POSTPONED - Cinema as Time Machine: Animation and Devitalization Through Time-Lapse and Slow Motion

When and Where

Thursday, November 02, 2023 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Deluxe Screening Room, IN-222E
Innis College
2 Sussex Avenue, Toronto, ON M5S 1J5


Marie Rebecchi, Aix-Marseille Université



The talk focuses on the “animistic” power of certain living forms, in particular plants, which are apparently inert (or rather, inert to the naked eye) but can be animated by different cinematic techniques. I will analyze certain filmic forms such as time-lapse and close-up as used by the British naturalist and documentary filmmaker Frank P. Smith to depict the growth of plants, especially in films from the 1910s and 1920s. I will also examine these filmic forms in the work of the French doctor and pioneer of micro-cinematography Jean Comandon, as well as Jean Painlevé’s scientific films (such as Hyas an Stenorhynchus, 1929 and Sea urchins, 1928). As Jean Epstein states in his theoretical writings on cinema, if the time-lapse technique helps us to see the “invisible” aspect of many phenomena of growth and development of the living, the slow-motion allows us to observe, through slowed down images, some of the devitalization phenomena of living forms (humans, animals and plants). Through this analysis, I will try to explore the manipulation of the spatio-temporal coordinates through which we perceive the internal movement––or rather the “soul”––of the various manifestations of the living.

Marie Rebecchi is Associate Professor in Aesthetics and History of Cinema at the Aix-Marseille Université and member of LESA. She was postdoctoral researcher at EHESS (Paris) and she taught at Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3. Her publications include: Sergei Eisenstein. The Anthropology of Rhythm (Nomas, 2017 with E. Vogman), Paris 1929. Eisenstein, Bataille, Buñuel (Mimésis, 2018), Puissance du végétal. La vie révélée par la technique (Les presses du réel, 2020, with Teresa Castro and Perig Pitrou). With Antonio Somaini and Éline Grignard she organized the exhibition Time Machine. Cinematic Temporalities (Parma, 2020) and co-directed the publication (Skira, 2020). In 2021, she organized the event Le vivant révélé pas la technique at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (Festival “Hors Pistes”). She has been visiting fellow at the University of Lausanne (2020-21) and she will be visiting fellow at Yale University (fall 2023). She is working on the project The Kaleidoscopic Image. An Alternative Archaeology of Optical Modernity.


Cinema Studies Institute


2 Sussex Avenue, Toronto, ON M5S 1J5