Jack the Ripper’s Bodies–without–Organs:
Affect and Psychogeography under the scalpel in From Hell
The victims of Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper were shockingly literal bodies without organs.(1) From the first shot, the film From Hell (the Hughes Brothers 2001) also turns bodies inside out by cinematic means.(2) Many sequences are insistently wet or damp, via tactile close-ups of juicy fruit, dripping rain and clinging mud. The Whitechapel sky is drenched with the blood of murdered women. Shades of red consistently saturate the mise-en-scène of this infernal vision of London, turning the city’s labyrinths, their denizens and objects into bleeding wounds and eviscerated organs. For Deleuze and Guattari, though, a body-without-organs (BWO) is never used in its literal meaning of an eviscerated corpse. They clearly state that their own term focuses not on ‘organs without bodies, or the fragmented body,’ but intends a figurative body, which may or may not be of flesh, ‘animated by various intensive movements’ in process of becoming.(3) From Hell thus gives us a conundrum to launch this re–mapping of Gothic film theory. Despite the apparent contradictions encountered along the route, I want to argue that the film’s bodies, both living and dead mobilise a powerful series of intensive affects via extreme cinematic sensation.
My exploration in this article is twofold and interstitial. Linking, but distinguishing literal and figural bodies, it moves across distinct but intersecting planes: place and time, history and philosophy, fact and fantasy. I write at the junction of Deleuzian affect and the psychogeography that overtly shapes the plot and locale of From Hell, a film ostensibly based on popular crime culture and historical events in the slums of late Victorian London. Linking philosophical theories of duration and the virtual with the work of psychogeographic writers on recognisable historical events and actual locales, I set out to explore the affective geographies of Gothic horror film.
So how might the concept of affect be defined in general usage? To affect as a verb is to ‘lay hold of, impress, or act upon (in mind or feelings) or to ‘influence, move, touch’.(4) Affection as noun is ‘a mental state brought about by any influence; an emotion or feeling’.(5) Although retaining shades of these broader meanings, Deleuze and Guattari use affect in a special sense that mixes body and mind via the ‘logic of sensation’.(6) For Guattari, the aesthetic event of a potent art work is viral in its action upon us, being known ‘not through representation, but through affective contamination’.(7) Affect permeates Deleuze’s solo authored cinema books as well as the joint work with Guattari and both the movement–image and the time–image are distinct but congruent explorations of it. Via this work, studies of the horror film experience can extend beyond psychoanalytically inflected approaches, most notably those shaped by Laura Mulvey and Julia Kristeva.(8) As I argue elsewhere, moving images on screen hook into us to literally ‘get under our skin’ to make a mental encounter through the viscera.(9) On–screen images are, in one sense, non–material simulacra, yet the viewer encounters them both corporeally and conceptually at the same time. Stimulating neuronal networks, they produce biologically quantifiable events on our internal and surface organs. Filmmakers maximise the palette of sensation, using sight and sound along with the simulation of other senses to produce affective thoughts and ideas. By watching characters touch on–screen objects or by the use of close-ups with a tactile of quality such as images of blood we also ‘touch’ and respond to them haptically. We extend our medium-specific cinematic sensorium virtually to include a ‘sense’ of physically absent sensations. But cinematic affect does more than replicate sensory response in the corresponding organ, whether it is directly appealed to (a movie sequence can cause goose bumps of terror or genital sensations of erotic arousal) or in the more covert operations of haptics, which evokes touch through vision, sound and synaesthesia, the mingling of the senses. It moves beyond the organic body to stimulate the embodied mind on many levels, as, slumped in our cinema seat, or in front of the domestic screen, our customary body maps can become BWOs. Affect is produced by the formal grammar of film as it works through the medium of images moving in time. Impacting affectively on senses and brain, the virtual cinematic event reverberates intensively as thought and memory.(10) From a Deleuzian perspective, and contentiously for some kinds of Film Studies such as socio-cultural approaches, much of the impact of images does not entirely depend on their overt representational content, despite their narrative meanings and socio-historical signification. What Deleuze calls affection–images express ‘the event in its eternal aspect’ by foregrounding affects over representational content as ‘pure singular qualities or potentialities-as it were, pure “possibles”’.(11) Emotions like terror and optical sensations like brightness, he argues, manifest ‘power-qualities’, which are virtual possibilities waiting to be actualised in particular conditions. Of course, the viewer’s affective encounter with such images is inevitably shaped by plot mechanics and characterisation, which themselves build up the affective landscape of the film’s narrative context. What Deleuze is suggesting is that we open ourselves up to the film’s potential to stimulate thought beyond what the images show in terms of their obvious content or what the film is ‘about’ in common-sense terms. Deleuze himself uses the example of Jack the Ripper’s knife, or rather, of its gleam intensified by close–up and ambient darkness, to exemplify the limits of cinematic representation. Such affective qualities; brightness, terror and compassion in the case of his own citation from Pandora’s Box (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1929); are ‘pure singular qualities or potentialities-as it were, pure “possibles”’ that constitute eternal aspect of the event.(12) In a comparable shot from From Hell, too, the murderous glint of a knife as it stabs downwards is envisioned by Detective Fred Abberline (Johnny Depp). Surrounded by darkness, the gleaming blade becomes an autonomous tool acting without visible agent to emphasise the depersonalised violence of the stabbing. This does not replace, but is supplementary to, our horror at the narrated act of murder. It is an event of light, colour and sound moving in the special sense of time opened up the cinematic encounter.
Affect in Time
Henri Bergson is the direct philosophical precursor of Deleuze’s temporally based thinking on cinematic affect. Though Bergson accused early cinema of representing temporal flux as a series of static ‘snapshots’ strung together by mechanical movement,(13) Deleuze nevertheless identifies a fundamentally ‘cinematic’ philosophy in Bergson’s implication of ‘the universe as cinema in itself, a metacinema’.(14) Like Deleuze himself, Bergson regarded the world as ‘flowing-matter’, a material flux of images, with the human perceiver as a ‘centre of indetermination’ both within it and able to reflect on its intensive affect in duration.(15) For Bergson, perception is extensive and actual, a response triggered by external stimuli and producing external action, but affection, unextended and virtual, occurs in the temporal gap between stimulus and response. Unlike perception, which seeks to identify and quantify external stimuli, affection is qualitative, the intensive vibration of a ‘motor tendency on a sensible nerve’(16) Rather than being ‘geographically’ located, he argues, affect surges in the centre of indetermination. Its pre–subjective processes engage a kind of auto–contemplation that participates in the wider flux of forces, and moves in duration. Deleuze, like Bergson, locates affection in the evolution from external action to internal contemplation. Whilst ‘delegating our activity to organs of reaction that we have consequently liberated’ he writes, we have also ‘specialised’ specific facets as ‘receptive organs at the price of condemning them to immobility’.(17) These immobile facets refract and absorb images, reflecting on them rather than reflecting them back. Deleuze offers a Bergsonian definition of the affective process as a ‘motor effort on an immobilised receptive plate’.(18) Deleuze’s approach to the cinematic image presents affect not as a failure of the perception-action system, but as its third element, ‘absolutely necessary’ to produce new thought.(19) Affects occupy, without filling, the interval between stimulus and response. Internal and self-reflexive in nature, affect operates by ‘a co-incidence of subject and object, or the way in which the subject perceives itself, or rather experiences itself or feels itself “from the inside”.(20) A cinematic image’s affect on the viewer’s awareness occurs in this potent interval. For Claire Colebrook, commenting on Deleuze, cinematic affect ‘short–circuits’ our perceptual habit of selecting images that interest us only for potential action.(21) She asserts that the power of affect is ‘crucial to such violent forcing of thought out of accustomed patterns by shifting them from spatial extension to intensive temporality.(22)
Cinematic affect mobilises gaps and fissures in the image content itself (such as the out–of–frame) and breaks in linearity (such as non-continuity editing). I use the terms affect and affection, then, to suggest a self–reflexive pause, a temporal hiatus catalytic for potential change. DeleuzeGuattarian affect is pivotal to my wider project to explore the forms of Gothic film sensation as they impact on the BWO to undermine spatial conventions of linear time and sensory–motor movements linked by action. So how is this kind of affect exemplified further in the film of From Hell?
Affect and Delirium
From the outset, soft-focus close-ups key in the temporal fluidity of affect and express Detective Fred Abberline (Johnny Depp)’s role as a visionary rather than an action-hero. The visual images (what Deleuze calls opsigns) and sound track elements (sonsigns) of the title sequence engage sensation. This affects us via the sharp striking of a match and the camera’s languid pan from the detective’s clenched lips along his long stemmed ivory opium pipe to its bowl. The pulsing soundtrack slows the normal paced heartbeat as the effects of opium stretch out linear time. (23) Immersed in pure affect, the images of Abberline’s face slowly melt by fades that work to keep the plot suspended and will undermine our conventional confidence in the detective’s official police persona. The film’s lurid images and exaggerated sound are intensified by the drugs that fuel Abberline’s journeys across space and time. Surrealist writer Antonin Artaud, who crucially influenced Deleuze and Guattari’s thinking, conceived the BWO during a peyote hallucination. In an attempt to break his own addiction to heroin, he partook of the peyote ritual of the Tarahumara tribe in 1936 in New Mexico. His account of this experience describes a schizoid process of ‘internal separation and distribution’.(24) as ‘organs break away and burst’ in a euphoric atmosphere of liminality which ‘wavers between gas and water’.(25) Freed from his hierarchical body–map, he tells us, he is able to embrace the ‘limitless’.(26) For Deleuze and Guattari, hallucinogens are actually powerful but dangerous agents of affect, but virtually, we can use them without bodily harm though their artistic expression. In fictionalised accounts of narcosis such as those of Carlos Castaneda (27), ingestion appears to offer an autopoetic tool which, Deleuze and Guattari argue, may help to ‘combat the mechanisms of interpretation’ and instil in users ‘a presignifying semiotic, or even an asignifying diagram’.(28) According to such user accounts, subjective consciousness melts into ‘flows of intensity, their fluids, their fibres, their continuums and conjunctions of affects’.(29) Drugs appear to have ‘changed the perceptive coordinates of space–time and introduced us to a universe of microperceptions’.(30) As the interface of actual and virtual blur, the delirious subject experiences becoming a BWO. For Deleuze and Guattari, though, delirium should not be used for the purposes of pleasure, escape or imploded self-cultivation by using art as a ‘safe’ kind of drug, but rather to mobilise the most life–affirming action. Delirium can be creatively diverted into aesthetic expression and political praxis.(31) A more productive response carefully prevents the kind of actualisation which ‘characterises the victim or the true patient’ by engineering its creative diversion though art.(32) Deleuze argues that the aesthetics of affect thus offers us ‘the chance to go further than we could have believed possible’.(33) If the pure event is ‘imprisoned forever in its actualisation’, art ‘liberates it, always for other times’.(34) He expresses hope that the fictional ‘revelations’ offered by drugs and alcohol might be encountered at the surface, independently of the use of those substances, provided that the techniques of social alienation which determine this use are reversed into revolutionary means of exploration.(35) The potency of intoxication can thus be actualised productively without courting self–destruction. In literature and film, many works present drug and alcohol as initially glamorous but eventually causing the degeneration of body and mind.(36) A parallel to this in the Gothic mode is the thematic figuration of vampirism as addiction. Examples of this are seen in Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction (1995) or the ‘cold turkey’ of Sarah, the fledgling vampire in Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983). Like drugs, much fictional vampirism leads to escalation, dependency and severe punishment. To apply Deleuze’s terms, its apparent ‘deterritorializations remain relative, compensated for by the most abject reterritorializations’(37) ending in the user’s death by overdose as in Abberline’s own case in From Hell.(38)
Bodies without Organs and Time
Abberline’s opium ingestion aids the processes of detection by shifting the everyday perceptual co–ordinates of space and time. Infinitely extending the moment, the detective is able to cross geographical space mentally to locate events and predict the future. His visions undermine the linearity of clock–time and conventional narrative as he short–circuits temporal layers to locate images of the event. He does not, however, always hit the memory he seeks and inadvertently jumps into the wrong layer of the past, the painful memory of his dead wife. Eventually, though, he encounters the death of Polly (one of the film’s street-walker ‘unfortunates’), by short–circuiting time and space. This occurs both on screen and in the viewer’s own mental images moving in time.
Deleuze and Guattari note that the temporal distortions induced by drugs stimulate acute awareness of ‘speeds and slownesses’.(39) The film’s stylistic skewing of time has a preference for two techniques: jagged jump cuts (as when Abberline envisions the murders) and molecular graininess (as seen in the opium den scene above). Abberline’s subjective sense of clock and calendar time is anomalous in its distortions and slippages. When ‘rescued’ by Sergeant Godley (Robbie Coltrane) after four hours spent in the opium den according to the clock, he assumes he has ‘lost’ a whole day there. The stretching out of time is further heard in action when he tells Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) another ‘unfortunate’ and his doomed love–interest, that his wife and baby died ‘a year ago, no two years, no, more than two years’. Smoking opium and drinking absinthe laced with laudanum to forget the pain of personal memory and to assist detection, instead he accesses place memory and common memory. One useful Deleuzian concept with which to think the affective quality of certain on-screen images is molecularity. Re–deploying the concepts of molecular biology to film-philosophy, Deleuze suggests that as ‘thought is molecular’, so ‘molecular speeds make up the slow beings that we are’.(40) Abberline enhances his extra-sensory perception by occasional bouts of absinthe drinking. In a grainy close-up of his glass, the bubbles rise and burst in the green mixture as the alcohol slowly melts the sugar. The bubbling of fluids such as this and, later, both water and blood express Abberline’s own molecular condition. Intriguingly, too, this magnification of melting sugar recalls Bergson’s image of time stretching and melting in duration like sugar in water.(41) While the purely spectacular image demands our attention on screen, the unfolding of the plot is held in suspense.
Classic narrative film seeks to collapse temporality into the flattened plane of standardised on–screen time, with deviations clearly marked in the narrative by flash-backs and dream sequences. Yet this attempt inevitably undermines itself because the medium of film is itself made up of virtual, hence durational, images that cannot enter the normal clock-time of actualisation. As well as the molecular quality of grainy close-ups, time’s moving map and the mental jumps we make across it are expressed by special effects. In From Hell, very brief intercuts of images with a manic, irritant quality are used to express the death of Annie Chapman, seen by Abberline spontaneously on a rare occasion in which he does not use narcotic assistance. In these images, garish strobes and rapid flicker stab into our visual faculties as affective components of light.
Such effects, which overlay and freeze ‘present’ time by flash-frames so brief as to be almost imperceptible, induce what Deleuze calls the ‘emancipation of time, which ensures the rule of impossible continuity and aberrant movement’.(42) Such affective techniques complicate the validity of the on–screen temporal schema, itself made up of visionary experiences recalled by virtual images that undermine actuality. In From Hell, particular devices deliberately seek to complicate standardised movie time. One example occurs when Abberline actually discovers the corpse of another street walker, Martha Tabram rather than that of the woman whose murder he has just witnessed in his precognitive vision.
A further example occurs at the end of the film as Abberline overdoses on opium. At this point, he envisions a happy ending for Mary Kelly, in which she has eluded Jack’s knife by escaping to the west coast of Ireland with the money the detective gave her. In a soft-focus sequence, we see into the future with him. Mary has set up a pretty home in a cottage by the sea with Alice (the daughter of her friend Ann immured in an asylum when her secret marriage to the prince of Wales is uncovered by Queen Victoria’s agents) and looks out to sea as she waits for Abberline to join them. Abberline’s idyllic vision could be intended as a compensatory fantasy projection, the wish-fulfilment of possibilities frustrated in reality.
This happy ending is only one aspect of the film singled out for attack from a psychogeographical perspective. If Mary’s escape were intended as a plausible event, then it would, of course, refute her actual death in both history and Moore’s fiction. As Ian Sinclair’s review of the film suggests, however, the opening sequence might feasibly the first in a series of Abberline’s opium dreams that enfold the other actions we witness later. If this were the case, then all events as presented in the film could well be read as Abberline’s extended posthumous reverie.(43) It is to the more spatial psychogeographical possibilities opened up by the film’s ‘unreal geography’ and the light these shed on the Gothic mode that I now want to turn, using explicit content and context to illumine and supplement the implicit intent of its affective style.(44)
‘All there in the breath of the stones’: Psychogeography in From Hell
Psychogeography sketches an occult landscape of atmospheres, histories, actions and characters impacting on actual environments, and has much insight to offer on the role of locale in Gothic studies. It developed from the same historical nexus as Deleuze and Guattari’s work and shares some earlier antecedents in avant–garde aesthetics. In France, psychogeography originates both in the Baudelairian figure of the flaneur, the perambulant urban dandy, and Walter Benjamin's walks around the Paris streets of the 1920s. Emerging from Situationism it combines Marxism and the visionary techniques of Surrealism. In their own ways both psychogeography and Deleuzeguattarian concepts manifest the same cultural currents which developed from post–war Paris into the events of May 1968 and their theoretical aftermath.
Psychogeography is the hidden landscape of atmospheres, histories, actions and characters impacting on environments. After the Internationale Situationiste gathering in 1957, the term is used by Guy Debord to indicate the experiential study ‘of specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals’.(45) and like the Surrealists before him, he provocatively recruits Jack the Ripper to his pantheon as ‘psychogeographical in love’.(46) On one level, Psychogeography moves extensively in specific places and historical events, whilst Deleuzian affect, as we have seen, moves intensively on the abstract, mental plane of duration. Yet, on another level, their dynamics are congruent. Whilst undertaking physical walks in the city, the Situationists sought out ‘zones of distinct psychic atmospheres’.(47) As well as actual walks, mental journeys such those of the Surrealists are also incorporated in the psychogeographic paradigm, though they usually involves the mental projection of actual sites.(48) As well as ‘authentic’ locales and physical walks, early Gothic mental travellers such as Thomas De Quincey have psychogeographical currency as ‘founding fathers’.(49)
Abberline has considerable psychogeographical credence, particularly as characterised in Moore’s comic version. His opium addiction, detailed above, certainly qualifies him as a mental traveller across time and space. In Abberline’s actual, physical perambulations of the Whitechapel locale, too, he experiences the psychogeographical imprint of the murders on the very stones of streets and buildings.
The movie adaptation of From Hell evolved from Sinclair’s novel White Chapell Scarlet Tracings (1988) as already adapted by Moore’s comic series.(50) Given Sinclair’s long-term engagement with psychographical issues via his fiction and independent film and video making, it is hardly surprising that he would take issue with this lush multi-million dollar Hollywood version of the story.(51) Sinclair’s own form of psychogeography meshes psychic states with layers of history in a specific geographical locale which exacerbate, or even cause, them. His schizophrenic character James Hinton sounds remarkably Deleuzian in his embrace of subjective dissolution, duration and becoming. Hinton seeks to be ‘disencumbered, no longer prey to the physical laws of the universe and the grinding tyranny of time […] In erasing myself, I should truly become’.(52) Deleuze and Guattari’s schizoid BWO is likewise an ‘affective aggregate to dissolve subjective identity’.(53) They deploy maps and terrains not to encompass spatial geography but to figure the intensive motion of the abstract ‘plane of immanence’ with its own metaphysical geography of ‘poles, zones, thresholds and gradients’.(54) This concept repudiates transcendence as ‘other’ to immanence. The plane of immanence flattens all binary divisions such as body and mind, spirit and matter in the shifting forces of ‘a powerful, nonorganic vitality’.(55) Both theoretical perspectives we are considering foreground time and memory, to gain insight from past experiences, mobilising vital forces in the optimum direction for future change though with a very different emphasis. Sinclair asserts that ‘unless we can remake the past, go into it, change what is now […] we are prisoners, giving birth to our old faults, carrying our naked grandfathers in our arms’.(56) The role of history in Deleuze and Guattari’s work reflects on history though the prism of philosophy via theories of time and evolution via historical thinkers such as David Hume and Friedrich Nietzsche.(57) Sinclair’s objections to the Hughes’ brothers’ film diverge sharply from a Deleuzian perspective on cinema. He attacks the film on two counts–lack of historical authenticity and stylistic overload. The directors’ stated attempt at a ‘ghetto story’ (58) enrages Sinclair, who asserts that this ‘industrial product treats the past as the final colony in the American world empire’.(59) It ‘robs’ the climactic slaughter of Kelly in Miller’ s Court, of its ‘place in time’ and the sentimental happy ending trashes history.(60) Moore’s self–reflexive and structurally complex comics are, on the other hand, lauded as admirable with its strong sense of Victorian London locales and its ‘darkly realist; fiercely drawn, crosshatched’ graphic style. (61) Sinclair complains that the Hughes’ cinematic excess swallows the ‘bleak nightscape’ of Moore’s vision and floods it with garish Technicolor.(62) Ironically, the filmmakers had sought to lend authenticity to their ‘ghetto story’ by shooting in Prague, where a Victorian Gothic facsimile of Whitechapel was lovingly assembled (63) Old cobblestones 'borrowed' from Polish breweries and civic institutions dressed the set. In Sinclair’s uncompromising view, this ‘industrial product’ that ‘treats the past as the final colony in the American world empire’ has maligned, not reanimated, history. (64) From a psychogeographical point of view, though, a virtual past is feasible only if it retains material determinants as traces of physical contact with the past. Alan Moore asserts that the past is ultimately unknowable and inevitably generates imaginative fictions, yet the Whitechapel locales and the murders, whether perpetrated by the single figure of Jack the Ripper or not, were, of course, actual. Sinclair regrets the film’s entirely virtual and evanescent nature.(65) He writes that ‘Colours bleed. The visceral impact of the Hughes' grand guignol, with its Steadicam swoops and dynamically articulated tracking shots, loosens its grip. Memory won't hold us in this other place, however cunningly the never-was is resurrected’.(66)
At the other pole on this count, the virtual rather than the actual plane is crucial to the mental operations of Deleuzian cinematic affect. In order for Abberline’s BWO to shift its spatial co–ordinates, the actual and the virtual, space and time, must interface. Though both actual and virtual poles are mobilised by the film as experience, the cinematic trajectory travels chiefly on the virtual plane of affect. From Sinclair’s geographically and historically –based psychogeography, then, the film has little to recommend it. Yet, rather than abandoning the two perspectives because of their irreconcilable divergence, I would, instead, like to continue my exploration of the congruence.
Psychogeography accesses cultural memory of events and places to glean present insight, often of a politically radical and anti-Capitalist nature. Like the affective intensity of Abberline, this process demands psychic receptivity. Sinclair recommends the technique of what he calls ‘saturation’ with a ‘solution of the past, involuntary, unwilled, until the place where you are has become another place; and then you can live it, and then it is.’(67) He describes an intense visionary encounter with the past experienced by his novel’s unnamed psychogeographical narrator as he walks around the East London area of Brick Lane. He is pulled into the presubjective past in which older landscapes on the site are ‘superimposed’ along the present line of Brick Lane as the ‘force of the river’ pulls him ‘beyond the human heats, running out of time into the previous, ahead; nerved to a candle–flame consciousness’.(68) Here, Sinclair’s psychogeographical process parallels Bergson’s description of the circuits of personal memory, which Deleuze makes pre-subjective in his own interpretation in the cinema books. In these, the ‘past in general’, which forms images of an ‘unstable set of floating memories’, that move at ‘dizzying speed, as if time were achieving a profound freedom’ has a similar function to communal events and place memory in psychogeography.(69) Bergson’s concept of duration links the past, present and future in a seamless continuum, artificially divided by turning time into space. He argues that by stepping outside everyday modes of thought, the ‘deeper’ self can intuit fluid and multiple states of consciousness that move in the flow of duration. He claims that the insights of ‘immediate intuition’ can show us ‘motion within duration, and duration outside space’.(70) By intensive focus on these states, the perceiver will, in Bergson’s lyrical simile, see them ‘melt into one another like the crystals of a snowflake when touched for some time with the finger’.(71) Durational continuity thus underlies the apparent distinction of clock-time. For Bergson, aesthetic absorption has a special power to trigger the intensive affective vibrations of duration in our consciousness. Like music, duration is ‘an indivisible multiplicity changing qualitatively in an ongoing movement’.(72) It unites past and present into an ever-flowing organic stream, as ‘when we recall the notes of a tune, melting, so to speak, into one another’.(73) Affect is imbricated in the processes of memory via which we recover the enduring past. In order to endure, consciousness is not entirely absorbed in the passing moment. Time passes, but time continues. Memory enables the consciousness to experience its ‘full, living, potential’ as it opens itself up to duration via a state of awareness not limited by everyday egoic constraints.(74) Bergson states that pure duration is ‘the form which the succession of our conscious states assumes when our ego lets itself live, when it refrains from separating its present state from its former states’.(75) Memory returns the past to the present of consciousness, as we experience ‘full, living, potential’ in its quality of ‘pure heterogeneity’.(76) With this insight to guide us, he argues in Time and Free Will, we are better equipped to make existential choices.(77) We do not use the re–animated past as an escape route from present demands, but, rather, it enables us to become fully alive to time’s richness and complexity. Aware of becoming, we participate in its affirmative force. By reanimating the past, we do not use it as an escape route from present demands, but, rather, we become fully alive to time’s richness and complexity. Thus, we gain awareness of the nature of becoming and our own participation in its affirmative potential. Crucially to Deleuze’s thinking, Bergson points out that memory, like the flux of matter and our own perception, is image-dependent. All experiences are shot through with memory, but for him outstanding memories emanate light, as ‘shining points round which the others form a vague nebulosity’.(78) In From Hell a place as well as a person can generate the act of remembering. As a receptive psychogeographer, Abberline catalyses this by mental contact as ‘shining points’ are reversed by the Gothic mode into horror by the atrocities he dredges up. Psychogeography seeks links to cultural memory and times past in order to gain present insight by learning from events in particular places. Like the affective intensities of Abberline, these special insights are accessed in altered states of consciousness. Sinclair suggests that historically charged places like Southwark, the City and Whitechapel ‘hold’ time. Here, we may ‘walk back into the previous, as an event, still true to this moment. The past is a fiction which absorbs us. It needs no passport: turn the corner and it is with you. The things they do there are natural. You do those things.’(79) In such locales, times past become present experience for the psychogeographer. For both Sinclair’s psychogeography and the Bergsonian Deleuze, time is a plurality where if we ‘give ourselves up, let go’ then the ‘dead moment only exists as we live it now’.(80) Whist retaining their singularities, all bodies are interconnected at an atomic level in the BWO’s field of force. Again, the psychogeographical perspective expressed by Sinclair in his Ripper novel remarkably recalls Bergson’s durational model of memory in positing time as a co–existing, and enduring whole with accessible memory traces.(81) In the novel, Sinclair affirms in a rhapsodic passage, the past is Again, like Bergson and Deleuze, he posits time as a presubjective, collective multiplicity, ‘wherein all that has ever come into being or will come co–exists, which, passing slowly on, leaves in this flickering consciousness of ours […] a tumultuous record of changes and vicissitudes’.(83) Despite the obviously divergent routes of affect and psychogeography, I have suggested that their paths cross in recent Gothic horror film. Although memory ‘imitates’ perception as it returns from duration, elements of ‘original virtuality’ will always prevent complete actualisation.(84) Shot through with fantasy, history can never be totally grasped. Yet, like the former sense impression manifested in the ‘coloured and living image’ of memory, cinema’s virtual images touch sensational actuality, as Abberline touches the stones.(85) As well as having distinct particularities, all bodies are interconnected with each other at an atomic level within a larger field of force. Aesthetic delirium feels the enduring past and accesses a terrain for new forms of thought.(86) However virtual and in some ways corrupted the film’s diegesis may be, From Hell’s dead bodies still generate a living map of affect.
1. At least five street walkers were murdered and sexually mutilated in a ‘serial’ manner in the Whitechapel area in 1888. I am using Jack the Ripper here as the name popular crime culture and ‘Ripperology’ gives to the perpetrator of these murders, though the women may not have been killed by a sole person.
2. The Hughes brothers’ film is an adaptation of Alan Moore’s ten-volume serial comic From Hell, Kitchen Sink Press, 1991-1996.
3. Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (London: Athlone, 1988), hereafter referred to as A Thousand Plateaus, p. 171.
4. The Oxford English Dictionary Vol 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), p. 211.
5. Ibid, p. 213.
6. Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel W Smith (London and New York: Continuum, 2003).
7. Félix Guattari, Chaosmosis: An Ethico Aesthetic Paradigm, trans. P. Bains and J. Pefanis (Sidney: Power Publications, 1995), p. 92.
8. Laura Mulvey, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, Screen Vol. 6. No. 6, 1975; Barbara Creed, The Monstrous Feminine: Women in the Horror Film (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993); Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982).
9. Anna Powell, Deleuze and Horror Film (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007).
10. Julian Hanich, The Paradox of Fear (New York and London: Routledge, 2010, forthcoming). Hanich presents a phenomenological study of audience response to horror and thriller films.
11. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1986), p. 102, hereafter referred to as Cinema 1.
13. Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution, trans. Arthur Mitchell (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1983), p. 306, hereafter referred to as Creative Evolution.
14. Cinema 1, p. 59.
16. Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer (New York: Zone Books, 1991), hereafter referred to as Matter and Memory, pp. 55-56.
17. Cinema 1, p. 65.
18. Ibid, p. 66.
19. Ibid, p. 65.
21. Claire Colebrook, Gilles Deleuze, Routledge Critical Thinkers (London and New York: Routledge), 2002, p. 40.
22. Ibid, p. 38.
24. Antonin Artaud, Les Tarahumaras, trans Helen Weaver, The Peyote Dance (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux), 1976, p. 24.
25. Ibid, p. 36.
27. Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973).
28. Ibid, p. 138.
30. A Thousand Plateaus, p. 248.
31. Ibid, p. 157.
36. Sadie Plant, Writing on Drugs, 1999, London: Faber.
37. Ibid, p. 284.
38. Ibid, p. 162.
39. A Thousand Plateaus, p. 283.
40. Gilles Deleuze, ‘The Brain is the Screen’, in Gregory Flaxman, ed., The Brain is the Screen: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Cinema (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), p. 366.
41. Creative Evolution, pp. 9–10.
42. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2:The Time-Image, trans. H. Tomlinson and R. Galeta. London: Athlone, 1989, hereafter referred to as Cinema 2.
47. Ivan Chtcheglov, excerpt from a 1963 letter to Michèle Bernstein and Guy Debord, Internationale Situationniste #9, reprinted in Situationist International Anthology, Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets, 1981, p. 38.
48. Merlyn Coverley, Psychogeography (Harpenden, Herts: Pocket Essentials), 2006, p. 20.
50. Iain Sinclair, White Chappell: Scarlet Tracings, London: Paladin, 1988, hereafter referred to as White Chappell, p. 175.
52. White Chappell, p. 175.
53. Daniel Smith, intro to Daniel W. Smith ed. Essays Critical and Clinical, trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco (London and New York: Verso, 1998), p. xxix, hereafter referred to as Smith.
54. ‘To Be Done with Judgment’, in Smith, p. 131.
56. White Chappell, p. 113.
57. Deleuze and History, edited Claire Colebrook (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), 2009.
58. The Hughes Brothers, From Hell, DVD, Audio commentary, Twentieth–Century Fox, 2001.
59. ‘Jack the rip–off’.
62. ‘Jack the rip–off’.
63. The Hughes Brothers, From Hell, DVD, Audio commentary, Twentieth–Century Fox, 2001.
64. ‘Jack the rip–off’.
66. ‘Jack the rip–off’.
67. White Chappell, p. 31.
69. Cinema 2, p. 55.
70. Matter and Memory, p. 114.
71. Ibid, p. 138-139.
72. Ronald Bogue, Deleuze on Cinema, London and New York: Routledge, 2003, p. 14.
73. Matter and Memory, p. 100.
74. Ibid, p. 104.
75. Ibid, p. 100.
76. Ibid, p. 104.
77. Henri Bergson, Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, trans. F. L. Pogson  (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1971).
78. Ibid, p. 171.
79. White Chappell, p. 63.
80. Ibid, p. 31.
82. Ibid, p. 112.
84. Ibid, p. 134.
85. Ibid, p. 133.
86. Matter and Memory, p. 100.