Project Outline

Desiring Machine is the long overdue documentary about French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Unique in 20th century thought, Deleuze’s work weaves together a diversity of disciplines (cinema, literature, psychoanalysis, mathematics, anthropology, quantum physics), while creating its own peculiar lineage (Spinoza, Nietzsche, Leibniz, Bergson, Foucault, Hume, the Stoics, Zen), which has placed him in a precarious in-between of Continental and Analytic, academic and literary writing, philosophy and cultural theory. This far-reaching transversality, combined with Deleuze’s belief that the job of the philosopher is to create new concepts, has created a vast non-linear system, an image of thought, complete with its own unmistakable vocabulary that has been adapted by many thinkers and artists alike. Our aim with this film is to capture some of these central themes by interviewing leading Deleuzean scholars in France and the US, while also providing a modicum of biographical information on his life in Paris, Deauville, and Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat (Deleuze once said “Academics’ lives are seldom interesting,” but we believe his may still be of interest to some).

This is primarily a philosophical documentary, which will incorporate a diversity of interviews linked together by theme through certain leading questions. There will be a feature length version of 90 minutes – 2 hours, as well as a (very) extended director’s cut that will preserve all the interviews in their entirety. The feature-length outline by theme is as follows:

Animal: we start with the Cosmic Egg (the ovoid analogy runs throughout Deleuze’s work from his first essay) as a hatching point for an exploration of the different forms of becoming. Becoming-animal is a recurring concept in his work, one which branches out into many associated themes like territoriality as the beginning of art, the difference between individuals and the horde/pack/swarm,  the exteriority of a milieu (and its inherent lines of flight), the interiorority of an animal’s umwelt (or sensory world, borrowed from Jakob von Uexküll long before Thomas Nagel asked “what is it like to be a bat?” in Analytic philosophy), and the ritournelle (refrain) that permeates everything like a birdsong.

Plant: the concept Deleuze is possibly best known for is that of the rhizome, which he contrasts against the tree-like or arborescent model that has dominated Western thought since antiquity. The rhizome, like ivy or weed, is defined by a non-linear characteristic, which allows it to survive even if its earlier rooted structure is destroyed, and likewise can live on non-geneologically when divided into multiple parts, contrary to the arborescent model, which topples if struck at the root. In many ways it is the master key to unlocking associated Deleuzean concepts like those of smooth vs. striated space, intensive vs. extensive philosophy, and nomadology vs. the State. Considering the abundance and diversity of writing on the rhizome, we’ll doubtful have time for other plant concepts, but will likely bring in some of Deleuze and Guattari’s thoughts on “ecosophy,” to underscore their emphasis on multiplicities and assemblages over any sort of unified, holistic structure.

Mineral: here we’ll address the geological concepts, from the Nietzchean variation of “The Geology of Morals,” to the different Faucauldian themes of startification, sedimentation, and historical formations. Also, we’ll deal with intensive properties of inorganic materials and how they effect assemblages across different milieus, thereby determining what we can see and what we can say (especially great on this topic is de Landa’s “1000 Years of Non-Linear History,” to which we awe much in inspiration for our film’s structure). We’ll also look at Deleuze & Guattari’s “geophilosophy,” and the view of the earth as a Body without Organs.

Machine: we take on the theory of assemblages head on. The machine, in Deleuze, is both broad and specific (see Raunig’s “Thousand Machines”). Our main focus, as the title suggests, will be the desiring-machine, a concept used to describe the unconscious as a factory that is the site of desiring-production (a development of Nietzsche’s Will to Power), in contrast to the Freudean view that the unconscious is a representational theater. Finally, we will tackle perhaps the most difficult of Deleuze’s concepts, that of the Body without Organs, a term he borrowed from the great schizophrenic poet Antonin Artaud, to describe how we can disavow desiring-production and become truly free!

While we will preserve the complete interviews unadulterated in the extended director’s cut, the feature-length film will not be your usual documentary. There will be no shots of the Eiffel tower, pretentious string quartet music, or accordions. Our goal is to make something as visually stimulating as it is thought provoking, as sonorous as it is inspirational, and this will not be accomplished by mimicking what other documentary directors have done in the past. The biggest challenges lie ahead in post-production, but we already have many ideas for songs, movie clips, and video footage, which together will present a seamless unity of sound, sight, and thought.

The online release will use dynamic layering (video annotations) to navigate between interviews by clicking pop-up links that appear on the screen at a given point allowing the viewer to learn what other participants said on a particular topic. We hope thus to create an interactive rhizomatic documentary that takes full advantage of recent technological developments in video production.

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