Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Ecologies of the Moving Image: Cinema, Affect, Nature

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Ecologies of the Moving Image: Cinema, Affect, Nature

Article excerpt

ECOLOGIES OF THE MOVING IMAGE: CINEMA, AFFECT, NATURE By Adrian J. Ivakhiv Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2013,435 pp.

REVIEWED BY CHRISTIE MILLIKEN

Adrian Ivakhiv s Ecologies of the Moving Image: Cinema, Affect, Nature is a landmark contribution to the expanding field of film ecocriticism that has proliferated alongside the cultivation of environmental studies programs across North America over the past two decades. Part of an Environmental Humanities series launched by Wilfred Laurier University Press, this book ambitiously sets out to forge an "ecophilosophy" of cinema, offering a cluster of theoretical templates for assessing the ecological implications of moving images across a range of motion picture practices, including mainstream Hollywood, animation, documentary, global art cinema and the avant-garde. Ivakhiv applies a process-relational view of moving images by creating a framework that combines ideas from such disparate thinkers as Charles Saunders Peirce, Alfred North Whitehead and Gilles Deleuze, among others. A process-relational framework, in his words, "can move us toward a perception of the world in which the sociality (or the anthropomorphic), materiality (or the geomorphic), and the interperceptual realm from which the two emerge are richer, in our perception, than when we started." This argument presupposes that moving images-despite their indisputable and fundamental basis in industrial modernity-have the capacity to be part of the world's ecological solution, not just part of the problem, as is so frequently argued.

The introduction to the book's conceptual models seems confusing and somewhat overwhelming in the first chapters, where there is mention of many diverse theorists and philosophers from whom his ideas are being extracted. However, by pressing on (and making use of the concise appendix at the end of the book), clarity begins to emerge. One of the strengths of this processrelational model is that it moves beyond a longstanding tradition of Cartesian, binaristic thinking that, in Ivakhiv's view, becomes over-burdened by focusing so exclusively on the negotiation of two fixed, pre-given dualisms. Ivakhiv s goal, repeated throughout the book, is to take into account some measure of how moving images move us: how they invite us to better understand film's potential, to revivify our relationship to the world by enabling us to, in his words, "find and articulate new and innovative socio-ecological meanings and capacities." One of the productive aspects of this evolving, dynamic structure of ecologies is Ivakhiv's steadfast conviction in "the life," the affect, of moving images. As he eloquently argues: "...a film is what a film does. And what it does is not just what occurs as one watches it. It is also what transpires as viewers mull it over afterwards and as the film reverberates across space between the film world and the real world, seeping into conversation and dreams, tinting the world and making it vibrate in particular ways, injecting thought-images, sensations, motivations, heightened attunements to one thing or another, into the larger social and ecological fields within which film's signs, meanings and affects resound." To this end, Ivakhiv considers the ways film can expand our perception of ecological ontology. This, by necessity, includes the ways we understand non-human or "more than merely human" worlds.

After the introduction and first chapter that establish his theoretical modeling, the next three chapters deal with the specific ecologies. Chapter 3, for example, summarizes key contributions to understanding the history of modern visuality from the capture of nature's appearance as framed, perspectival view from the Renaissance onward. He rehearses the widely discussed impact of photography in fostering the development of nation-building agendas, which-alongside the development of the railway-bring the masses to nature and later-via the automobile-render almost everything as potential scenery. …

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