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Stochasticity and the Fact of Film

by Ethan Tussey

by Davide Panagia for IN MEDIA RES

Film projects a stochastic series of moving images. “Stochasticity” is the term we use to designate the discontinuity between individuated frames; that is, the fact that there are no governing rules for networking the succession of filmic images. Between each still there is the precursory darkness of a becoming that orchestrates neither beginning nor ending, but potentially both. The image is not causative of an alpha or an omega because it has no casual power. And yet each still is a beginning and ending. Of course there are genres and conventions, and more or less willful directors, who assemble a network of images in film. But whatever their selections, whatever their editing choices, there is nothing in the image that provides instruction on how it ought to be arranged. 

The Cargo clip (2009, Ivan Engler Dir.) displays this precarity by projecting the complicity of the strobe effect of filmic images (i.e., the flickering light passing through the ventilation system) with the stochastic seriality of hand-held pictures. This clip shows how each frame of film is an instant in a series and how each individuated still is an absolute realization of a world. Any change or alteration in the shot changes the world of the film. This means that each point in a network has no necessary relation to what preceded it or to what might succeed it. Hence the nature of stochasticity that denies the authority of criteria for conditioning the image as a finality. Ultimately, any shot may fall to the cutting room floor.

Absolute difference and absolute relatedness: this is what the Cargo scene illumines by showing a woman holding and beholding pictures with purpose, but without rhyme or reason. And is this not what we do, as beholders and culture-makers, when we look about our worlds? At any one point in time, we are all handlers of a stochastic series of moving images that flurry through our hands, our bodies, and our minds. Such is the everyday precarity of political life that the fact of film projects.

Stochasticity and the fact of film

Clip from Cargo (2009)

from Cargo (2009)
Creator: Ivan Engler
Distributor: Atlantis Pictures
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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