Feature Article

Not Done Being Over: Death and the Trouble with Understatement

Author: Eugenie Brinkema (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

  • Not Done Being Over: Death and the Trouble with Understatement

    Feature Article

    Not Done Being Over: Death and the Trouble with Understatement



The paradox of The Trouble with Harry: While Hitchcock dubbed it an exercise in “understatement,” the film turns on the hyperbolic insistence of the corpse at its center. Contravening the unmoved narrative and indifferent or irritated characters, the movements of cinematic form alone propose an ethical stance towards the dead.

How to Cite:

Brinkema, E., (2023) “Not Done Being Over: Death and the Trouble with Understatement”, Film Criticism 47(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.3998/fc.4735

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Published on
31 Oct 2023
Peer Reviewed

I: The First Problem.

Vertical Is to Live—Horizontal Is to Die

—R. Buckminster Fuller

Interred then disinterred then buried only to be excavated again, in archival gestures that mirror the very structure of the work, Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry (1955), despite its periodic exhumations as a lost gem of the director’s corpus, is far more often taken as a minor, peripheral, at best curious stylistic departure. Disparaged at the time of its release for what then film critic of The New York Times Bosley Crowther called its “leisurely, almost sluggish” pace— accused, like the cadaver at its center, of a failure of lively movement—it remains an underread object in Hitchcock’s canon, in part due to being one of his five lost films, not re-released until 1984, and in larger part for its awkward, at once Britishly broad and surrealistic tone.1 The relation of The Trouble with Harry’s aesthetic to its narrative is irresolvably aporetic, for while Hitchcock, in his interviews with Truffaut, dubbed the film an exercise in “understatement,” it turns on the hyperbolic obviousness of the corpse at its center: the trouble with Harry, which the film continually overstates, is that he is deceased and yet relentlessly present as an object for a series of characters each of whom believes with marked unconcern that he or she may have brought about the death through accident, self-defense, or benign malice, and whose navigation of the dead body involves peering at it, ignoring it, speaking over it, sketching it, resting objects on it, tripping over it, and burying, unearthing, reburying, reunearthing, stripping, cleaning, dragging, dressing, dumping, and staging what is regarded as waste to be placed, at the end, as findable, once more, in preparation for a future burial that might bring all of this trouble to some final end, deferred as only a speculative closure beyond the film, which comes to its limit in a brute and reflexive declaration—imprinted over the body that has still yet to be buried is the text “The Trouble with Harry is Over.”2

But before all is over, the law of comedy will be honored as two couples, one younger, one older, are formed over this dead body—the corpse serving as catalyst for new amative relations. The corpse that ought to signify finitude and closure functions as narrative prolongation, as the text’s structural motor. The large-scale form of The Trouble with Harry is thus that of peripeteia, a sudden reversal of circumstances, what Aristotle dubs in Poetics a change “from one state of things within the play to its opposite,” but, instead of the tragic hero’s declension from fortune to misfortune, the peripeteiac reversal for these characters is a series of elevations from guilt, misfortune, loneliness into their opposites: relief, delight, new love.3 These romantic unions conclude the work, restoring harmony in an allegory of cyclical nature and the possibility of regeneration. The film is less concerned with filling its empty grave than with occupying empty marital beds. So goes a conventional interpretation, one made in its most sincere form by Lesley Brill (who dubs love “the paradoxical fruit of death” in the film) and in a cheekier but still optimistic manner by Thomas Leitch, who writes that, “like the games of A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the “ritual self-accusation, romantic confession, and official dissimulation” of The Trouble with Harry “reflect a more generally comic ambivalence toward the social order whose principles they triumphantly exemplify by playfully flouting.”4

The film’s humor derives from the degree to which the surviving characters display utter indifference to any sense of responsibility or mourning for this expired figure in their midst. (As Leitch writes, “the film’s single obsessive joke turns on the extremely unsentimental, matter-of-fact attitude that everyone adopts toward the dead.”)5 The community remains unmoved by the corpse despite spending the film quite literally moving it in diagonals across local grass, moving it into and out of a dug pit of earth (three times), carrying the dead form across hills and thresholds of homes—enacting a kinesthetic, muscular version of Sartre’s law of defenselessness in Being and Nothingness that “to be dead is to be a prey for the living.”6 Despite Harry’s situatedness at times on, at times in, the literal New England ground, the deceased one is afforded no diegetic position in sympathy with philosophical language that would take the dead as grounds for hospitality, community, or the ethical.

How ought one move the corpse? This is the general question of the ritual role of burial. It is the Antigonic question—“you took one who belongs down there and kept him here, / Untouched by gods, unburied, unholy, a corpse exposed” admonishes Tiresias, as what is forbidden by Creon is to move Polynices’ dead body (this exposed body that is dubbed a “miserable corpse”: unwept, unburied; unburied, despite the fact that it has been torn open by dogs; unburied, despite the fact that it is rotting, putrefying; unburied and thus clammy with decay; unburied, and now it smells [that smell anosios: unholy, profane, wicked]—in Sophocles’ play, this unburied corpse’s flesh has been subject to teko: to make liquid; the corpse is melting, it is dripping).7 Exchanged for that corpse, it is Antigone’s body that is ordered to be taken away, to be removed, expunged, ultimately to be buried alive, assigned to the proper place of the dead brother. Bonnie Honig’s account of the result of leaving Polynices’ body exposed is that “the exiled body keeps returning to the city in bits and pieces as carrion.”8 Honig continues, “If the work of burial in part helps survivors move on, then the fact that this unburied corpse keeps turning up like a bad penny may be a way of showing how in the absence of proper burial, survivors cannot move on.”9 But Harry’s unburied body produces a different kind of structural frustration. Instead of an affective and memorial obstacle, or any blockage to the processual work of mourning, his form frustrates the text itself from moving along to its other, lightsome and lively, amative narrative concerns.

This is an especially fraught ethical frustration, for the question that is always co-implicated in How ought one move the corpse? is: How ought the corpse move one? This is the question of care for the other, the ethical demand of alterity that runs through meditations on the dead other in thinkers ranging from Bataille, Blanchot, Derrida, and Nancy to Weil, Butler, Azoulay, and Cavarero. This is the question of affective non-indifference in the face of the dead, what Blanchot writes of in The Unavowable Community: “What, then, calls me into question most radically? Not my relation to myself as finite, or as the consciousness of being before death or for death, but my presence for another who absents himself by dying. […] [T]his is what puts me beside myself.”10 It is also what Derrida casts as the foundational law of friendship in The Work of Mourning, that one of the two in an intimate relation will see the other die, thus wait, thus keep.11 (Love, of course, is also also an Antigonic question.) To be moved or unmoved in an encounter with one dead is a question that sutures the ethical to the affective and within its own thinking. In The Trouble with Harry, there are many movers of the corpse, but there are no mourners. The memorial is thereby rendered merely sequential. Living beings are recast as those who simply happen to persist after a dying has happened, constituting the set of those who remain able to move, indifferent to any debt to the one in their midst who no longer stirs.

Moving the corpse and being moved by the corpse: to these muscular and ethical-affective questions Hitchcock adds a consideration of a range of other forms of movement, ones that map neatly onto ways in which cinematic movement has long been theorized. Take, for example, the four basic kinds of movement in film taxonomized in Vivian Sobchack’s 1982 essay “Toward inhabited space: the semiotic structure of camera movement in the cinema.” She accounts for the movement of “living beings and objects” within the projected image; the movement “between projected images” (in other words, editing); the optical movement of the camera lens; and the movement of the camera—what she calls “the bodily motion of the camera itself.”12 Setting aside Sobchack’s interest in exploring this last mode in relation to a viewer’s experience in an inhabited space—what becomes phenomenological film theory over the subsequent three decades—this sketch is a useful heuristic for accounting for a general map of movement in film, though I will add a fifth category presently.

Within Sobchack’s basic four modes of movement, The Trouble with Harry displays a pronounced dissymmetric allegiance. The film eschews some forms of movement almost entirely—there are almost no purely optical manipulations of the lens—but it is obsessed with positive and negative instances of the first sort, that of beings and objects who move within the bounded image. Within remarkably static frames, characters run across the New England landscape in long shot, cars drive in and out of the screen, the aforementioned corpse is lifted by its ankles, dragged across ground, set down again within a single tableau, and in between the multiple unearthings of Harry, the two couples are often filmed in a low angle distant shot against the day’s increasingly darkening sky walking to and fro, from or with Harry’s body, constituting a classical burial party, that physical mass of people who set out to entomb the dead (in its original sense, soldiers looking for fatalities on the battlefield). The burial party is a form of debt as wandering. As Olivia Barr writes in A Jurisprudence of Movement, “the burial party walked as a way of taking responsibility for the dead […]. [T]he burial party walked not because of any common law rights or duties, but rather, in response to a jurisdictional call to care for the dead.”13 The burial party in Hitchcock’s film, however, ironizes funereal movement, given that the collective is the self-same as an assemblage of grave-robbers, performing and then undoing interment, walking across a grave they simultaneously assemble and desecrate.

Clip from The Trouble with Harry

The couples carry Harry’s corpse towards Jennifer’s home for a hoped-for exculpation from an examining doctor.

As for the movement of editing, while the opening establishing shots embrace the dissolve, the film rapidly takes the cut as its privileged form in constant substitutions of a visible image with a black screen covering over an indeterminate period of time, sometimes hours, sometimes minutes, sometimes taking place over the burial or unearthing, giving the film the meta-form of an assemblage of fragments, one that regularly pulses in and out of visible presence, interrupted throughout by the figure of caesura, rendering the film, in a different sense of the word, a series of cinematic movements, as in the eighteenth-century sense of a major division of a piece of music (the allegro movement, the minuet, &c.).

But then there is the final form of movement in Sobchack’s taxonomy, a movement peculiar to the camera. In general, in almost every critical treatment of The Trouble with Harry, the camera is taken to be unusual for Hitchcock in its pronounced immobility, its apparent reticence towards both affective and cinematic-aesthetic modes of being moved. This description from Joe McElhaney is typical: “In The Trouble with Harry, the long dialogue scenes are staged with the utmost simplicity, the actors alternating between sitting and standing as they exchange pages of dialogue, sometimes in static shot / reverse shots, sometimes simply facing one another within a single two-shot and talking.”14

What is striking in Sobchack’s taxonomy—and this is no secret; it is announced in the very title—is that there will be no account of the semiotics of movement without its instrumentalization for an account of an inhabited space that relies on an account of the body. Indeed, Sobchack writes of camera movement that it is “the most obvious paradigm of the parallel development between the cinema and the human being in the appropriation and apprehension of one’s own body and its power to become in the world”—an investment in spectatorship for a body-subject itself derived from the work of Merleau-Ponty, who wrote in Phenomenology of Perception of the body as itself a “motor power.”15 One encounters this reliance on a figure of the body everywhere in accounts of cinematic movement. It is there in David Bordwell’s cognitivist avowal of a “basis for the orthodox comparison between the camera and the human body. The head may rotate, that is, pan or tilt, or the entire organism may displace itself, may ‘locomote’ by tracking or craning,” and in Jean Mitry’s psychology of the cinema as that in which “the multiplicity of view points restores to us not only the feeling of space but also its corollary: the feeling of movement,” as well as in Nicolás Salazar-Sutil’s insistence that even for new media, “it makes no sense to speak of a movement […] without bodies. Movement outside bodies, perhaps. Movement beside the body, certainly. […] [But] there is no motion without a body.”16 Irrespective of profound differences between these thinkers, there is a deep, stubborn, reluctantly shed insistence on a presuppositionless anthropocentrism couched as a corporeocentrism in theorizations of movement in film.17

The present essay, by contrast, committed as it is to the speculative promise of an impersonal, anti-corporeocentric project of a radical formalism, aims to think movement apart from the sensing, feeling, living human body. To account for cinematic movement after or without or in indifference to the body—it matters little which variation one prefers—to Sobchack’s four forms of movement we must add a fifth category, one that not only appears to be at odds with her phenomenologically privileged form of the movement of the camera, but one that would be conceptually excluded from any phenomenology of movement. Radical formalism is not merely, however, one model for which any other might have taken its place, applied to The Trouble with Harry like a stiff mold to wet clay. Rather, the ontological problematic at the very heart of Hitchcock’s film—the effort to bring to an end a seemingly unending series of encounters with the unending endingness of a brute dead thing; the effort to think about the problem of movement in relation to a thing whose ontology renders it that which does not move and yet is moved (around) by moving living things who remain steadfastly unmoved (affectively) by that unmoved thing and all of their moving around of it—demands a resolutely formalist reading. In a non-neutral figure for the film, one which will also speculatively animate this essay, my argument will be that the sensing, feeling, living human body must be set just to the edge, just beyond the reach of any speculation on cinematic movement.

One of the only interpretations of The Trouble with Harry to evade the language of sincerity, romance, regeneration, and optimism is Žižek’s treatment of the film as a case of a body that “is present without being dead on the symbolic level,” arguing that the film’s “ironic detachment vis-à-vis Harry’s body reveals a […] neutralization of an underlying traumatic complex”—the traumatic gap “between two deaths, the real death and symbolic death.”18 The corpse in this account returns as a blockage in the real until his debt is paid with a symbolic settling of scores which Žižek aligns with the rituals of burial. But though I share an interest in this language of the neutral, the formal instability rendered in the different ways of approaching the corpse (approach as in drawing near, and approach as in regard) suggests less the “neutralization of an underlying traumatic complex” than the traumatizing dimension of the neutral as such. What disturbs Hitchcock’s film above all are these efforts at maintaining a fixed neutrality towards the dead. And phenomenological approaches to movement cannot speak to the way in which a formalism of movement poses the ethical and affective questions that come to a crisis in the film’s negotiation of the immobile and yet furiously mobilized corpse.

Consider, for example, the pronouncement made by Jennifer Rogers about Harry, referring to the appearance (both manifestation and image) of her now-late-husband of a never-consummated marriage: “He looked exactly the same when he was alive, only he was vertical.” What is the nature of the movement invoked in this delightful statement, this statement whose logic fourteen years later Buckminster Fuller will generalize to a whole metaphysical system in his essay titled “Vertical Is to Live—Horizontal Is to Die.” (Leaving no doubt that this was not only a world view but a view of the very world as such, Fuller elaborated: “Vertical is objective. Horizontal is subjective, yielding. In extreme, the vertical characterizes life and the horizontal characterizes death. From a continuous multiplicity of inadvertent bodily falling and deliberately dropped objects, children learn from birth onward that no one force operating in their lives is so constant, unforgiving and relentless as gravity. Verticality opposes gravity.”19)

Decease, a departure, a withdrawal, is, to the letter, to move in the manner of a going down, from de-/cedere, to go or fall away from a place.

The Trouble with Harry casts unarrived finitude and its already completed arrival as a shift from the vertical to a counterposed unspoken horizontality, what lays now on earth, in anticipation of a second displacement, one from laying on ground to at some point residing in ground. Finitude is thereby described from the very beginning through the reductive language of forms. Its radical difference from a bit-more-of-life is given in lines, as orientations. Jennifer’s qualification “only he was vertical” points to a form of movement as displacement that is given as a diagram of a logic of movement; it is a purely abstract drawing of a relation of positions that are not fixed but are named in their indeterminate yet absolute difference from one and the other. Vertical contra its opposite. Death is thereby defined formally as a horizontality that is the privation of verticality. Though not given through any register of the camera’s body, this diagram of positions in space as they move into other positions animates their static isolation, hews to a logic of a moving image on the order of the speculative. Displaying this tension temporally and textually in advance of Harry’s death is the opening faux-naïf credit sequence by Saul Steinberg, which ends its relentless right to left panoramic movement at the bare outlined drawn form of a horizontal corpse, an animation of what is no longer animated. Not unlike Beckett’s diagrams, which continually mathematize the body, Hitchcock treats the corpse as an arrangement that abstracts and formalizes the body. But while the modernist author instructs in the strictest plan of steps in something like his play Footfalls—“parallel with front, length nine steps, width one metre, a little off centre audience right. Pacing: starting with right foot (r), from right (R) to left (L)”—Hitchcock will reduce the body to simple metaphysical coordinates: the upright; the fallen.20 Dragging and staging the body will temporarily confound these coordinates, but their postural schema as an idealized diagram of a difference in position is unmodifiable.

For what do the dead do? They lie.

By way of articulating her critique of rectitude in Inclinations—a “postural geometry of ethics” that philosophy has presupposed at the cost of other models—Adriana Cavarero turns to Elias Canetti’s formalism of postures of power. In her chapter “Upright Before the Dead” she elaborates on Canetti’s scenario (shared if pluralized by Hitchcock) whereby “a living man, standing on his feet, faces a dead man, who is lying horizontally on the ground.”21 This encounter of postural vulnerability converts a formal difference of line into one of potency. Canetti’s formulation: “The moment of survival is the moment of power. Horror at the sight of death turns into satisfaction that it is someone else who is dead. The dead man lies on the ground while the survivor stands.”22 The affective conversion of terror at the dead to the satisfaction at the survivor’s own vitality is mapped on to the diagrammatic difference of positions in space. As Cavarero argues, this “geometric imaginary” is organized around “two elementary coordinates: the survivor’s verticality and the horizontality of the dead. Although it is marked by a sinister elation, the framework here is clear—Cartesian and altogether simple.”23 The corpse is not merely a singular given instance of assumed horizontality. The corpse’s horizontality becomes the formal difference against which every possibility of postural verticality is measured.

Harry Worp is a form.

Harry is a form of diagrammatic movement that notates a shift from a vertical schema to a horizontal one.

Worp, in Dutch, from werpen, meaning to throw, to cast off, to lose (also, to give birth, as by animals; also, to damage or hurt or kill, as by throwing—e.g. as of stones); werpen also the root for warp: to bend, twist, distort, which is to say to affect and change and alter a trajectory, a path, a line. The warp of a fabric is the name for threads running lengthwise.

Line, or else what alters line and sets it on a different course.

Life, its inauguration, or else what destroys it.

The central dead body in Hitchcock’s film is continually figured in this diagrammatic question of its relation to a fallen movement that is co-extensive with a coming-into-death, and this diagrammatic register is aligned throughout the film with a purely abstract notation for movement. When the romantic hero and artist Sam (who offers his expressionist paintings for sale alongside cider at the local farm stand) notices he has sketched two feet—or, rather, foot-like oblong ovals, the general forms preceding their attribution to a regime of bodily signification—into his landscape, he shouts, “Hey would you mind getting out of my picture?” to the corpse half-hidden behind a bush. His instruction involves an appeal to a displacement from an aesthetic space in addition to an environmentally proximate space, and, of course, one to which the corpse is structurally indifferent. Later, confronted with his drawing of the corpse by a suspicious local agent of law enforcement, Sam succeeds in getting the dead “out of his picture” by drawing into the same picture the image of one alive. Insisting he could as well “have chosen an entirely different set of artistic stimuli,” Sam takes a supplementary pastel to the drawn face, offering instead “a raised eyelid, perhaps, a line of fullness to the cheek,” using the very possibility of formal mutability, the movement into new formal arrangements, to cast the dead thing out of the diagram that is the picture. (The essential difference between the Law and Art? A horrified Deputy Sheriff tells Sam that his new lines have “destroyed legal evidence”—while Sam holds to the essential formal law that design is neutral to destruction, because modified design is merely a new, different design.)

What, then, however, of the movement of the camera, what is critically taken to be notably absent in this film that is itself about so many problems of movement, including the ironic absence of affective movement at the encounter with the recently dead? The thesis I will advance is that The Trouble with Harry is not without movement. This law has the form of a litotes, an affirmation through the negation of its opposite—what is also called deliberate understatement. Understatement—that device Hitchcock famously ascribed to this film; that term for that which says more than it says it is saying by saying too little—is a strictly formal problem that here renders an ethical critique. And my reading will ultimately claim that a relation to the dead is given in two contrasting forms of camera movement in relation to the corpse: a formal articulation of understatement that affirms through the negation of its opposite. This logic of understatement, which governs the movements of the camera, will encounter the corpse as a schematic of movement as described above, and thus one way of articulating what Hitchcock’s film does is that it uses cinematic form to formalize the diagrammatic form of the corpse. Every aspect of this nested claim will derive its speculative power from redescribing movement as formal disturbance, one that is neither perceptual nor experiential nor embodied, but that is impersonal, diagrammatic, entirely on the order of the aesthetic, and which requires reading.

II: A few hundred words on rhetorical terms for making lesser and greater, and some remarks on confusions of earth.

Underground is the best place for Harry.

Understatement: an expression of position with reference to the total set of its rhetorical alternatives. A form of restraint; a kind of studied minimalism. Bears on its back an entire lexicon of value terms: if tinged with the moral trinity of humility, modesty, moderation, it also suggests a more worldly discretion, as if of a lover (but also reticence, as if of a reluctant lover). All that simplicity that is opposed to elaboration, exaggeration, hyperbole, every enthusiasm, what evades those figures of exegetical excess who remain a bit too loud, read into everything just a bit too much.

Meiosis, from meioo: to lessen, to reduce, to diminish, belittle, trivialize, in other words make—in every possible way in which this making can go—smaller. This making is a process: it goes on, it lessens over time, it reduces ongoingly. It is also a schematic problem: one of denoting degrees. This is understatement by way of a type of violence, the belittling and dismissing that renders something (or, let us admit, more often someone) less important than it otherwise might seem or need to demand to be. It thereby notates the formal analogue of contempt. (Of course, this often has the paradoxical effect of drawing further attention to that which is so derided.)

Auxesis, its opposite: term for growth or forms of increase, suggests a rhetoric of accumulation in which intensity of meaning is produced through a precise formal (semantic) arrangement of words in what the sublimely straightforward Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics dubs “ascending order or increasing importance.”24 Presumed, of course, by such an imperative, is a prior understanding of the force or importance or fertility of every expression such that augmentation as a structural principle will amplify on demand, without lack or noise or residue or failure. Will always draw, let us say, a certain set of predictable, knowable, even measurable responses.

(Shall I understate or overstate how deeply problematic this presumption is, how clearly Hitchcock’s film troubles precisely this assumption?)

Troubles it, as in puts it to disturbance—of mind, of feeling—as in agitates, vexes, gives cause to worry or concern, yet in an older form—(always so insistent, those sedimented older forms)—suggested also tumults in motion, commotions of matter, to turn, to whirl; the Old French trubler: to disturb as earth and water, as dirt and air, to devastate the lucidities of nature, to interrupt or hinder any clarities of air, as in: to render misty, to make cloudy or newly muddy water. To stir up; to thereby generate unpleasant relations. Confusions of earth—is that not also what Harry as corpse troubles? Confounding and making cloudy those distinctions of over and under, upon and within—as if our prepositions were but sediments, vulnerable to a range of unwanted diffusions. Harry thus both troubles earth and is troubled by it: stained and marked by his intersection with forms of earth, disordered, agitated as a thing in the world and a thing in and for the cinematic frame. Yet what is confused is not always what distresses; all this troubling with Harry is under, around, or to the side of narrative agents being themselves troubled by Harry, which is what that titular “with” names: a direction of trouble towards a schema, an impersonal extension of an exertion of disturbance.

III. The Other Problems.

Dead, but still with us, still with us, but dead.

—Donald Barthelme

The first encounter with the dead in The Trouble with Harry involves a forward tracking shot that approaches and isolates the corpse in a deictic gesture that points to the traumatic content of its target: there, There, Look!25 This shot occurs mere minutes after Harry Worp’s off-screen demise to the sound of three gunshots whose violence will later be posited and then, even later, be withdrawn as cause for his death. This tracking shot involves an encounter to the letter, as in encontrer, to meet or come across, to oppose: what is primarily adversarial in Harry’s being is its being-no-longer.

Clip from The Trouble with Harry

The famous forward tracking shot, which comes to a stop at the corpse.

Whether this relentlessly forward tracking shot is read as rendering and experientially evoking the embodied approach and subjective mental, objectal focusing of the little boy Arnie; or whether it is interpreted as an aestheticotechnical movement of epistemic pursuit, with evocations of detection, curiosity, and intentionality towards the unusual object of an impersonal gaze; or whether it is intertextually regarded alongside other camera movements in Hitchcock’s corpus in which the forward-tracking camera that comes to a halt at the dead body is a signature gesture—one that moves relentlessly onward in the ambivalent movement of discovery of the horrible, a definitively horizontal unconcealment of the world in front of a subject, of the region of land scaled to the exploring body, and a discovery of affecting things in the world even if they are not assimilable to the world; or whether the forward-tracking camera of trauma is what encounters an unassimilable bit of the real, what is confronted by an ontology that is an affront to epistemology (or whether, relatedly, one follows Žižek in aligning the corpse in the idyllic countryside with the blot or stain—the “anomalous feature” that frames a void in the real, undoing the ordinariness of the ordinary [an argument that relies on his taxonomy of Hitchcockian tracking shots: zero degree tracking {in which the camera advances from reality to the anamorphotic blot, moving from long shot to close-up}; the hysterical tracking shot that approaches the brute object too quickly, excising space, leaping the time required for understanding {the three staccato cuts at Dan Fawcett’s farm in The Birds}; the reverse tracking shot that starts at the uncanny detail and pulls back {as in Frenzy in the retreat from the private scene of sexual violence to the indifference of the public street}; and the immobile tracking shot in which a heterogeneous object penetrates the otherwise benign frame, intruding on and introducing an uncanny detail—//and clearly already this taxonomy would be in trouble here, for the zero degree tracking of long shot to close-up stain is, at best, understated in this film, moving across the restricted range from a long shot to a slightly tighter framing and then through the movement of the cut to a medium shot, only to invert the point of view to complete the assemblage of discovery in the temporally and animatedly impossible hybrid form of child and corpse//])—whether any or each or all, this camera movement in The Trouble with Harry is above all significant because its specific form only happens once.

In this forward tracking of the camera, the movement is spatio-temporally bounded as what visual energy comes to an abrupt stop at the corpse. Harry’s bodily vitality as what is no longer ongoing in its relation to temporality is co-posited as an obstacle to forms of ongoing movement for both child’s body and the camera—they borrow, or share, or loan each other this gesture of stopping short. But unlike Žižek’s insistence that the uncanny detail (of which the corpse should be, and in the rest of Hitchcock is, the preeminent case) navigated by these different tracking shots opens up “the abyss of the search for meaning—nothing is what it seems to be, everything is to be interpreted, everything is supposed to possess some supplementary meaning,” what ought to be the end of innocence and innocent readings here opens up no abyss but only the small rectangular grave for depositing and recovering this troublesome corpse.26 Nothing is to be interpreted; no signification is masked; everything in the brilliant New England sunlight is precisely what it seems to be.

And were the remainder of Hitchcock’s film to be marked by as static a camera as it is said to be, this moment might be legible as the exceptional introduction of an uncanny stain whose uncanniness will be rescinded, rendering the tracking shot integral to the film’s irony.

Put another way: were the remainder of The Trouble with Harry to be marked by as static a camera as it is said to be, this forward tracking shot that regards the corpse as a trauma and disturbance would be drained of its affect—it would in fact become an aesthetic joke, a sign in movement of the mistaken disturbance imputed to the encounter with the dead. The forward tracking shot of the corpse-as-stain would thereby be taken as an overstatement, the film’s subsequent understatement reversing cathectic investments of significance, promising, delightfully, to show that here was no proper cause to stop one short, neither trauma nor lost innocence nor abyssal interpretation.

But for this complication: It is not the case that the remainder of The Trouble with Harry is marked by an immobile camera. The rest of Hitchcock’s film is not without movement.

For there is a second tracking shot in relation to the dead, one that is radically different from the first, and one that has been critically overlooked—and overlooked is the apt term, for it is difficult to see, and even easier to dismiss as the gesture of slight reframing that it also is. This second tracking shot is on the order of an aesthetic understatement.

The scene bracketed by this second form of movement takes a total of eight minutes of screen duration. Sam heads to the woods to sketch, encountering the body of the corpse as an interruption to his landscape. As he kneels over Harry’s corpse, drawing in early, tentative lines the outline of its form, the Captain emerges from behind a tree and walks towards the two figures. The horizontal schema of Harry’s corpse is given a secondary formal interpretation by its precise resting against the lower edge of the cinematic frame, a frame-rendered line to which the corpse-rendered line is strictly parallel. As the Captain approaches, the camera slowly, subtly, matches his approach with its own, moving in just to the point that Harry’s corpse has been set just beyond the edge of the frame, below it, underneath it, outside of it.

Clip from The Trouble with Harry

The second, critically ignored, tracking shot.

Set against the forward-moving, relentlessly horizontal trajectory of the epistemologically motivated moving camera in the first and critically-accounted-for tracking shot—what comes to a halt at the first encounter with the body of the dead, neither to continue nor retreat—is this second, mild vertical displacement of a subtle tracking and reframing that sets the corpse just to the edge of the image, withdrawing it under the reach of the border of the screen.

What vocabulary of movement (as displacement) or movement (as affectivity) would be adequate to account for this cinematic gesture? Is the image dragged away from the corpse? It may be it drifts. Does the film forget Harry or has the camera lost or misplaced its interest in the corpse? Does the image figure the dead as horizon, the furthest limit of the frame, or what is just past its limit? Or does the film move the body from its margin (as in border or brink) to its margin (as in gutter)—from margin as in a bare minimum below which something is impossible to its mark as having fallen off that edge? Is the corpse negated here as though a subtracted term in an equation? Perhaps in this film so marked by its absence of suspense, this form deprived of tension is thus given in the trace of laxity—so is this gesture one of looseness as of ligaments, slack give in relation to the border of the image in place of a taut line? Is this the image of transport, but one devoid of associations with transcendence, moving to the literal (returning to ground) the transportation of the dead as matter, dust returnable to the zone of dust? Is the body thereby buried, relegated under the image, set in the spatial grid of what is below the visible? Does Hitchcock’s film, which misses (or sidesteps) the gravity of death (as in: with due seriousness), instead here relegate the corpse to the language of gravity: a force that attracts a body toward the earth? Gravity, as in Fuller’s account of what structurally, essentially, formally—as downward acceleration itself—opposes verticality. Gravity, as in what solemnity requires ethical seriousness. Gravity, as in gravare, make heavy; cause grief, from gravis: all that which is weighty, what oppresses, what presses one down. The hardships of verticality selfsame as the very hardships of care.

Deploying a different vocabulary of movement, that of affectivity: is this the trace of the film having grown weary of Harry? In Blanchot’s The Infinite Conversation, he writes, “this is what weariness is, a state that is not possessive, that absorbs without putting into question.”27 Occupying the day, absorbing the community, this corpse is nevertheless not put into question, is not elevated to a serious ethical concern; the world is rather indifferent to this dead one, so is this slight movement the graphing in space and time of this infinite non-possession, given aesthetic form in the ease with which the image fails to devote itself to or concern itself with one dead? If the first tracking shot—that which arrives with a jolt at the corpse—preliminarily displays a form of pathos, does this second tracking shot displace all that with the form of the apathetic? This second camera movement, we might say, neutralizes the corpse, sidesteps it at the level of an entire philosophical analytics that would locate meaning in the dead (meaning, as Nancy gives it, “the element in which there can be significations, interpretations, representation”).28 The dead body in this second tracking shot is asemantic, failing to convey or invoke meaning or meaningfulness tout court.29

However, the corpse does intrude on the film. It puts pressure on, it is a trouble for, the form that must orient itself in relation to it. Instead of the corpse as an insistent it is/there it is—the ontological premise of Heidegger’s Dasein: if being is, it is there, it is in the visible world, and it is in relation, such that Dasein is always Mitsein—the corpse is relegated to the “it was” or “it will be” of what is excised and excisable from the living present of the frame and, accordingly, from the togetherness or withness of being with others. The different forward camera movements thus locate and lodge this corpse in what Deleuze calls in Cinema 2 the intimate relation of “the intolerable” and “the insignificant.” What better exemplifies the “everyday banality” in which something intolerable is rendered “everydayness itself” than the singularity of a dead human form set against boredom, unconcern, apathy, listless incuriosity? It is precisely the insignificance afforded to the corpse here that announces, grasps—as with accusing, frozen hands—the break with the ethical that names the intolerable.30

The first tracking shot of the dead body gives us the moving camera of trauma; the second involves the moving camera of literal humiliation. From humilis, lowly, what is brought to dirt and ground (as in humus, earth), the camera of the second, subtle tracking shot moves in order to lower Harry, to show the minimal condition of a displacement from the visible, dislocating the corpse, relegating it under the newly established frame—to humiliate the corpse in relation to the image. In being a movement of humiliation, it is also a movement of aesthetic humility, a movable form of understating the corpse in relation to the givenness of visible enunciation. While the first tracking logic is invested in the total set of bad affects (suspense, anxiety, paranoia, suspicion, sadism), the humiliating camera that merely lowers the body by raising the frame’s horizontal lower line takes as its target that affective cluster itself. What is humiliated in the second tracking shot is thus no positive present subject or being. What is humiliated is a purely formal figure: the corpse of the first tracking shot. What is lowered, just beyond the reach of the frame, is that compositional corpse of trauma and violence, the conversion of the corpse that moves (displaces, disturbs, affrights, throws one to grief, or sets to movements of fleeing: precisely what Arnie does upon encountering the corpse) into the corpse that henceforth will only be moved as an obstacle to form. The corpse, however, recall, has been previously defined as a horizontality that is the privation of verticality—the corpse given as schema. This means that what strictly occurs in the second tracking shot that sets the body to the edge of the frame is that a form (of horizontality), which has been formalized by the first tracking shot, is then subsequently formally humiliated (lowered, understated) by a second tracking shot. Cinematic form is formally humiliating a schematic, abstract form. Form is formally working over a form. And these are the implications: what is thereby lowered, set to the side, placed under the frame is a logic of the corpse as disturbing, in other words as ethically moving. For while the corpse as trauma is a blockage (that is: a problem of suspending movement in a navigable space), the corpse as humiliated is a problem of lowered diagrammatic position in a purely compositional space.

IV: One further problem. I say, this is a fragile one.

We’ll have to give up touching as much as seeing, and even saying. Interminable diminution.

—Derrida, “A Silkworm of One’s Own”

Now to trouble what I have written above.

In the second, subtle tracking shot, the corpse is not set just beyond the edge of the frame as a radical gesture of negation. This lowering, this movement of humiliation, this slight excision and withdrawal of the corpse is not a singular event of exclusion. Nor is this gesture a violent withdrawal that would posit a fixed and eternal antagonism of a world in which the dead are included and one in which they are excluded. Rather, the exclusion that the second tracking shot effects is provisional.

Five minutes after the first displacement of the visible form of Harry’s corpse, after a long discussion of earthly and earthy concerns (guilt, the juridical system, logistics, the Captain’s invitation to Ms. Gravely’s, her spinster virginity, vatic romantic negotiations), as Sam and the Captain prepare to return to their various romantic partners, Sam suggests they bury Harry, and over the Captain’s ready rejoinder “Forgetting a little detail like that could hang a man,” they rush back towards the corpse, the camera again mirroring their pace, retreating ever so slightly backwards to once more admit the portion of the world to the cinematic frame that would include the visible form of Harry’s body, elevated from having been lowered yet raised without sublation. This time, instead of a parallel schema, his body intrudes in a perfect perpendicular one, his legs pulled vertically into the frame only to be unceremoniously dropped once more as the absent-minded Dr. Greenbow wanders towards the site.

Clip from The Trouble with Harry

Perpendicular lines

The double camera movement upwards and in, which lowers the corpse below the line of the frame, and movement downwards and out, which returns it to the visible world, constitutes a zero-sum total displacement. Neither a gesture of radical exclusion nor of radical inclusion, in this display of subtle movement what the formal language of the film attests to is the anonymous, impersonal process—repeatable, iterable, potentially interminable—of setting the dead body just beyond the set of the living, a differentiation of those two sets without positing one as privileged.

The confusion that the excision poses—the conceptual trouble this movement produces—turns on the distinction between two ways in which the frame includes by excluding, excludes through inclusion. Film theorists nominate these two ways with different terms—but it is always a question of their difference and a presupposition of their necessary binarism. For Pascal Bonitzer, an extraordinarily rich theory of suture rests on a distinction between what is off-frame (a material issue of the excision of some concrete portion of space) and what is off-screen (a fictional, imaginary register).31 For Christian Metz, “The off-frame is taken into the evolutions and scansions of the temporal flow: it is off-frame, but not off-film” (as with Bonitzer, the stakes are high: this argument subtends an account of the difference between photography and film).32 For Noël Burch, the two different forms of space are the concrete versus the imaginary, and while the concrete may begin as unseen, through editing or movement it may eventually shift to on-screen space, while the imaginary realm of the off-screen remains either suggestive or radically excluded.33 Deleuze, for his part, poses this difference as “that which exists elsewhere, to one side or around” versus a second excision, “a more disturbing presence, one which cannot even be said to exist, but rather to insist or subsist, a more radical Elsewhere, outside homogenous space and time.”34 The first movement that would reconcile the off-screen to the on-screen has the affirmative function of “adding of space to space,” while the second, for Deleuze, introduces “the transpatial”; and the more the system of the visible image is closed, the greater the capacity to open up the temporal and even transcendental realm of a previous emptiness.35 (Deleuze, surely thinking of any film but this one, aligns this second logic of the off-screen with Hitchcock, in which the out-of-field ends up aligned with pure thought—in other words, the conjunction of bad affect and epistemic lack conventionally dubbed suspense.) Framing is limitation, and the frame can be geometrical or physical, Deleuze reminds us, “depending on whether it constitutes the closed system in relation to chosen coordinates or in relation to selected variables.” But Deleuze further insists that “the limits can be conceived in two ways, mathematically or dynamically: either as preliminary to the existence of the bodies whose essence they fix, or going as far as the power of existing bodies goes.”36 In The Trouble with Harry, the initial transport of the dead form to the reach of the frame casts it to the out-of-field, what in the time of its occurrence has no way of showing that it will ever return. The corpse that is not done being over, whose finitude resists finality, which is capable of comprising a dynamic as opposed to absolute limit, is the corpse as sign of ongoingness, not for meaning but for an impersonal cinematic interest in its visible, framed reappearance. What this means is that the reverse tracking shot exposes a corpse that is not the same as the first one that it excises: for what is out-of-frame, what is humiliated and excluded in the tracking that sets the body just to the edge of the visible does not display the same capacity for transgressing limitation as the corpse that is posited in the retreating movement.

The camera movement in relation to the corpse, in advance and retreat, is thus the cinematic enactment of the haptic aesthetic gesture given in Sam’s order to the drawn feet of the dead that interrupt his landscape: “Would you mind getting out of my picture?” This is a movement that, in its retreat—precisely because temporal succession is not a spatial supplanting—involves an erasure given form as the tracking of a new compositional gesture. The movements together show themselves as differentiation by marking out the minimal distinction between a world that formally is not neutral in relation to the pressure of the dead (is affectively moved by it) and one that is not formally, which is to say diagrammatically, troubled by the no-longer-ness of beings. What matters is that this renunciation happens more than once: instead of a single exclusion, whereby it would suggest totality or absolute repudiation, this slight re-framing and re-reframing suggests an excision that is never complete, a pressure to which movement responds, that never completely locates the dead beyond the world of the living, on the condition that the dead be navigated and navigable solely on the level of form—in the realm of the picture as such.

Early in the film, at his mother’s order to “Forget you ever saw this man,” Arnie replies, “Is there a special way to forget?” Jennifer’s response: “Just think of something else.” The tracking movement that takes its shape from the understating of the corpse—both its excision and slightest re-insistence—offers the minimal positive possible difference of a visible thinking of something else; it is a formal attestation of this logic of forgetting through substitution. But the formal language simultaneously and impersonally stages the failure of this law, its inadequacy for an absolute forgetting—for the film’s movement towards something else is interrupted or intruded by the insistent reverse movement that imposes the corpse once more as a visible thing for form to think about. Unlike the whole of philosophy, Hitchcock’s film does not put death to work for meaning. In its place, it withdraws yet retains the dead as an aesthetic trouble that continually insinuates itself as a mobile, unstable, always potentially actual problem of form that can always potentially move into some other formal arrangement. This dead body is not done being over with: its over-with ontology is an insistent not-over-with temporality of an infinitely renewable compositional presence, a pressure placed on efforts to be done with the trouble with Harry—to be done with the dead as bother, as imposition, as demanding a reckoning, a debt, a response even if a purely affectless one, and trouble as the disturbance, the whirling busy movements that the dead one compels in this particular text: setting characters to digging and unearthing, walking to the right, returning to the left, crossing land, wearing out their bodies.

“Corpse,” as is well known, etymologically evolved from the sense of both a “dead body” and a “live body”—and later a plural body, a body of citizens, knights, soldiers. The cinematic corpse, for this reason, has resoundingly been cast in relation to the vitalizing possibilities of cinematic movement, from Bazin’s ontology of cinema promising an eternal life for mummified change, to the ecstatic potential of a mobile subjective point of view of the corpse in Dreyer’s Vampyr, to Lesley Stern’s claim in Dead and Alive that “When life leaves the body, time—or a particular quality of time—enters into the body, and into the film. The body, then, becomes an index of cinematic temporality,” one she posits as a uniquely cinematic thing that is both dead and alive.37 But all these revitalizations of the corpse function to obliterate the very non-vitalized object that is the grounds for the seriousness of the ethical debt to the dead: that in death there is no more being, that no more will go on, that even the tiniest moreness of life is no longer possible. What is meant to move a philosophical claim about a debt to the dead is thereby critically withdrawn in favor of a theory that once more is on the side of life.

What is the register, then, of a formal grappling with the insistence of the dead that would not return them to animation? One answer is found in the double sense of the final textual announcement of the film—The Trouble with Harry is Over—that brute metatextual declaration imprinted over the unburied body from the earth-level camera at the cadaver’s two pronounced stockinged feet. If, on the one hand, Hitchcock’s film promises that trouble is over as in in the past, finished, that the narrative and formal drive towards closure is recovered from the trouble the dead have imposed, it also suggests a topographical reading: that the trouble with Harry is over, meaning above, meaning upon and across—on high. And indeed, to read this text across the screen is to unavoidably encounter its form as visual ground for the typographic marks: that the dead body is not buried, remains above, upon, across the earth. What is over is what resists all efforts to understate the totality of this thing-that-is-not-a-thing, what-was-and-is-no-longer-being. The trouble the dead has imposed formally is always, in fact, over: working above, upon and across the surface of the image itself. In this way, Hitchcock’s film is not about death as an event that could be over, marked by its relation to completion—it is about the passivity of a completion that is never over, and yet it formally negotiates this without transporting that passivity in relation to the passion of dying that is existential phenomenology’s Jemeinigkeit, the mine-every-time. Harry is dead and simultaneously continually dying without ever being (temporally, teleologically) over while always being (spatially, formally) over, that is working upon and across the surface of the film.

Cinema does not reduce to philosophy. Nor is cinema the dead-end of philosophical thinking. Hitchcock’s film does not stage an allegory of the ethical that would be subordinated to paraphrased or paraphrasable themes; rather, our interest need remain with the formal turbulence, let us say the troubled relation between cinematic form and ethical orientation, one that hinges on the paradoxical figure of an understatement that demands it be (over)read. The aesthetic language of Hitchcock’s film understates the appearance of death, following the term’s strictest definition by the OED: “to state below what is correct or warrantable”—to state below what is sufficient, to elect to render something unemphasized, modest; what is designed precisely not to attract undue attention. The film itself poses the question of what formal language would be adequate to showing humility, restraint, what formal language would formalize that which is designed not to attract undue attention? What formal possibilities might notate euphemistic speech, that which says more by saying less, disclosing a supplement by making a disclosure self-lacking? In his catalogue of diminishments, “A Silkworm of One’s Own,” Derrida considers the problem of “how to undo or rather diminish, diminish ad infinitum.” The “interminable diminution” he proposes—a form of fatigue, extenuation, a problem of waning affectivity—is above all a question of ongoingness, what is never done being over.38 Set against this deconstructive demand for an infinite diminution, diminishment without end—understatement as processual—Hitchcock’s film directly addresses how a text can humiliate what is already on the ground, how to interminably diminish what is, from the very start, over-with. This is the register that anthropocentric thinking of movement cannot accommodate: that which would deny or affirm an ethical relation to the dead, that regards the dead as catastrophe or event.

Instead, the language of form bears out an alternative: neither a human (subjective) point of view, nor an inhuman one (what negates the human, but orients itself in relation to that negation as the mechanical eye). This schematic drifting that excludes only to show its resumption in regard to the dead is impersonal, neutral, diagrammatic—but it is not without movement. Returning to the possibility of an affective being-moved that does not require subjects who avow that they are moved or have been moved, the formal negotiations of the borders of the frame open up a zone to negate indifference by taking the measure of the coordinates of the body of the dead. Schema will henceforth bear the burdens consigned to ethics. Film form is multiply, unceasingly moved by the upheaval of finitude, even if no being encountering it could ever be said to notice.


  1. “It is not a particularly witty or clever script that John Michael Hayes has put together from a novel by Jack Trevor Story, nor does Mr. Hitchcock’s direction make it spin. The pace is leisurely, almost sluggish, and the humor frequently is strained.” Bosley Crowther, “Screen: ‘The Trouble with Harry’; Whimsical Film from Hitchcock at Paris,” The New York Times, Tuesday, October 18, 1955: 46. [^]
  2. François Truffaut, Hitchcock (New York: Touchstone, 1984) 227. Truffaut says to Hitchcock, “The whole humor of the picture hinges on a single device: an attitude of disconcerting nonchalance. The characters discuss the corpse as casually as if they were talking about a pack of cigarettes,” to which Hithcock replies, “That’s the idea. Nothing amuses me so much as understatement.” [^]
  3. Aristotle, De Poetica (Poetics), trans. Ingram Bywater, in The Basic Works of Aristotle, 1455–1487, ed. Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), 1465 [ch. 11]. [^]
  4. Lesley Brill, “‘Love’s Not Time’s Fool’: The Trouble with Harry (1955),” in Hitchcock’s Rereleased Films, From Rope to Vertigo, ed. Walter Raubicheck and Walter Srebnick (Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 1991) 276. Thomas M. Leitch, Find the Director And Other Hitchcock Games (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1991) 179. [^]
  5. Leitch, Find the Director 179. [^]
  6. “Thus the very existence of death alienates us wholly in our own life to the advantage of the Other. To be dead is to be a prey for the living. This means therefore that the one who tries to grasp the meaning of his future death must discover himself as the future prey of others.” Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, trans. Hazel Barnes (New York: Washington Square Press, 1956) 695. [^]
  7. Sophocles, Antigone, trans. Paul Woodruff (Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2001), 46 (“belongs down there”). Line 26 contains the first reference to “miserable corpse,” though the figure of the miserable reappears constantly throughout the play. For references to rot, decay, &c., see lines 410–12, 906. [^]
  8. Bonnie Honig, Antigone, Interrupted (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 113. [^]
  9. Honig, Antigone, Interrupted 113. [^]
  10. Maurice Blanchot, “The Negative Community,” The Unavowable Community, trans. Pierre Joris (Barrytown, NY: Station Hill Press, 1988) 9. [^]
  11. Jacques Derrida, “The Taste of Tears,” trans. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, in The Work of Mourning, ed. Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, 105–10 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001) 107. [^]
  12. Vivian Sobchack, “Toward inhabited space: The semiotic structure of camera movement in the cinema,” Semiotica 41–1/4 (1982): 317–335. [^]
  13. Olivia Barr, A Jurisprudence of Movement: Common Law, Walking, Unsettling Place (New York: Routledge, 2016) 150–51. [^]
  14. Joe McElhaney, “Hitchcock, Metteur-en-scène,” in A Companion to Alfred Hitchcock, ed. Thomas Leitch and Leland Poague (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011) 336. [^]
  15. Vivian Sobchack, The Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992) 253. [^]
  16. David Bordwell, “Camera Movement and Cinematic Space,” Ciné-Tracts 2 (Summer 1977): 19–25, 20; Jean Mitry, The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997) 189; Nicolás Salazar Sutil, Motion and Representation: The Language of Human Movement (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015) 201. [^]
  17. There are differences, tensions, and subtleties within these approaches, of course, as well as a growing reconsideration in film studies of the relationship between spectator and camera. Much of Daniel Morgan’s The Lure of the Image: Epistemic Fantasies of the Moving Camera (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2021), for example, is consumed with challenging and “undoing the core assumption of identification between camera and spectator” that has been so foundational for theorizations of cinematic movement. See, in particular, the first chapter, “Talking about the Moving Camera,” 1–24. [^]
  18. Slavoj Žižek, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992) 26. [^]
  19. Buckminster Fuller, “Vertical Is to Live—Horizontal Is to Die,” The American Scholar 39.1 (Winter 1969–70): 24–47, 27. [^]
  20. Samuel Beckett, Footfalls, in Samuel Beckett: The Complete Dramatic Works (London: Faber and Faber, 2006) 399. [^]
  21. Adriana Cavarero, Inclinations: A Critique of Rectitude, trans. Amanda Minervini and Adam Sitze (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016) 81. [^]
  22. Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power, trans. Carol Stewart (New York: Viking, 1962) 227. [^]
  23. Cavarero, Inclinations 82. [^]
  24. “Auxesis,” in The Princeton Enclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012) 110. [^]
  25. Donald Barthelme, The Dead Father (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975) 3. [^]
  26. Žižek, Looking Awry 91. [^]
  27. Maurice Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation, trans. Susan Hanson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993) xx. [^]
  28. Jean-Luc Nancy, “The Forgetting of Philosophy,” in The Gravity of Thought, trans. François Raffoul and Gregory Recco (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1997), 59. [^]
  29. This is a very different sense than the ethical problematic that Serge Daney locates in his critique of “the tracking shot in Kapo,” but is perhaps productively put in dialogue with it—if only to glimpse how film-philosophical treatments of ethics are also deeply invested in anthropocentric models (ones to which radical formalism are indifferent). The interested should begin with Daney’s article from 1992, first published in Trafic 4, P.O. L. Editions and re-published in Senses of Cinema 30 in February 2004, and then turn to Morgan’s unpacking of the theoretical stakes of both the piece and its subsequent use in film and visual studies; see, in particular, The Lure of the Image, 31–41. [^]
  30. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989) 41. [^]
  31. See Pascal Bonitzer, “Hors-champ (un espace en défaut,” Cahiers du cinéma 234–235 (1971–72): 15–26. See also Eyal Peretz, The Off-Screen: An Investigation of the Cinematic Frame (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2017). [^]
  32. Christian Metz, “Photography and Fetish,” October 34 (1985): 81–90, 86. [^]
  33. Noël Burch, “Nana, or the Two Kinds of Space,” in Theory of Film Practice (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981) 17–31. [^]
  34. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986) 17. [^]
  35. Deleuze, Cinema 1 17. [^]
  36. Deleuze, Cinema 1 13. [^]
  37. Lesley Stern, Dead and Alive: The Body as Cinematic Thing (Montreal, Canada: Caboose, 2012) 4. Stern’s meditation on the corpse views it primarily as a disturbance to cinematic time. Unlike the corpse as idea in Rope (“we witness the murder in close-up at the beginning of the film, but at this point there is no suspense or affect, no history to the body. But while it is absent as a thing for the rest of the film, it is absolutely present as the idea of a thing” [7]), Harry’s cinematic corpse introduces Stern’s book—pops up, as it were, right at the beginning—only to be as briskly set aside as if by a character in the film itself. Stern opens her text with the rejoinder that “although corporeal concreteness of the dead body is usually a prerequisite for thingness, phenomenal presence alone does not guarantee the allure of a thing. […] Harry […] is physically present; in narrative terms he possess considerable agency, but what we might call his cinematic thingness is minimal” (3). In taking the corpse as a problem of time instead of as a problem of movement, thingness comes to name a disturbance in the relation of the before to the after, spectrally informed by the question of what constitutes aliveness. Her ultimate point is that in the cinema, corpses that persist are figured as both dead and alive, beings and objects, uniquely cinematic things. [^]
  38. Jacques Derrida, “A Silkworm of One’s Own (Points of view stitched on the other veil),” in Veils by Hélène Cixous and Jacques Derrida, trans. Geoffrey Bennington (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001): 17–92, 24. [^]