratifications occur. Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is an example of this, where the Yorkshire
dialect of Nelly and Joseph must be directly quoted in order for it to be presented. When it is re-
presented by Mr. Lockwood as “represented speech,” it must be rendered as accentless, in a
standardized (i.e. grammatically coherent) “written” form, to be understood in the narrative. The
narrative must assume a level of linguistic transparency in order for its language to be understood as
representation. Dialogue and discourse therefore cut the fabric of the fiction that is the novel by making
“speech” not representation but verbal interaction—a performance that is at odds with the silent-ness of
the medium that is the novel. In this respect, the sentences of narration are not speech, they are
representations of discourses that “silence” the speaker.
The subjectivity of the author qua writer is what is at issue for Banfield. In formulating a theoretical
shift from free indirect discourse/quasi-direct discourse to “represented speech and thought,” Banfield
creates a new perception of how subjectivity and objectivity become problematized within the novel
through the written representation of language. In doing so, she disrupts the assumption that behind a
“narrator” lies an actual subject in the guise of an author—a “point-of-view” located within the text that
is imbued with subjectivity. This assumption underplays the thrust of the novel as medium, which,
according to Banfield, is “unspeakable” and non-dialogical.
A writer may leave his signature in his writing—it may even contribute a major
proportion of what is valued in it—but this is not what his writing creates, but only a
byproduct of it. It is writing, by making possible the sentence of narration and the
sentence of representing consciousness, which allows the literary work to take on an
objective life independent of its author. 27
In her discussion of “represented speech and thought,” Banfield locates the technique strictly with the
eradication of the verb tense aorist within “linguistic” performance and its shift as a literary tense with
the medium of the novel. As she makes clear, the technique’s “analogy with visual perspective will not
allow the formal argumentation required, for there is nothing immediately comparable to the relation
between these two terms [“point-of-view” and “speaking voice”] in the visual arts. The solution lies
rather in a theory of subjectivity in language.”28 While Banfield’s argument is strictly focused on the
medium of the novel, her final paragraph slightly extends her reading to encompass the cinema, but
only as an ambiguous afterthought.
In his Orphée, Cocteau, by an ingenious technical solution, was able to photograph a
mirror without reflecting the camera—what would have violated the illusion of fiction.
The mirror held up to nature by the artist deflects in reflecting. But what may have been
a trick at the level of technique was perfectly legitimate and necessary for the creation of
a fiction construct. For the writer, however, language has already solved the technical
problem of silencing the speaker and his authority.29
While Banfield’s assertion that represented speech and thought/free indirect discourse remains at a
literary level, her final examination of Cocteau’s’ film Orphée as an example of that technique in the
visual arts leaves her reading ambiguous to the fact that it does indeed broaden into other mediums—
specifically the cinematic.
These two trajectories present distinct extremes on how the function of free indirect discourse performs
in a novel. For Voloshinov, quasi-direct discourse is dialogic, functioning as a mechanism of the novel
that elicits its own discourse. For Banfield, represented speech and thought cannot be discourse because
it is “speech-less”— the technique represents speech, it does not enact it. Both arguments extend the
technique to its outer confines, its extremity. Pasolini’s work on free indirect discourse, as it acts itself
out in the cinema, takes the technique to another limit—the image not the word.
In retrospect, in shifting the technique to the cinema, Pasolini places the moving image as the medium
that reflects the extreme limit point of both Voloshinov and Banfield’s arguments of the literary
technique. It is the cinematic image that seizes both discourse and non-discourse into a stasis of both
concepts. For if the cinematic image is a form of technological reproducibility, its imaging mechanism
renders its production of reproducibility, vis-à-vis the objects and subjects it transcribes, as silenced.
But it achieves this through visual communication itself, a visual discourse that must, by force,
communicate coherently (i.e. syntactically) its represented meaning to an audience. Exasperating both
notions of discourse and non-discourse in the technique of free indirect discourse, I argue that
Pasolini’s notion of the technique in the cinema embosses that divide.
But how does the cinema transcribe subjectivity through free indirect discourse since the cinema is not
a medium of written language? To argue this, Pasolini structured reality as a language, and the cinema
as the “written language of reality.” For if a film can be understood as a syntactic arrangement, it, too,
can be read like a language. But it still begs the question of how reality is a language, and how cinema
can write that very language itself.
Reality as a Written Language/ Free Indirect Subjectivity
In “The Cinema: Language or Language System?” Christian Metz asserts that the cinema “is not a
language system, because it contradicts three important characteristics of the linguistic fact: a language
is a system of signs used for intercommunication.”30 For Pasolini, who wrote a rebuttal against Metz,
the cinema was not a language system founded on purely “written” texts as signs, but a language
system based on bodily actions and gestures of reality as intercommunication.31 This “written”
language was not strictly relegated within the semiotic pantheon, but a system that was acted as if it
was written through human action—that is, through the body.32
Along with Pasolini, Félix Guattari would also manipulate the semiotic stronghold of the text to
incorporate the body as another intensity with the use of “semiotization.” “What I call semiotization is
what happens with perception, with movement in space, with singing, dancing, mimicry, caressing,
contact, everything that concerns the body. All these modes of semiotization are being reduced to the
dominant language, the language of power which coordinates its syntactic regulation with speech
production in totality.”33
As Pasolini argues in the essay “The ‘Cinema of Poetry’”:
Semiotics confronts sign systems without differentiating among them: it speaks of
‘systems of linguistic signs,’ for example, because they exist, but this does not exclude
at all the theoretical possibility that there may be other systems of signs—for example,
systems of gestural signs. As a matter of fact, in the real world it is actually necessary to
invoke a system of gestural signs to complement the spoken language.34
While cinematic semiosis remained focused on textual references within the cinema by relegating the
medium under a strict semiotic discourse (i.e. moneme, phoneme, double articulation), Pasolini slightly
veered in another direction towards a textuality of gestures that were constituted in reality. According
to Pasolini, the language systems of film that semiotics studied were fallaciously separating the body
and the object, or the body as an object, from the word. He thought that both are reciprocal in language
as a whole, where the body enacts a meaning by gestures, glances, and poses. As Giuliana Bruno
Suffering from a physical inhibition, semiotics could not touch the realm of the body. To
this blockage Pasolini responded with an attempt to found a semiotics that would treat
the “reality” of the body, grasp its semiotic interplay, and explore the relation of the
body of the viewer to the world of narrative signs, to the fiction of the real, to that
fiction that is real.35
Pasolini’s notion of films as a “written language” calls for an intertextualization of how those bodies
are used and read as a social phenomenon within a given historical context. This Pasolinian notion was
based on a language created by the body that films subsequently wrote. For Pasolini, human action is,
as Giorgio Agamben formulates it under the rubric of gesture, an ethos.36 The body, in a sense, “writes”
itself as a language—one that needs to be assessed as a socio-political ethic, for better or worse, of our
Pasolini’s understanding of the body as symbol was used to offer, as Pasquale Verdicchio argues, “a
code of being that demystifies the ideal body of bourgeois representation and proposes (sub)
alternatives to it.”38 The body, as visually conceived within his films, offers new prospects for
drastically different modes of action and expression. Pasolini believed that his films captured life as it
was—either on the street or in the Roman borgate. Such corporal manifestations of everyday culture
are what constitutes the “general semiology of reality,” “a philosophy which interprets reality as a
From such a formulation, Pasolini would then inscribe the cinema as “the written language of reality.”
And as Christopher Wagstaff succinctly phrases it, “[c]inema, by recording the language of reality,
carries out an operation similar to ‘writing,’ which records the spoken language. Hence we have a
further parallel: the written word is to speech what the cinema is to the language of reality. Cinema is,
therefore, ‘la lingua scritta della realtà.’”40
In this respect, the relationship between the director, actor, and spectator collide with a film as always
already before its inscription. These relations cannot be known, but are in the process of becoming
before a film is even made—“a fiction of the real, fiction as the real.” As Pasolini argues, the cinema is
a “complex nexus of significant images—whether mimetic or ambient that supplies the linsigns of
either memory or dreams—that pre-figures and pre-supposes cinematic communication itself as an
Human action, of either the director, the actor or the spectator as subject, pre-writes itself without the
camera or film, it inscribes itself in this world. And it is this world, one that is a language of affective
human action, which a film transcribes. In other words, Pasolini’s cinematic practice is one in which
the viewer is already the unknown quotient in the process of making history—whether within the
theatre or outside of it. This is done through the “written language of reality.” A film’s technology, vis-
à-vis camera shots and montage, will have uttered its own meaning before the spectator views it. The
cinematic camera and its techniques, therefore, are their own forms of agency, authority and author.
The cinema, then, “writes” the language of reality, the body’s reality, through film. This transcription is
written by the camera, the lens its writing mechanism, and objects, including the body, its language.
Film transcribes the “written language of reality” through two phenomenon that Pasolini theoretically
constructed in order to argue that free indirect discourse is also a technique marked by the moving
image: the im-segno (image-sign) and cinèmi. The im-segno is a sign that is constituted by images not
culled from a finite verbal dictionary, but from an infinite warehouse of images that are pre-figured by
dreams and memory. Cinèmi, on the other hand, are an infinite amount of objects at a cinematic
author’s disposal to place within a camera frame or mise en scène.
These two phenomenon are what comprise the crux of free indirect discourse within the cinema. In
Pasolini’s essay “The ‘Cinema of Poetry,’” he hypothesizes a cinema that reflects the use of the
technique. The literary technique of “free indirect discourse” translates into a cinematic technique in
much the same way as in the novel, but not on a linguistic level. Rather, the “cinema of poetry,” and
the cinema in general, exceeds the literary function of language, it is translinguistic because of its
visuality. Pasolini therefore argues that the director’s “activity cannot be linguistic; it must, instead, be
According to Pasolini’s conception of the “cinema of poetry,” the im-segni and cinèmi that compose a
films visual language have a double nature. First, as signs that are signified, they are objects that are
pre-grammatical because they are culled from an irrational, oneiric archetype that have arbitrary
signifiers. In this respect, these objects as images are subjectively signified for each individual. In other
words, each spectator hollows out individual meanings that cannot be universally codified within the
articulable world of the cinematic image as a certain definition. The first nature of im-segni establishes
the image as a “communication with ourselves.” 43
Second, these im-segni have another archetype which function as signals. In other words, the
translinguistic nature of cinema establishes a mode of communication that makes the images of objects
reproduced within a film understandable on a vast scale. Unlike the first nature of the im-segno, where
meaning is derived from an individual and localized world of memory and dreams, the second nature
displays objects as “brutally objective.” Being as such, the second nature of the im-segno is functional,
it establishes “communication with others.”44
As a consequence, the spectator’s “gaze” that focuses on a film, as Pasolini explains, cannot be
codified. Every spectator “embraces another type of reality” than any other, it is an affective induction
that cannot be codified universally but is traversed by a local form of subjectivity that is grounded by
discourses formed through knowledge.45 In Lacanian terms, this gaze that Pasolini speaks of “not only
terminates the movement, it freezes it.”46
In other words, it is a double bind: on one string lies a relation between objects that hold a meaning
prior to their manifestation on film for a subject (“communication with ourselves”) and, on another
string, those very objects also acquire another layer of meaning when they become subjects within a
film in their own right (“communication with others”).
The director as cinematic author is caught between the knot of both strings and “finds himself in the
complete impossibility of effecting any naturalistic mimesis of this language, of this hypothetical ‘gaze’
at reality by others.”47 Here we have the two limit points of the cinematic technique of free indirect
discourse as articulated by Pasolini. One, the silent, subjective reading of the image that a spectator
encounters in relation to his or her own subjective view point; two, the use of objects at the director’s
qua author’s disposal in order to make a coherent, syntactic and transparent arrangement of images for
a film to be understood. Within the extent of these two limit points, “free indirect discourse” allows the
director to meander against this transparency of a film in order to add his or her own (subjective) notion
of the film within the very syntactic relations of images.
According to Pasolini, this dual characteristic of the cinema allows a director to engage in his or her
own temptation to create “another film” within the structure of the film. The use of free indirect
discourse yokes techniques of the camera to cinema’s narrative function. It is an immersion of the two,
a narrative cinema burdened by subjectivity. This is the knot, then, of free indirect discourse—a knot
that we already discussed in regards to the arguments set forth by Voloshinov and Banfield.
By connecting the literary technique to film, Pasolini envisioned a new form of cinema and therefore a
new way of articulating its audio-visual language. It is here that Pasolini’s ambiguity in regards to the
technique sets in. Once “free indirect discourse” is utilized in cinema, the director has moved towards a
new aesthetic style, the “cinema of poetry.” But why is it that Pasolini aligns the cinema with “poetry”
rather than the prose genre of the “novel”? This, I believe, is a criticism on Pasolini’s behalf.
For the “cinema of poetry,” as we shall see, was not a cinematic ideal, but a critique on cinema’s very
own modernism as articulated by Antonioni, Bertolucci and Godard. This is why Pasolini shifts the title
of “free indirect discourse” into “free indirect subjectivity.” Free indirect subjectivity renders the
cinema as territorialized by a cinematic auteur. It is not “discourse,” per se, but infused with the
auteur’s subjective significance. It is the director’s poetry, not the cinema’s, which is its own authorial
agency because of the camera.
Modern cinema, the cinema of “poetry,” inaugurated “free indirect subjectivity” by stylistically
aligning the camera with the director, and the director as expressing him or herself in a subjectively
indirect manner. In this regard, the cinema of poetry was aesthetic, in as much as it projected filmed
objects, including characters, within a highly constructed mise-en-scène. It was a style that used the
film medium itself to create a fluid polarization between the director, the character, and the free indirect
discourse or subjectivity that the cinematic artist is trying to achieve.
Pasolini cites several directors and their films as cornerstones of this new “aesthetic,” namely,
Antonioni’s The Red Desert, Bertolucci’s Before the Revolution, and Jean-Luc Godard. Antonioni’s
“obsessive framing” and Bertolucci’s “insistent pauses,” and the pan-poetic technique of “allowing the
camera to be felt,” are stylistic choices that Pasolini terms as “free indirect point-of-view-shots” that
describe the directors aesthetic need to create the poetic notion of “free indirect discourse” or
The camera is made to be “felt” by a director to render his or her hand in a film. Over the shoulder
shots, unstable camera movements, shot-reverse-shot, sequence shots, point-of view-shots, these
techniques, according to Pasolini, highlight the stylistic means possible for the director to express
himself in the cinema.48 The use of stylistic camera techniques allowed the director’s authoring hand to
enter into the fold of the narrative. In effect, he or she de-stabilizes the narrative by inserting a
In this regard, objects used within the frame, such as the “violet flowers” in Antonioni’s The Red
Desert that Pasolini focuses on, can also be layered with other meanings through formal techniques of
the camera. These objects become a speaking subject for a director. Pasolini explains two techniques
for making the object a subject. For instance, a juxtaposition of point-of-view shots imprinted by the
camera of the same object taken from various vantage points (“obsessive framing”) gives a specific
object another subjective meaning.
Furthermore, creating the film frame as a picture, where the mise-en-scène becomes its own singular
entity as a subject through the interactions characters have with it as they enter and exit the diegesis
(“immobility of the frame”). In Antonioni’s The Red Desert , the director goes one step further and
uses Monica Vitti’s character as a subject position to immerse himself within as his own free and
indirect speaking position. As a form of speech interference rendered through the image of Vitti’s
body, her character becomes the locus of Antonioni’s indirect speech.
In Bertolucci’s Before the Revolution, Pasolini sees an “immobility of the frame” where images of this
world (“this piece of reality”), such as rivers and streets, testify “to the elegance of a deep and uncertain
love, precisely for that piece of reality.”49 In Bertolucci’s film, the immobile camera renders the
landscape as his own love of that “piece of reality” indirectly. The cinematic image, because it is a re-
presentation of objects and subjects, renders those very objects as a presentation of a director’s
subjectivity. Objects in both Antonioni and Bertolucci are therefore infused with this awkward double
bind. On one hand, they are there for themselves as pure object, on the other they become vested as a
particular signified associated with the author’s subjectivity.
The tension that underlines the cinematic technique of Antonioni and Bertolucci are therefore “free
indirect subjective”—they adhere to what is represented in the cinematic image, yet at the same time
infuse that image with a free and indirect aspect of their subjectivity. In other words, both directors
remain within the level of Voloshinov’s quasi-direct discourse as speech interference, a dialogue with
Godard’s work, on the other hand, remains an anomaly for Pasolini. In Godard’s films, the image is
“not confronted by an insistence on a given individual object which exceeds all bearable limits. In him
there is neither the cult of the object as form (as in Antonioni), nor the cult of the object as symbol of a
lost world (as in Bertolucci). Godard has no cult, and he puts everything on the same level, head on.”50
Pasolini’s criticism against Godard is the harshest of the three directors he analyzes within the essay.
His [Godard’s] pretextual ‘free indirect discourse’ is a confrontational arrangement
which does not differentiate between the thousand details of the world, without a break
in their continuity, edited with the cold and almost self-satisfied obsession (typical of his
amoral protagonist) of a disintegration reconstituted into unity through that inarticulate
Pasolini is taking issue with Godard’s use of montage, his “cold” and “obsessive” editing, which
renders his films an “inarticulate language.” The distinction of Godard’s cinema as an “inarticulate
language” is qualified by his inability to “differentiate” between objects and subjects that make up the
“details of the world.” In other words, Pasolini is opposing the use of objects and how they manifest
themselves as a subject within Godard’s oeuvre.
The issue, then, is how subjectivity enters Godard’s cinematic image via the objects he uses within his
films. This is not an easy task for Pasolini, since in the essay “The ‘Cinema of Poetry’” he doesn’t
provide any example of how “free indirect discourse” or “subjectivity” acts itself out in a single film of
his, although he claims that free indirect discourse is “inherit” in all his films. 52 Pasolini’s essay seems
to indicate that, unlike Antonioni or Bertolucci, Godard’s subjectivity does not interfere with the image
directly. In Pasolini’s words, there is something “detached” in Godard’s films, something “obsessive”
which does not interfere with the image.
Do Pasolini’s trepidations presuppose that Godard’s films are therefore non-communicative in
Banfield’s sense? Distanced, speaker-less, and detached images that render the cinematic image
without subjectivity? I believe that Pasolini was arguing otherwise. In Pasolini’s reading, Godard’s
films are coded with subjectivity entirely, his modernist approach of the cinema renders them
territorialized by his own hand. Rather than grapple with the cinema as an entity all its own, Godard’s
films presuppose that the cinema is communicative only through directorial agency—that is, through
the authoring hand of the cinematic director. In this respect, Godard’s films cannot be non-
communicative, for they entirely communicate his subjective position indirectly through “free indirect
discourse” or “subjectivity.”
Free Indirect Subjective in Deleuze’s Time-Image
By silencing examples from Godard’s work in his essay “The ‘Cinema of Poetry,’” Pasolini
underscores Godard’s complex relation to “free indirect subjective” and how it acts itself out in the
moving image. In Cinema 2, Deleuze takes up Pasolini’s awkwardness in regards to “free indirect
subjectivity” in Godard’s work and theoretically posits Pasolini’s examinations on the technique as the
harbinger of modern cinema, the time-image. Deleuze’s philosophical construction of the cinema as
time-image is complex—traversing, cutting, and absorbing many formal, theoretical, and philosophical
facets. Yet in order to relate our discussion of Deleuze’s time-image back to Pasolini, it is best to focus
on the use of “free indirect subjective” as conceptualized by both authors in their respective arguments.
According to Deleuze, the time-image breaks with the classical notion of the movement-image where
movement was derived from time. The trauma of the post-war period allowed for a re-examination of
the image and its relation to time. In the time-image, time itself finally appears as a form of its own
duration and ceases to be derived from movement—“time is out of joint.” The classical notion of
cinema that gave birth to the movement-image centered its reliance on an advancement of sensory-
motor schemes—movement indicated time as passing the body or narrative forward or backwards in
the form of flashbacks. For instance, the mise-en-scène of shot A, including its relations from outside
the film frame, will connect to shot B of the next cut through montage.
Visual and aural manifestations within a film dependent on movement-images always meet each other
as natural functions rather than exceeding their proper limits as autonomous entities. The time-image,
however, breaks with these sensory-motor functions and displays optical and sound situations for
themselves as distinct entities—what Deleuze refers to as opsigns and sonsigns. It is a cinema of seeing
rather than acting, objects (human or otherwise, visual or sound) become their own diffused and
singular entities disembodied from any direct relation to their grounded function within a film.
As such, there is an indecipherability and a disjunction between what is seen on the screen as an image
and what is said in the diegesis or narrative of a film. With the time-image, the audio-visual nature of
the cinema reaches its limit. Both sound and sight are two heteronomous poles that exceed each other
as two autonomous entities in conflict with one another—they become a heautonomy. “Nevertheless,
the image, having become audio-visual does not burst into pieces; on the contrary, it gains a new
consistency which depends on a more complex link between the visual image and the sound image.”53
Their free and indirect relation with one another causes a slippage between what is seen and what is
said within and without the diegesis. As autonomous entities, both spheres open up a gap that amounts
to a non-totalizable relation. Therefore, they must be encountered within their disjunctured interstice as
a point of non-relation.54
What constitutes the audio-visual image is a disjunction, a dissociation of the visual and
the sound, each heautonomous, but at the same time an incommensurable or “irrational”
relation which connects them to each other, without forming a whole, without offering
the least whole. It is a resistance stemming from the collapse of the sensory-motor
schema, and which separates the visual and sound image, but puts them all the more into
a non-totalizable relation.55
Each visual and aural entity becomes its own independent manifestation of itself. There is, in other
words, a “fusion of the tear” between the audio and visual.56 “There are no more harmonics of the
image, but only ‘unlinked’ tones forming the series.”57
For Deleuze, a modern director, the most exemplary being Godard, that uses “unlinked” images and
sounds as a series establishes a free and indirect relation with them.
With Godard, the “unlinked’’ image (this was Artaud’s term) becomes serial and atonal,
in a precise sense. The problem of the relation between images is no longer knowing if it
works or it does not work [si ça va ou si ça va pas], according to the requirements of the
harmonics or of the resolved tunings, but of knowing How it’s going [Comment ça va].58
This indecipherability of a series of images, in Deleuze’s philosophy, is “free indirect subjective.” For
Deleuze, these un-linked images are “the way in which the author expresses himself indirectly in a
sequence of images attributable to another, or, conversely, the way in which something or someone is
expressed indirectly in the vision of the author considered as other.”59
Whereas in the classical notion of the movement-image, where the mise-en-scène within and without
the diegesis of shot A directly corroborated with the following shot B, the use of montage in the time-
image opens up a new space between the two cuts of shot A and B. This is expressed through irrational
cuts and false continuities by montage.
The cut, or interstice, between two series of images no longer forms part of either of the
two series: it is the equivalent of an irrational cut, which determines the non-
commensurable relations between images. It is thus no longer a lacuna that the
associated images would be assumed to cross; the images are certainly not abandoned to
chance, but there are only relinkages subject to the cut, instead of cuts subject to the
linkage. … There is thus no longer association through metaphor or metonymy, but
relinkage on the literal image: there is no longer linkage of associated images, but only
relinkages of independent images. Instead of one image after the other, there is one
image plus another, and each shot is deframed in relation to the frameing of the
Since each visual and aural entity has its own relation, the disjuncture that opens in the fissure of the
cut opens up a new world between them.61 This world, according to Deleuze, is what constitutes the
power of the outside which enables a deframing of thought as un-thought, as jarring a priori ideas of
sensory-motor relations in regards to films which calls into question the film image.
This, according to Deleuze, is when “montage comes into is own.” The irrational cut arrests thought as
a confrontation of its own stability. The time-image that cuts sensory-motor links and destabilizes
temporal decipherability within a film is what inaugurates the power of the outside. It is the de-
stabilization, or rather de-subjectivization, of a subject that must confront the a priori formations of
truth that establish visual and aural codifications.
By re-linking a vast phenomenon of dislocated and autonomous images within a film, a director such as
Godard re-creates the interstice that opens up a reflection towards a radical interrogation of how one
thinks of the modern moving image.62 Moreover, this process of re-linking pre-existing images to
induce a form of reflection also allows the director as author to indirectly express him or herself.
Through the deliberate choice of a series or of categories within the whirlpool of dissonant images and
sounds that is the time-image, a director can become “another.” As Deleuze explains in relation to
In any case, there is no longer the unity of the author, the characters and the world such
as was guaranteed by the internal monologue. There is formation of “free indirect
discourse,” of a free indirect vision, which goes from one to the other, so that either the
author expresses himself through the intercession of an autonomous, independent
character other than the author or any role fixed by the author, or the character acts and
speaks himself as if his own gestures and his own words were already reported by a
In so doing, the director blurs the boundaries between subjective and objective, thereby becoming
“another”—“I is another.” Notice in the above quote that Deleuze shifts free indirect discourse to
vision.64 The time-image for Deleuze is about the “seer” not the “actor,” the character/author is
therefore paralyzed by these images and sounds and must therefore reflect on them rather than act.
In becoming “another,” Deleuze refers to Godard’s work as not a filmic narrative, but a novel
—“novelesque.”65 Deleuze’s explicit connection of the novel in Godard’s work is quite interesting in
our reading, for it cuts to the heart of dialogic/non-dialogic relations as argued by Voloshinov and
Banfield respectively. In Deleuze’s conception of Godard’s work as “novelesque,” he places the
explicit language, i.e. quoted/direct language of the novel, as that which is foregrounded in Godard’s
It is the accented nature, or “plurilingualism,” of Godard’s work that renders “free indirect subjective”
or “vision” as that which creates new relations, of becoming “another.” Godard’s work cites, quotes,
expresses, in short, it speaks in order to become another between the subjectivity of director and
character—a “semi-subjectivity” between their relations. It is the blurring of fiction, a story-telling that
free indirect discourse initiates. In its function as “novelesque,” Godard’s work is positioned as a
cinematic fact that is underwritten by an authorial, subjective point-of-view.
For Deleuze, the cinematic image is thus rendered with an objective and subjective identity. The
camera that transcribes the character in a film as “seen” is understood as “objective,” while what the
character “sees” (“free-indirect point-of-view shots”) is subjective.66 In this respect, Deleuze does
indeed acknowledge Pasolini’s work in formulating a new mode of perceiving subjectivity in the
[…] Pasolini discovered how to go beyond the two elements of the traditional story [in
cinema], the objective indirect story from the camera’s point of view and the subject
direct story from the character’s point of view, to achieve the very special form of a
“free indirect discourse,” of a “free, indirect subjective.” A contamination of the two
kinds of image was established, so that bizarre visions of the camera (alternation of
different lenses, zoom, extraordinary angles, abnormal movements, halts…) expressed
the singular visions of the character, and the latter were expressed in the former, but by
bringing the whole to the power of the false. […] Objective and subjective images lose
their distinction, but also their identification, in favour of a new circuit where they are
wholly replaced, or contaminate each other, or are decompsed and recompsed.67
As is evident in the last sentence of the preceding excerpt, Deleuze wishes to move beyond the obvious
construction of objectivity and subjectivity in cinema. In order to do so, Deleuze argues that in using
the technique of “free indirect vision” a director or his/her character becomes “another” entirely.
Much like what Pasolini referred to as making “another film,” a director and his/her character, and
vice-versa, contaminate and replace each other as others themselves in order to foreground the notion
of “another” in film. “What cinema must grasp is not the identity of a character [or film-maker],68
whether real or fictional, through his objective and subjective aspects. It is the becoming of the real
character [or film-maker] when he himself starts to ‘make fiction’ …”69
In Deleuze’s reading of “free indirect vision” the fictive and the real are blurred as it was in
Voloshinov’s quasi-direct discourse—as a dialogic encounter. Unlike Banfield's reading that “free
indirect discourse,” or in her terms “represented speech and thought,” remains within the fictive milieu
of the narrative, Deleuze assumes that when the cinema “grasps” the technique for being other than an
identity of the “real or fictional” the character/film-maker both become another “without ever being
fictional.”70 Deleuze qualifies film as “fiction,” therefore enabling the cinematic author to “interpose”
him or herself as a non-fiction, as a reality that undermines the fiction of the film itself. Subjectivity,
then, renders the film as a fiction because an interposed authorial, subjective point-of-view is
Deleuze’s argument, therefore, rests on the notion that the camera can be subjective through the use of
“free indirect subjective” techniques, which presupposes that the cinematic camera is structurally
neutral as an entity in cinema. That is, a mechanism without authority or an authorial vision itself until
a cinematic director renders it with subjectivity. This, I believe, is what Pasolini was problematizing
exactly. What is at issue is that the cinematic camera is a neutral entity that can, or indeed must, be
imbued by an authoring hand. For Pasolini, this was not the case, the cinematic camera itself is an
epistemological entity, creating discursive formations for itself through the “written language of
Only when the camera is rendered as “neutral” can subjectivity and objectivity become a priori pivot
points that indicate a centripetal authorial perspective that are defined as “real.” Deleuze’s notion, and
for the most part the accepted notion, that subjectivity and objectivity separate the real from the fictive
in a film through the use of cinematic techniques is therefore, in Pasolini’s reading of it, a fallacious
enterprise. In order to expose that separation as fallible, I argue that Pasolini sought to lacerate the
relationship between the authoring hand and the camera apparatus—subjectivity must differentiate
itself in order for the camera to expose itself as a subjective point-of-view all its own. How the camera
is interpreted as subjectively defined, however, is another question. The interpretive process of “who”
in fact the camera subjectively defines is the aporia of interpretation, a relenting (and relentless)
question that cannot be defined or answered. In its aporia, the camera will always represent something,
depending, that is, on who in fact is in the process of interpreting.
For if the camera is subjective itself, how does a director de-subjectivize it rather than indirectly or
directly represent him or herself through it as an interference of vision? If the cinematic image can be
subjective, what are the implications of that very subjectivity? In other words, how can the relation
between subjectivity and objectivity be rendered fallible in order to reflect on the nature of subjectivity
itself in the cinematic image? In using techniques that tried to bifurcate and emboss the relations
between how subjectivity and objectivity are imaged in the cinema, Pasolini problematizes the notion
of rendering subjectivity through the moving image.
—Band of Outsiders and Hawks and Sparrows
We should pause here and reflect on two examples by both directors: Godard’s Bande à part (Band of
Outsiders) and Pasolini’s Uccellacci e Uccellini (Hawks and Sparrows). Both films have their
characters as subjects engage in a dance sequence. In discussing the following two sequences, I argue
that Pasolini’s early cinematic work Hawks and Sparrows begins a path that subsequently leads to his
abandonment of free indirect discourse after its use in La Ricotta.
In Band of Outsiders, the main characters Odile, Franz, and Arthur all perform the “Madison” inside an
unmarked Parisian café. In Hawks and Sparrows, Ninetto performs a dance he does not know outside
of “Bar Las Vegas” in the outskirts of Rome. In Godard’s film, the characters enter the café during the
day, the mise-en-scène therefore remains relatively desolate. The dance number is a long sequence shot
that is not cut by montage, giving it a quality that seems natural. Because of such a long take, the
characters’ actions are not interrupted and their whole bodies are seen. Each character is in perfect step
while performing the Madison, a non-partner dance number appropriated into French culture during the
American twist phenomenon. They perform without a flaw, all three of them fully absorbed and in
synchronization with each other.
As the mise-en-scène informs us, their diversion is not out of the ordinary. There are a few
inconspicuous on-lookers in the back, but they do not confront the characters as if their actions were
unheard of. At the end of the sequence, and as Franz and Arthur lose interest in the dance, they leave
the mise-en-scène—except for Odile who remains engaged. At this point, a waiter walks right past
Odile, as if her dancing did not puncture the ambiance of the café. The music, which begins at the same
moment as their inspired number, cuts off each time the omniscient narrator digresses to “describe our
heroes’ feelings.” Who is speaking as the narrator? The use of a sequence shot, as I argue, renders the
narrator “describing our heroes’ feelings” as Godard.
In Pasolini’s film, the dance sequence is filmed quite differently. Ninetto and Totò have just begun
their journey, and an extreme long shot establishes their arrival at “Bar Las Vegas.” As they advance
towards the bar, the music swells as if from out of nowhere. The men seated in front leave their table,
which then cuts to an extreme close up of several of their faces already in dance. Ninetto and Totò enter
the bar to order a drink, and the former then proceeds to leave the interior to join the men outside. As
he exits, a wide shot of the exterior with approximately ten boys are already engaged in dance. Ninetto
does not know the dance number, and begins to be instructed by another fellow.
The sequence then cuts back into the interior, and after a strange close-up of a perplexed Totò, the
bartender dashes outside and begins to instruct Ninetto as well. “Count your steps, otherwise you can’t
learn,” the bartender informs Ninetto and soon thereafter leaves the scene. Another long shot shows all
the men dancing, many of them out of step with each other. None of them match each other’s beat,
some are hesitant and others are not familiar with the dance. Towards the end of the dance sequence,
one of the boys runs from the group of dancers and begins to watch the group while waiting for the bus.
As the bus arrives, all the men leave the bar and run after it on the road, the music then fades. In
Pasolini’s dance scene, extended sequence shots are minimal (only one very short one when the boy
leaves the dance line and begins to watch the group, and the other as the boys run after the bus). The
dance number is combined by the use of close-ups, at times extreme, medium shots and two truncated
There is quite the difference between each respective dance sequence. Godard allows his characters
center stage; their actions unravel without interruption. Their bodies are shown dancing the Madison
without fault, giving their gestures a determined feel. They are in control of the dance; they know its
every move (or does the dance know their every move ?). Pasolini, on the other hand, fragments the
dance number. The characters as subjects are undermined by the dance routine; they are not in control
of its rules. Regardless, they also undermine the actual dance by dancing all the same—improvising
and deviating from the established steps.
The use of the sequence shot in Godard’s film is lacking in Pasolini’s. Indeed, Pasolini was adamant
about his disdain for the technique.
My fetishistic love of the ‘things’ of the world makes it impossible for me to consider
them natural. Either it consecrates them or it desecrates them violently, one by one; it
does not bind them in a correct flow, it does not accept this flow. But it isolates them
and adores them, more or less intensely, one by one.71
Pasolini avoids the use of the sequence shot precisely because of his fetishistic love of “things.” The
sequence shot, according to Pasolini, is a “naturalistic sequence” and therefore too “natural.” 72 It binds
objects and subjects within a film through a “correct flow” rather than questioning that very
naturalness. Speaking of the seeming natural-ness that the sequence shot conveyed in “fiction films,”
such as the “avant-garde cinema” shown in “the basements of the New York of the New Cinema” (no
doubt referring to Andy Warhol’s Sleep), Pasolini would reply: “But is being natural? No, I don’t think
so; on the contrary, it seems to me miraculous, mysterious, and—if anything—unnatural.”73
The sequence shot is associated with Italian Neo-Realism where directors, such as Roberto Rossellini
and Vittorio Di Sica, would place the camera in front of pro-filmic objects and have them unfold
themselves to the camera within a continuous and sequential spatio-temporal continuum. In Neo-
Realist films, the camera served as an inconspicuous witness to the unraveling of life as it was in the
reality of the fiction.
In Roma Città Aperta, Rossellini captures the city of Rome and the characters that constitute the film’s
unfolding narrative with the aid of a camera that does not cut time as it progresses. It follows Anna
Magnani’s character Pina in the present war-torn and dilapidated city as an invisible witness. Likewise,
in Di Sica’s Umberto D., the camera films the unfolding of events without interruption. Quotidian
nuances are therefore captured without supposed interference, in a spatio-temporal continuum that
records the “present” as that which is happening. In the film, Umberto D’s habits, gestures, and actions
are all documented explicitly—(his going in and out of bed, peering out the window, talking with his
In Neo-Realist films, sequence shots function as unmitigated replicas of movement, time, character
development, and environments, the camera displays that which is supposedly direct to perception. For
this reason, the theoretical underpinning attached to the use of the sequence shot signaled “present
time” for Pasolini because it is an instantaneous capture of reality based on a continuous shot created
by a singular subject possessing a camera. Pasolini bases his argument by using Abraham Zapruder’s
8mm film of John F. Kennedy’s assassination as an example. Zapruder, as a single subject at a specific
place and time in the present of life’s unfolding, imprints his own subjective point-of-view of the
“present” through his camera. It is not anyone else’s point-of-view; it is entirely Zapruder’s subjective
viewpoint in a certain place and at a certain time.
As a result, in Pasolini’s theories, the sequence shot becomes “subjective” and marks time as “present.”
Rather than being a simple apparatus that records human activity, the camera, and films by extension,
is our de-anthropomorphized other that cannot be separated from our own subjectivity. Therefore,
[The] cinema (or more accurately, the audiovisual technique) is in essence an infinite
sequence shot, precisely as reality is to our eyes and ears, for all the time during which
we are able to see or to hear (an infinite subjective sequence shot that finishes with the
end of our life); and this sequence shot, then is nothing more than the reproduction (as I
have repeatedly stated) of the language of reality; in other words, it is the reproduction
of the present.74
Formulating the sequence shot under such a rubric, Pasolini would then inscribe the process of montage
as that “something else” which destroys, cuts, and literally dismembers the present in a multiplicity of
viewpoints in opposition to the singular point-of-view the sequence shot signifies. Montage captures
the death of the present and the end of a singular, subjective viewpoint. 75 When editing enters cinema’s
visual narrative, “the present becomes past (that is, coordinations among the various living languages
have taken place); a past that, for reasons immanent in the cinematographic medium, and not because
of an aesthetic choice, always has the qualities of the present (it is, in other words, a historical
This “historical” present that the processes of editing inaugurate is that of death—it is a present of the
passing moment as lived. As we view films, we become aware of the historical present because it has
obliterated a subjective and present point-of-view. Montage displays the present as something that is
already a historical past for the viewer, while the viewer simultaneously lives it. It is, in other words,
the death of the present that is simultaneously lived in the present with a past. As a film is projected, it
is viewed by a living subject imbricated in a present that is being viewed as if it is historical, hence
Each individual film interrupts and rearranges this infinite sequence-shot [of cinema]
and thus creates meaning, which is what happens to us when we die. It is only at our
moment of death that our life, to that point undecipherable, ambiguous, suspended,
acquires a meaning. Montage thus plays the same role in cinema as death does in life. 77
Since the sequence shot mirrors reality with all its ambiguity and subjectivity, a meaningless void that
has no context, montage “interrupts and rearranges” the undecipherable flow of reality with one that
“acquires a meaning.” As Mary Ann Doane suggests, the present moment of the sequence shot for
Pasolini, “is imbued with contingency and, hence, meaninglessness. In the long take, the cinema
incarnates the meaninglessness of a lived reality.”78 “The cut,” Doane argues, “stabilizes the image.”79
Despite its supposed “stability,” montage also signals the constitution of something far more radical. It
is not merely a stabilization of subjective/objective viewpoints, but rather the point of scrutiny between
objectivity and subjectivity. It is, in other words, the moment in which both concepts are rendered
fallible. For montage is not a single subjectivity, but a multiplicity of subjectivities that are rendered by
the camera and cut by editing technologies—both of which have their own subjectivity.
In this respect, for Pasolini, the use of montage documents the complexity of objectivity and
subjectivity—a complexity so layered with mediated meaning that it could only be understood from a
drastic remove as if one were dead. This, I believe, is the distance that creates the possibility of
rendering the cinematic image as non-communicative while at the same time being communicative.
The limit point of discourse and non-discourse combined within a medium.
In this light, the sequence shot in Band of Outsiders allows Godard’s subjectivity as a director to infuse
with the characters, thereby becoming enmeshed into the mise-en-scène. As the dance scene unfolds,
Godard’s presence becomes naturalized into the setting. The other patrons and waiters all regard the
threesome as part of the café, and one can assume that Godard’s presence is also felt there. For a short
while, Arthur, Franz, Odile, and Godard become embedded fixtures within the ambiance. Whether or
not they “accept” the flow of their surroundings, they still are unified into it by the sequence shot as a
“correct flow.” The omniscient narrator, then, functions as the man with the movie camera, the director
speaking quasi-directly with his characters—a dialogic encounter rendered possible through the
In Hawks and Sparrows, the severe montage creates an irreconcilable atmosphere in the relationship
between subject and object. The presence of the dancers alongside the music unsettles the mise-en-
scène. The waiter becomes agitated because of the dancers, making him abandon his routine and join
in. Unlike Band of Outsiders, the waiter in Pasolini’s film cannot avoid the characters as subjects or
objects. It is as if the fiction of the story’s reality, the surreal and very homoerotic quality of random
boys dancing outside a desolate bar, was too much to bear for the character himself (i.e. not Pasolini) in
the fiction of the film.
The whole sequence is to a degree contrived, blatantly fictionalized. In its fiction, one cannot enter its
atmosphere, it is too indebted to its own invention through the use of unsettling editing techniques that
render the atmosphere locked within its own narrative. The editing hand that is Pasolini’s is betrayed
by the cuts that comprise the sequence, it is at a distance—removed from the fictive ambiance.
Compared to Godard’s sequence, Pasolini’s is not naturalized by the use of a sequence shot. The
subjects as objects in Hawks and Sparrows contaminate the narrative of the film by unsettling the
narrative itself, and in this way disjuncture the seemingly organic mise-en-scène. Unlike Band of
Outsiders, where the sequence shot allowed for a fluidity between director and character(s), in Hawks
and Sparrows the severe editing disengages the ability to infiltrate the narrative with a subjective view
It is here that the Pasolinian notion of “contamination” begins to play a major factor since it is directly
linked to his conception of free indirect discourse. Although the term is not used frequently in his
cinematic theories (perhaps because he had used it extensively for those pertaining to literature),
contamination can be seen as a function of free indirect discourse in films as well. To contaminate, in a
literary sense, is to take language of various sectors—from the highest language (language of poetry or
a hermetic language from the “ivory towers”), a high language (language of the everyday that is
“rejected” by an “ordinary” and nationally codified written language), and a low language (language of
dialect)—and then mixing each element in order to contrast their use within a text.80
Contamination is a creative combination of such languages, provoking “an action of one element on
another with which it finds itself associated.”81 Contamination does not meld these appropriated styles,
but marks them out as anomalies acting and rubbing against each other within the frame of a text or, in
this case, of a film. By associating these elements within a given context of a work, an author places
them in a fruitful friction in order expose their mutual contagion.
It seems that, for Pasolini, Godard’s films stylistically allowed the director himself to infiltrate the
objects and subjects within the film frame rather than having them act against each other. In Band of
Outsiders, Godard seeps with and into the very ambiance of Odile, Franz, and Arthur’s point-of-view,
rather than distance or conflict himself with it. None of them, including Godard, tear themselves from
their cinematic surrounding, they naturalize it. Opposed to this, if we follow Pasolini’s thought, Hawks
and Sparrows seeks to mark the subjects and objects as distanced and punctured from their relation to
the mise-en-scène and to Pasolini himself.
Instead of being “eclectic”—as Pasolini would define his film practice—and by not confronting the
processes of contamination, Godard’s films were stylistic.82 As he would explain to Jean Duflot:
I would say that my style is eclectic; that it is a complex of elements, of borrowed
material from different sectors of culture: borrowed from dialects, popular poems,
popular or classical music, references to pictorial art, architecture…from the human
sciences… I do not have the pretension of creating or imposing a style. What creates the
stylistic magma with me is a sort of fervor, a passion that makes me cite all materials, of
all forms that I think are necessary to the economy of a film.83
A “subjective” stylization rather than a distancing contamination of the objects and subjects used in a
film is what characterized the “cinema of poetry.” But what is more intense for Pasolini, is that these
formalist manifestations within the cinema forge for themselves a new technical and stylistic tradition
that expands into a codified and “catalogued” “cinematographic expression.”84
In a striking rhetorical sting that punctures the last five paragraphs of “The ‘Cinema of Poetry,’”
Pasolini delivers a scathing critique about this very “cinematographic expression.” For Pasolini, the
language of poetry initiated by film “may be posited as revealing a strong general renewal of formalism
as the average, typical production of the cultural development of neocapitalism.”85 Pasolini ends his
essay with the following ambiguous affirmation:
All of this [the cinema of poetry] is part of the general attempt on the part of bourgeois
culture to recover the ground lost in the battle with Marxism and its possible revolution.
And it insinuates itself into that in some ways grandiose movement of what we might
call the anthropological evolution of capitalism; that is, the neocapitalism that discusses
and modifies its own structures and that, in the case in point, once again, ascribes to
poets a late humanistic function: the myth and the technical consciousness of form.86
Pasolini, as a practicing filmmaker in his own right, is carrying out a very interesting program here.
Perhaps in writing the essay Pasolini intended to rhetorically differentiate himself from these directors.
Or perhaps he wanted to disassociate his own oeuvre, from script to camera technique, from those of
the bourgeoisie that his fellow directors captured onto film.87
While Pasolini as a critic and director was delineating a style burgeoning in the cinema through “free
indirect discourse,” he was also trying to purge himself from it. Interestingly, in writing “The ‘Cinema
of Poetry’” Pasolini was highlighting a technique that he did not want to confer upon himself. One
could argue that Pasolini’s cinematic world was not so much that of “poetry” as it was of “reality,” one
which was based on the sub-proletariat of Italian society; a world unrecognized and unarticulated
within the cinema.
But we must remain cautious. For although Pasolini’s aesthetic is “markedly different” than that of
Antonioni, Bertolucci, and Godard, it still resonates as an aesthetic nonetheless. In other words,
Pasolini is consciously disavowing a style that he thought was anthropologically evolving capitalism
itself, but it is a style that he was somewhat associated with.
The delayed release in 1963 of RoGoPaG (Laviamoci il cervello), due to the controversy surrounding
Pasolini’s contribution to the film, can attest to Pasolini’s very own vicinity to Godard’s aesthetic. The
work is comprised of four short films by Roberto Rossellini (Illibatezza), Godard (Il nuovo mondo),
Pasolini (La Ricotta), and Ugo Gregoretti (Il pollo ruspante). Although the films were produced and
selected by Alfredo Bini, Pasolini’s inclusion into the film’s fold explains an affinity to the “cinema of
poetry” he so desperately tried to disassociate himself from.88 What heightens the ambiguity of
Pasolini’s remarks in the 1965 essay “The Cinema of Poetry,” is the fact that his contribution to Bini’s
production, La Ricotta (which was actually filmed in 1962), used “free indirect discourse” or
“subjective” at its finest only three years earlier.
Literally, indirectly, direct: La Ricotta
La Ricotta unfolds as a film about a film in the process of being produced. The structure of La Ricotta
is divided into two narratives: the story of a film crew in the midst of filming the Passion of Christ and
the story of Stracci—an impoverished Roman sub-proletariat working as an extra constantly struggling
to find some food to appease his hunger. We as viewers are caught within the split of these two films:
the film we are in the process of viewing and the “film-within-a-film” which is in the process of being
made. The film’s diegesis is therefore split by two recurring visual motifs: the first is the “film-within-
the-film” that shows the Passion of Christ in the process of being created by the film crew within the
diegesis—these moments are highly structured and brightly colored tableaux vivants mimicking
Renaissance masterpieces by Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino. The second visual motif is cut from the
“film-within-the-film” by a contrasting black and white, which narrates the making of the film of
Christ’s passion as it is in reality— the bourgeois actors, who portray “holy” characters, are plainly
ignorant about the working class travails of Stracci.
The poverty stricken and famished Stracci makes repeated attempts to obtain food from the set for
himself and his family (who remain geographically displaced outside of the location shoot).
Throughout the film, the workers and actors filming the “film-within-a-film” toy with Stracci’s state of
hunger: none of them takes his condition seriously, neither his poverty nor his famished state. The
director of the film, played by Orson Welles, remains voluntarily detached from the events that unfold
between the relations of the “real life” characters and their development as subjects who work on his
set. He remains impotent in the face of the everyday tragedy of the film’s working class anti-hero
Although locked into his artistic hermeticism, the director is possibly and ironically the only
“character” within La Ricotta that can understand and establish a link between the bourgeois actors and
the proletariat Stracci. But this realization comes “too late,” for the director only realizes the
repercussions of Stracci’s life at the exact moment of his symbolic death right at the end of the film.
That is, when Stracci dies on the cross as an extra playing the “Bad Thief.” Only when Stracci is dead
does Welles announce: “Poor Stracci. He had to die to remind us that he too was alive.”89
La Ricotta is an enigmatic film that underscores many of the tensions Pasolini faced as an artist and
political thinker. The “crisis of representation” between the Mannerist depictions of Christ’s Passion
juxtaposed with the arduous process of their very depiction is one such enigma.90 Another is a crisis
between the ethical, representative, and aesthetic regimes of art, especially in regards to the free-
indirect relation between Welles and Pasolini as “cynical” artists in the grip of a “doubtful self-
consciousness.”91 The dichotomy that plays out between an aesthetic hermeticism on behalf of Welles
and the everyday working plight of Stracci, signals a crisis on the political efficacy of the visual image
that is filtered by Pasolini’s own position as a Marxist thinker. As Maurizio Viano elaborates:
Clearly reminiscent of how Pasolini saw himself as a leftist and bourgeois intellectual,
the director of La Ricotta can understand the wretched of the earth because of a
structural homology between his and their sociocultural position. Caught between his
real position in the relations of production—qua established author, he enjoys bourgeois
privileges—and his no-less-real ideological beliefs, the director has the doubtful gift of
self-consciousness, which, in his case, results in cynicism. … The director’s cynicism,
through a rigorous exercise in self-awareness, does not really abdicate the faith in reason
but generates a critique of conventional modes of reasoning.92
But, in retrospect, one can also add to the list of crises that abound in La Ricotta that of “free indirect
discourse.” Using the internationally well-known celebrity maudit Welles as the indirect interlocutor of
his anxiety with the aesthetization of political issues, Pasolini is directly evoking his presence through
the actor’s signified body. In one instance that literalizes and comically jabs at the use of free indirect
discourse, Welles begins reciting a Pasolinian poem published in the screenplay to his (Pasolini’s)
previous film (Mamma Roma) to a journalist visiting the set of the film (The Passion of Christ) within
the film (La Ricotta)—(as you can already guess, we are falling into Pasolini’s meta-theoretical hall of
After beginning the poem as if from memory, Welles, it seems, must rely on the text directly, which
presupposes that Pasolini’s own voice is literally indirect.93 Welles therefore must raise the actual book
within the frame exposing the cover to the camera with the author’s name, obviously Pasolini, and the
title Mamma Roma bursting into the diegesis. Welles, speaking in free indirect discourse, becomes
Pasolini’s indirect mirror image within the film. It is an indirect discourse that is not metaphorical, but
literally, indirectly direct.
But to confuse matters even more, Pasolini denies that Welles was a representation of himself in La
In other words, Welles, as a director [in La Ricotta] that has surpassed antiquated
conventions and therefore become a cynic, is also an aesthete—cynicism and
aestheticism, for an intellectual, are almost synonyms—and he thinks that his religious
film is clear, concise, aestheticized, formalized, through the exquisite reconstructions of
some paintings. This, in my opinion, is completely unproductive and fundamentally
insincere for a representation of The Gospel According to St. Matthew [Pasolini’s next
major cinematic endeavor]. Therefore, Welles does not represent me. He’s probably a
certain caricature of myself that has surpassed certain limits and seen as if, by a process
of a dried interiorization, he had become an ex-communist…this explains his caustic
and cynical responses that attack the world on every side.
But the contained reality of the film is not the position of the director. The contained
reality is Stracci, the subproleteriat seen this time no longer as if he is closed within
himself, as if the rest of the world did not exist.94
This statement, which came two years after La Ricotta’s filming in 1964, foreshadows Pasolini’s more
strident measures taken against free indirect discourse in the essay “The Cinema of Poetry.” After La
Ricotta, something with the technique had gone terribly wrong in Pasolini’s oeuvre. With the use of
international actors such as Terence Stamp in Teorema (1968), Maria Callas in Medea (1969), and Totò
in Uccellacci e Uccellini (1966), La Terra Vista Dalla Luna (1967), and Che Cose Sono Le Nuvole
(1968), Pasolini would refrain from directly using such actors within his films to implement free
indirect discourse as literally as Welles in La Ricotta. Furthermore, when he did form a critique of his
own subject position as a cultural figure or director, Pasolini would use his own body rather than
another—such as in Edipo Re (1967), Appunti Per Un Film Sull’India (1968), Appunti Per
Un’Orestiade Africana (1970), Il Decamerone (1971), and I Racconti di Canterbury (1972).
What happened to free indirect discourse in Pasolini’s films? Why and how did the technique go
wrong? What was it that made him as a director curtail its use? If we examine the use of his own body
rather than another’s in one of his films, perhaps a distinction will become clear—namely, the
bifurcation between how subjectivity and objectivity are rendered on the cinematic screen. This
bifurcation is a problematization on the nature of the cinematic camera’s ability to render subjectivity
itself. In Pasolini’s problematization of how subjectivity is rendered vis-à-vis the cinematic image, the
dialogic/non-dialogic character of a director’s subjectivity is rendered fallible.
Pasolini’s direct use of free indirect discourse in La Ricotta rendered cinematic “free indirect
subjective” as a technique that was too indirect. La Ricotta, in other words, used the technique in a
manner that did not trouble the notion of how the dichotomy between fiction and reality in the cinema
is captured on the screen. In its closeness to Godard’s work in this arena, the “free indirect subjective”
sequence in Pasolini’s film did not distance subjectivity from the author or character, it sealed the
relationship between author/character.
In moving against this cauterization in Il Decamerone, Pasolini bifurcated the use of “free indirect
subjective” and used himself instead of another in order to distance the relation an auteur has within his
own films. In so doing, the notion of how subjectivity is rendered through the camera by “free indirect
subjective” is problematized in order to expose the subjectivity of the camera itself.
Bifurcation of the object/subject: Il Decamerone
The above-mentioned conflict between a passion towards aesthetic hermeticism and a Marxist ideology
that went unabated in Pasolini’s oeuvre is made visually manifest in Il Decamerone. Pasolini
dramatically shifts the scene from Florence to that of Naples, clearly jarring the original context of the
text so as to audio-visually represent another linguistic dialect. In so doing, Pasolini contaminates the
traditional novel with an “alien” dialect, thereby countering it against the dominant and nationalized
Tuscan variant. The transparency of the original Tuscan text, therefore, shifts into a fictionalized
transparency that is the films Neapolitan milieu. In this shift, the film distances the familiarity of
Boccaccio’s original setting, making the novel turn on itself as a construct that must be critiqued.
More importantly in our discussion, however, is Pasolini’s use of himself as a disciple of Giotto. Rather
than portraying Giotto, who makes an appearance in Boccaccio’s original work, Pasolini decided to
shift the status of the character into one of his disciples. This is another detachment from Boccaccio’s
text that fractures the original material. Pasolini’s revisions of the original material perhaps presuppose
the director’s authoring hand in the adaptation of Il Decamerone. I argue, however, that rather than
acting out as a catalyst of “free indirect subjective,” Pasolini’s work in Il Decamerone functions as a
freezing of subjectivity—a calling into question the role of an author in a film.
In Boccaccio’s original text, Giotto is brutally ugly and awkward in appearance.95 This description
comes as a surprise, since in the same passage Boccaccio also praises Giotto as one of the most
extraordinary painters.96 In my reading of the film, Pasolini can be seen as placing himself in the
shadow of Giotto because of this exact divide between an aesthetic passion and a political ideology.
Within Boccaccio’s text, Giotto is cited for his mastery in mimetically replicating “nature.” Pasolini, on
the other hand, dialectically turns this execution of “realism” within art and reinscribes it with further
Context is key here. Why, of all artists, would the disciple of the northern master be in Naples in the
first place? In a sense, dominant culture, in the guise of a northern Italian artist like Giotto’s disciple, is
in the process of usurping indigenous cultural practices in southern Italy. Or, in another reading of the
film, Giotto’s disciple is avoiding the “plague” that infests the industrialized north and is therefore
fleeing its constraints in the south. After all, the taletellers of Boccaccio’s original work are secluding
themselves on the hills of Fiesole to withdraw from the disasters of plague-ridden Florence.
In either reading, however, Pasolini uses himself as a construct of a cultural relation. Namely, the loss
of regional culture and dialect within the heterogeneous areas of Italy due to industrialization. For
instance, speaking as the character within the film, Pasolini recites the following phrase: "Why make a
work of art when it is so much nicer just to dream about it?"97 Indeed, what is being realized is not the
creation of a fresco within the film, as much as a relational element of arts reception. What use is
making an artwork with all its preconceived associations and connotations with politics, industry, and
colonialism, when it is “so much nicer” to “dream about it”?
Seen in this light, Pasolini may be dialectically embodying the repulsiveness of capitalist
homologization, one that he detested “passionately,” by marking himself within and as the shadow of
the “ugly”—as the contagion that infests the narrative. Pasolini portraying himself as an artist while at
the same time being the artist qua auteur of Il Decamerone inscribes his own free, indirect subjectivity
as obvious. In its obviousness, it does indeed blur the lines between fiction and reality, a dichotomy so
important to “free indirect subjective.” It does so, however, to undermine it. It is the transparency of
that obviousness, the literal inscription of Pasolini as an authorial/artistic subject, that renders his own
use instead of another as obviously transparent, that which goes without saying—speechless. Not
indirect or direct, but imbricated in the fiction of the film, the reality of the cinematic narrative.
In its transparency, it renders the fiction of the film as even more plausible—as being what it is, a
fiction in the film. But because of Pasolini’s own obvious and literal subjective identity of being both
the artistic subject within the film as a disciple of Giotto, and without the fictive narrative of the film as
the actual director, the relation between fiction and reality is left unspoken because of its very
obviousness. The relation is therefore literal, one that does “not speak” for it speaks for itself within the
fiction in its own right. The subject as object that is Pasolini as Giotto’s disciple is therefore outlined as
an uncanny element that is foregrounded into the present of the fiction. The tear or bifurcation between
subject (Pasolini the director) and object (Giotto’s disciple) is therefore placed into stark relief. What
transpires is not a blurring of reality and/or fiction, but the embossed relation of how reality itself is a
In Pasolini’s unmitigated approach to the use of subjectivity in Il Decamerone, the film undermines his
own subjectivity. In one particular instance in the film, Giotto’s disciple goes into the public streets of
Naples to capture the essence of the city as inspiration for his work for the fresco he is creating within
the film. In one point-of-view shot, the character looks through a framing device created by his fingers,
the gesture eerily resembles that of a cinematic director capturing the aspect ratio of the film lens
without the camera. Pasolini is indeed both the director and character at once, and, as such, his
subjectivity as the character, and the character’s subjectivity as Pasolini, are both subjective point-of-
views that are literalized and heightened only to collapse. In being “literally, indirectly, direct,”
Pasolini and the character “Giotto’s disciple” are both excluded from being the subjective view point of
that camera frame because of their actual presence in front of the camera being literalized (not
metamorphosed as indirect or direct). For if it is not “Pasolini the director,” or “Giotto’s disciple” in
Naples, who could it be? I argue that it is the camera, caught and captured as having its own point-of-
It is in this scene where the literalization of subjectivity is captured as fallible, precisely because it is
obvious that the camera is itself a subject that is silenced. The gesture of the frame device used by the
fingers is both Pasolini’s and Giotto’s disciple, the view point witnessed is the cameras, the silenced
benefactor of that very vision. For film, with the camera lens as its writing mechanism, acts on its own
behalf in this scene, transcribing its own form of subjectivity and objectivity while betraying the
“writing” hand of the director and character. One does not need to speak on the relation between
Giotto’s disciple and that of Pasolini’s “point-of-view,” it merely functions as part of the fiction which
has its own point-of-view in the film.
In eschewing an indirect relation to the film, Pasolini negates the possibility of communicating with the
image while at the same instance remaining within it. In this respect, he becomes a representation
within the fictive milieu of Il Decamerone. As a representation, it problematizes the rendering of
subjectivity through a direct and indirect representation—the limit point between cinema’s
communicative and non-communicative aspects. In exasperating both functions, the cinematic image
turns on itself as an act of ambiguous representation to become an authoring mechanism.
Unlike Godard’s opaque, omniscient character in Band of Outsiders (or even Welles as Pasolini in La
Ricotta), the direct literalness of Giotto’s disciple as Pasolini (and Pasolini as Giotto’s disciple) is
caught within the film’s fiction while exposing its obvious fallibility in the reality of Pasolini’s body. In
Il Decamerone, therefore, a split occurs where subjectivity is captured as a point of mutual exclusivity
between the fiction the camera transcribes and the reality of the director’s body as a character.
In this process, the camera becomes its own subjective point of departure that carries its own point-of-
view that is detached and disembodied from the director. It is a mechanism that is itself, and that carries
with it its own form of vision within fiction. This, then, is how a film is uttered, how a camera is
subjective without an authoring hand, and how a camera that transcribes a film cannot speak on the
directors behalf, for in its transcription it silences all subjectivity for its own. The cinematic camera is
everywhere in the fiction, willing to speak even without an authoring hand, it is its own subjective
presence waiting to capture its own subjective point of view. The director is merely the camera’s
apparatus, not vice-versa, he or she is “betrayed” in it. For a camera that records a film speaks its own
reality, the “written language of reality,” that is cinema.
Pasolini’s Il Decamerone works as its own epistemology—as a fiction that writes itself with its own
subjectivity and reality. As Andrea Miconi points out, Pasolini’s films are “no longer signified by
reality, but are a product of the modality of living, a language of social experience and of its
phantasmatic transfiguration; a symbolic place of living and of collective narratives.”98 In other words,
Pasolini emphasizes the fiction of reality rather than the process of reality becoming a fiction within a
film.99 Instead of blurring fact and fiction, Pasolini’s Il Decamerone sought to underscore the fiction
that is real by freezing the fiction as real.
In so doing, Pasolini underscores the cinematic camera’s potential in rendering itself as a point-of-
view, as that which is not neutral, but a mechanism that elicits its own subject position. It transcribes
reality as fiction, for fiction is reality. “Free indirect subjective” and the “cinema of poetry” elide the
subject position a cinematic camera possess by understanding it only in terms of a subjectivity that is
captured by an authoring hand of a director. Both concepts stylize the mechanism in order to disavow
its centrality in rendering itself an epistemology, a subject in its own right that forms its own vision and
Lingua X and the Process of Becoming
Perhaps Deleuze mistook Pasolini’s writings on the “cinema of poetry” when he wrote the following:
“Poetry is what Pasolini held up against prose, but which can be found in the place that he did not look
for it, in the domain of a cinema presented as direct.”100 For poetry was not what Pasolini was holding
up, in fact he was problematizing its very notion. If anything, he was engaging in a problematic that he
saw was homogenizing the effects of a direct and powerful cinema that was undermining its own
Pasolini’s rhetorical thrust in highlighting the split between subjectivity and objectivity in the use of
“free indirect subjective” in the “cinema of poetry” was to underscore a tension that he deemed to
important to gloss over—a gloss that Deleuze tries to philosophically circumvent in Cinema 2. Namely,
the unavoidable position of a director who subjectively territorializes the meaning of a visual language
in toto without conceiving that the image itself is written by another subject—the camera.
This modern cinema that Deleuze sees as being initiated by Godard is a conception that furnishes the
possible conditions of creating “new relations with thought.”101 Yet, for Pasolini, this cinematic
conception had become, already by the mid-1960s, another tenacious and stylistic code that was a
hegemonic relation rather than a new one. Pasolini’s conception of the “cinema of poetry” marked
cinema as medium that had generated a new perceptive encounter with the moving image. In that
transformation, however, came a lack of scrutiny in its wake. The use of “free indirect subjective,” in
other words, was creating a style that equated subjectivity with the camera as fact, as a style that did
not reflect on how the camera is itself a writing mechanism.
Godard’s work and style, then, is “inarticulate” in Pasolini’s assumption precisely because it was
rapidly absorbed by other directors at face value without critiquing it as such. The camera, in the
meanwhile, is neglected, posited as a non-entity that transfers style rather than a mechanism that
demands recognition of its own subjectivity. It is this stylistic code, one without reflection on the
camera’s affect, that propelled the hegemonic relation of Godard’s work internationally.
In writing “The Cinema of Poetry,” one senses that Pasolini was arguing towards the recognition of this
code. A code that rendered the cinematic camera as only an apparatus, rather than an inhuman witness,
for better or worse, with a point-of-view that creates its own fiction—whether in narrative or in reality.
In so doing, Pasolini sought to understand these new a priori significations that were surfacing in the
discourses surrounding the visual system of films.
As such, the essay can be seen as an alarm call to grasp the subsequent implications that the particular
style of “free indirect discourse” would have as another “self-evident” truth in the formation of future
cinematic discourses. Pasolini’s thoughts are also not without their prophetic justifications. For it was
less than a decade later that the French New Wave, that avant-garde phenomenon par excellence,
became immersed into and absorbed by the governing language of Hollywood, making it possible for
Steve Neale to declare its influence in the “New Hollywood Cinema” of the 1970s.102
For Pasolini, the “self-evident” truth of the “cinema of poetry” had already become a language of the
homo technologicus. The practitioners of the avant-garde were too secure in thinking that their stylistic
and technological advancement was a lingua B that had transcended the traditional lingua A of a visual/
textual language. But, for Pasolini, lingua B had not yet existed, the avant-garde had erred.
The real problem is a language X, which is no other than the language A in the act of
really becoming language B. In other words it is our own language in evolution, through
phases which are dramatic and difficult to analyze; and that, being in an acute moment
of its evolution, is in chaotic movement and therefore escapes every possible
observation, therewith being the perfect metaphor of a society that is evolving at a
velocity never known until now, not even in moments of the most difficult transitions or
In a sense, what Pasolini is underlining in his attack against “free indirect subjective” and the “cinema
of poetry” is the lack of reflection of its own becoming. It cannot be poetic without understanding its
poietic function—that is, “the experience of pro-duction into presence, the fact that something passed
from nonbeing to being, from concealment into the full light of the work.”104
Without such a reflection and self-reflexivity, subjectivity is rendered as mimetic through the camera,
one which presupposed that technology is “subjective” only through the authoring hand of a cinematic
auteur. For Pasolini, this was a weak assumption, for the camera and montage are also “subjects” that
write the “language of reality.” In other words, cinematic technology breeds its own subjective
presuppositions, and in order to explicate on that “subjectivity” a director had to render the fiction as
real. Not to “blur” the two—as if the “real” was the arbiter of the “fictive” or the “fictive” as the
shadow of the “real”—but to understand the cinematic fictive as that which permeates the subjective:
the cinema as an epistemology that propagates its own subjective, discursive formations.
1 Jacques Lacan, “What is a Picture?” in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, ed.
Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1981) 116.
2 Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Comments on Free Indirect Discourse,” in Heretical Empiricism, trans. Ben
Lawton and Louise K. Barnett (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988) 87.
3 See Mikhail Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel,” in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, ed.
Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press,
4 V.N. Voloshinov, Marxism and The Philosophy of Language, trans. Ladislav Matejka and I.R.
Titunik (New York: Seminar Press, 1973) 94.
5 Ibid., 119.
6 Ibid., 120-121.
7 Ibid., 129.
8 Ibid., 131.
9 Ibid., 157.
10 Ibid., 142; original emphasis.
11 Ibid., 149.
12 Ibid., 148.
13 Ibid., 154.
14 Ibid., 149.
15 Ibid., 148.
18 Ibid., 144.
19 Ibid., 156.
20 Ibid., 136.
21 Ann Banfield, Unspeakable Sentences: Narration and representation in the language of fiction
(Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982) 70.
22 Ibid., 243.
23 Ibid., 157.
24 Cited in Banfield, 262.
25 Ibid., 211; emphasis added.
26 Ibid., 262.
27 Ibid., 253.
28 Ibid., 70.
29 Ibid., 274.
30 Christian Metz, “The Cinema: Language or Language System?” in Film Language: A Semiotics of
Cinema, trans. Michael Taylor (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974) 75. See Umberto Eco, La
struttura assente (Milan: Bompiani, 1968) 154, for another argument against Pasolini’s semiotic
31 Pasolini, “The Written Language of Reality,” in Heretical Empiricism, 197-222.
32 See, Ibid., 198-199. “Human action in reality, in other words, as first and foremost language of
mankind. For example, the linguistic remains of pre-historic man are modifications of reality due to the
actions of necessity: it is in such actions that man expressed himself. Modifications of social structures,
with their cultural consequences, etc., are the language with which revolutionaries express themselves.
Lenin, in a way, has left a great poem of action in writing. The written-spoken languages are nothing
more than an integration of this first language: I obtain my first information concerning a man from the
language of his physiognomy, of his behavior, of his apparel, of his rituals, of his body language, of his
actions, and also, finally, from his written-spoken language. It is in this way that, in the final analysis,
reality is reproduced in cinema.”
33 Félix Guattari, “Molecular Revolutions,” in Soft Subversions, ed. Sylvère Lotringer (New York:
Semiotext(e), 1996) 11.
34 Pasolini, “The ‘Cinema of Poetry,’” in Heretical Empiricism, 167.
35 Giuliana Bruno, “The Body of Pasolini’s Semiotics: A Sequel Twenty Years Later,” in Pier Paolo
Pasolini: Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Patrick Rumble and Bart Testa (Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1994) 98.
36 See Giorgio Agamben, “Notes on Gesture,” in Means Without End, trans. Vincenzo Binetti and
Cesare Casarino (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000) 57. “What characterizes gesture is
that in it nothing is being produced or acted, but rather something is being endured and supported. The
gesture, in other words, opens the sphere of ethos as the more proper sphere of that which is human.”
37 In the 1979 publication of Stars, Richard Dyer attempted to systematically decode the use of an
actors or actresses body as a social text. See Dyer’s reading of Jane Fonda in this respect in the chapter
“Stars as Specific Image—A Specific Image: Jane Fonda,” in Stars (London: British Film Institute,
38 Pasquale Verdicchio, “Colonialism as a ‘Structure That Wants to Be Another Structure,’” in The
Savage Father, trans. Pasquale Verdicchio (Toronto: Guernica Editions Inc., 1999) 53.
39 Pasolini, “Code of Codes,” in Heretical Empiricism, 278.
40 Christopher Wagstaff, “Pasolini’s Film Theory,” in Pasolini Old and New, ed. Zygmunt G. Baranski
(Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts Press, 1999) 208. It should be noted that Wagstaff is highly critical of
Pasolini’s formulation of the “written language of reality.” I use this quote in order to re-situate
Pasolini’s theories in a positive light. For an affirmative re-reading of Pasolini’s theories on the cinema
and their historical (mis) readings, see Maurizio Viano, “Extravagantly Interdisciplinary,” in A Certain
Realism: Making Use of Pasolini’s Film Theory and Practice (Berkeley: University of California Press,
41 Pasolini, “Il ‘Cinema di Poesia,’” in Empirismo Eretico (Milan: Garzanti Editore, 1995) 168; my
42 Pasolini, “The Cinema of Poetry,” in Heretical Empiricism, 178; original emphasis.
43 See Ibid., 173.
45 See Angelo Restivo, The Cinema of Economic Miracles: Visuality and Modernization in the Italian
Art Film (Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2002) 100-101. “For Pasolini, what was missed in
the attempt to understand the cinematic image as fundamentally coded was the fact that the cinematic
image, unlike the linguistic utterance, by necessity must be forged through a process of poesis, a
creative act in which the ‘sign’ is constructed through the material of the world but charged with what
Pasolini called the oneiric—traces of memory and dream. Thus, for Pasolini, one needn’t see ‘the code’
as the only possible site for ideology to come into the text. For both the object world and the memory
traces of the subject are always, already traversed by ideology.”
46 Lacan, “What is a Picture?” 117.
47 Pasolini, “The Cinema of Poetry,” in Heretical Empiricism, 178. In Movement-image, Deleuze
disapproves yet underscores the importance of Pasolini’s rhetorical use of the word mimesis within his
theoretical construction of free indirect discourse within film. In order to wrest the division between
objectivity and subjectivity within a film, Deleuze does not want to confer an anthropocentric anchor to
the visual image. That is, any notion of mimesis is out of the question when it inevitably leads back to a
certain subject or subjectivity. As such, for Deleuze, Pasolini’s object/subject distinction remains
locked as a conception of a poetic consciousness that adheres to a mystical or sacred thread. In so
arguing, Deleuze shifts Pasolini’s distinctions into a “semi-subjectivity” that “does not indicate
anything variable or uncertain. It no longer marks an oscillation between two poles, but an
immobilization according to a higher aesthetic form.” See Deleuze, Cinema 1: Movement Image, trans.
Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986) 76.
48 For a detailed account on how “subjectivity” is developed directly and indirectly for a character in
cinema, see Edward Branigan, Narrative Comprehension and Film (New York: Routledge, 1992)
49Pasolini, “The Cinema of Poetry,” in Heretical Empiricism, 180.
50 Ibid., 181.
51 Ibid., 181-182.
53 Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1989) 252.
54 Ibid., 261. “The visual image and the sound image are in a special relationship, a free indirect
relationship.” In 1971, Pasolini already delineates the importance of montage or “the splice” in regards
to the interstice that lapses between the audio-visual in a film. See “The Theory of Splices” and “The
Rheme” in Heretical Empiricism, 284-287 and 288-291.
55 Deleuze, Cinema 2, 256.
56 Ibid., 268.
57 Ibid., 182.
58 Ibid., 183.
60 Ibid., 213-214.
61 Ibid., 181. “But, when the whole becomes the power of the outside which passes into the interstice,
then it is the direct presentation of time, or the continuity which is reconciled with the sequence of
irrational points, according to non-chronological time relationships.”
62 Deleuze, Cinema 2, 184-186.
63 Ibid., 183.
64 This is an intriguing distinction Deleuze is making. However, it ends up being a word game when
one compares it to Pasolini’s shifting of free indirect discourse from literature to film. In such a shift,
free indirect discourse, when used in literature, is a “language,” when transcribed as a technique into
film it becomes a “style” of seeing. For Pasolini, however, it is a style of seeing or vision that is
witnessed not by the director/character, but by the camera itself.
65 Ibid., 187.
66 Ibid., 148.
67 Ibid., 148-149.
68 See Ibid., 152.
69 Ibid., 150.
70 Ibid.; emphasis added.
71 Pasolini, “Quips On The Cinema,” in Heretical Empiricism, 227.
72 Ibid., 227. See also, “Observations on the Sequence Shot,” in Heretical Empiricism, 233-237. For a
reading of how the technique haunts neorealism as a “stain,” see Restivo, “Neorealism and the Stain,”
in Economic Miracles, 22-42.
73 Pasolini, “Is Being Natural?” in Heretical Empiricism, 240.
Michael Chanan’s intriguing article from 1970, with the appropriate title of “Pasolini and Warhol—The
Calculating and the Nonchalant,” compares and contrasts the working methods of both directors under
the lens of each respective term. See Chanan, “Pasolini and Warhol,” in Art International 14, no. 4
(April 1970): 25-27.
“The ‘constructed filming, the camera’s sanctity, the crucial role of timing in the montage—in short,
what Pasolini calls his hatred of naturalness, are just those characteristics which Warhol wants to avoid.
For they are the instruments of the author, and they subjugate the people in the film to him. But there’s
a paradox here: in Warhol the camera is more obtrusive than these two Pasolini films [Teorema and
Porcile]. The reason is that Warhol wants to place you among his people, whereas Pasolini wants to
establish a distance between you and his characters. Warhol wants to minimize his own presence,
Pasolini wants to establish his presence in the space between you and the actors. Warhol, although his
camera is more obtrusive than Pasolini’s, must nevertheless avoid ‘clever’ camerawork of any kind,
must avoid the dramatic and dynamic use of the camera, for this would show that the camera was not
passive. Consequently the types of wonder and irrational camera movements Warhol indulges in, or
indeed, the tendency of the camera not to move at all even when the action moves outside the frame,
are yet further contributing factors to the general impression of carelessness [non-chalance].”
74 See Pasolini, “Observations On The Sequence Shot,” in Heretical Empiricism, 235-236.
75 See Ibid., 234. “This multiplication of presents [that is obtained by montage] in reality abolishes the
present; it renders it useless, each of those presents postulating the relativity of the other, its
unreliability, its lack of precision, its ambiguity.”
76 Ibid., 236; emphasis added.
77 Pasolini, "Ora tutto è chiaro, voluto, non imposto dal destino", Cineforum 68 (1967): 609.
78 Mary Ann Doane, The Emergence of Cinematic Time (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard
University Press, 2002) 105.
80 See Pasolini, “New Linguistic Questions,” in Heretical Empiricism, 5.
81 See Barnett and Lawton’s “Introduction” in Heretical Empiricism, xviii.
82 See Naomi Greene, Pier Paolo Pasolini: Cinema as Heresy (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
83 Jean Duflot, Entretiens Avec Pier Paolo Pasolini (Paris: Éditions Pierre Belfond, 1970) 119; my
translation. Cited in Greene, Cinema as Heresy, 48.
84 Pasolini, “The Cinema of Poetry,” in Heretical Empiricism, 183.
85 Ibid., 185.
87 Greene outlines Pasolini’s insistence on such a stylistic demarcation between his own practice as a
director and those he cites in his essay.
“By defining this cinema [the cinema of poetry] as one where a mimesis of vision occurs between the
director and neurotic members of the bourgeoisie, Pasolini could thereby distance his own films from a
phenomenon he deemed reactionary, from a cinema whose involuted and narcissistic world view
typified the bourgeoisie he despised. After all, in terms of characters, his cinema is markedly different
from that of the three directors he analyzes.” See Greene, Cinema as Heresy, 121-122.
88 See Pasolini’s relatively annoyed answer to Oswald Stack’s question of RoGoPaG’s organization in
Stack, Pasolini on Pasolini (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1969) 59. “Unfortunately, Bini
organized the film his own way. I’d had the idea of doing La Ricotta before, with another producer who
died. But they had mucked it about because they were afraid; they thought it was too violent. Anyway,
I hadn’t managed to get the film off the ground and so I found myself with a script ready when Bini
asked me if I’d do the film for him. But he’d already decided to make an episode film. So that was that.
I didn’t have any contact with Rossellini or the others at all, I just knew they were doing episodes as
89 Interestingly, this line is not in the treatment for the screenplay that was published by Pasolini in Alì
Degli Occhi Azurri (Milan: Garzanti Editore, 1965). After Stracci’s death is announced, the director is
not accounted for as a possible interpreter or interlocutor of the meaning of his death. Instead,
Pasolini’s screenplay keeps all characters at a remove from the action, and inscribes the final scene in a
narrative form—inevitably evoking a sense of detachment for the viewer from the mise-en-scène and
the characters who inhabit it. “The circle of visitors, the ladies and gentlemen, the producers, with their
noses stretched high, deluded, seen as if from the crosses, that wrench their lips as if realizing for
themselves, that with this strike, Stracci existed. And Stracci’s head dangling from the cross, filled with
patience.” Pasolini, Alì, 487; my translation.
On another interesting note, Pasolini was placed on trial by the Roman magistrate for “vilifying the
religion of the State” for his portrayal of the Passion of Christ within the film as a film. After many
debates within the tribunal, Arco films was allowed to re-distribute RoGoPaG with certain amendments
to Pasolini’s episode. This final line uttered by Welles is therefore not the original statement. Pasolini
intended the film to conclude with the following line: “Poor Stracci, dying was his only way of making
a revolution.” See Le Regole di Un’ Illusione: I film, il cinema, eds. Laura Betti and Michele Gulinucci
(Rome: Associazione «Fondo Pier Paolo Pasolini» 1991) 69; my translation.
90 See Greene, Cinema as Heresy, 65. “But how, the film seems to ask, can an artist create authentic
culture in a consumer society that renders everything profane and grotesque—a society where, as Luigi
Faccini suggests, ‘religious values can be recuperated only through cultural images?”
91 See Maurizio Viano, A Certain Realism: Making Use of Pasolini’s Film Theory and Practice
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993) 105-108. I borrow the distinctions of “ethical,
representative, and aesthetic regimes of art” from Jacques Rancière. See Rancière, The Politics of
Aesthetics, trans. Gabriel Rockhill (London; New York: Continuum Press, 2004) 20-30.
92 Viano, A Certain Realism, 105.
93 The poem read by Welles and written by Pasolini is titled “Poesie Mondane” and was later
published in the collection Poesia in Forma di Rosa (Milan: Garzanti Editore, 1964) 22.
94 Pasolini, Una discussione del ’64, cited in Le Regole, 60; my translation.
95 Giovanni Boccaccio, Il Decamerone, trans. Frances Winwar (New York: Random House, 1955)
366. “However, although his [Giotto’s] genius was phenomenal, he was no better off in personal
attractiveness than Messer Forese.” Messer Forese, in Boccaccio’s description, is “dwarfed” and a
“misshapen man” and has a face that is “flat” and “doggish.”
96 Ibid., 365-66. “… Giotto, was so extraordinary a genius, that there was nothing Nature, the mother
of all things, displays to us by the eternal revolution of the heavens, that he could not recreate with
pencil, pen or brush so faithfully, that it hardly seemed a copy, but rather the thing itself. Indeed, mortal
sight was often puzzled, face to face with his creations, and took the painted thing for the actual
97 Cited in Pasolini, La Forma dello Sguardo, ed. Emanuala Belloni (Milan: Charta, 1993) 103.
Originally in the screenplay “Il Decamerone,” in Trilogia della Vita, ed. G. Gattei (Bologna: Cappelli,
98 Andrea Miconi, Pier Paolo Pasolini: La Poesia, Il Corpo, Il Linguaggio (Milan: Costa & Nolan,
1998) 116-117; my translation.
99 See Ibid., 112-114, especially 115. “Therefore, if cinema is reality, it is precisely because reality—
together with its languages, events, and architectures—is already cinema.”
100 Deleuze, Cinema 2, 153.
101 Ibid., 187.
102 Steve Neale, “New Hollywood Cinema,” Screen 17, no. 2 (1976): 117-122.
Contemporary films are also tackling with the issue. Michael Haneke’s film, Code Inconnu (Code
Unknown, 2000), is one example. In each narrative vignette, the camera is caught as its own witness
through the use of extended sequence shots that are abruptly cut by editing techniques. The camera as a
subjective view point is also captured during the vignette involving the audition of aspiring film actress
Anne Laurent, played by Juliette Binoche. In the vignette, Laurent auditions for a horror film and the
camera is caught within conflicting view points—the directors of the horror film itself and Haneke’s
own. This obvious double bind pushes the camera into its own view point, as witnessing Laurent’s
rehearsal, and of being her hearer in the fiction.
103 Pasolini, “Comments On Free Indirect Discourse,” in Heretical Empiricism, 98. I am aware that
Pasolini is discussing literary techniques in this essay, but his arguments in it also registers closely with
his theories on cinema.
104 Giorgio Agamben, The Man Without Content, trans. Georgia Albert (Stanford: Stanford University
Press, 1999) 68-69.