The debate on “apparatus” and “ideology”

Term Paper, 2005

17 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1. Introduction page

2. Representative of the apparatus debate page and their point of view

3. Technical point of view page

4. Suture Theory page

5. Ideology page

6. Conclusion page

1. Introduction

The medial reproduction is not simply a repetition of reality, but a certain form of interpretation, which depends on, among other things on technical reproduction facilities. In particular the technique of photography and film organize pictures and sounds in a way, which precede the artistic access to the material

If certain basic techniques of the apparatus already preform the perception, is this technology the condition of their possibilities? In other words: Does the technique of production determine the artistic statement, and therefore should technique be inquired for its possible contents?

Especially the film theory during the early seventies they try to make an attempt to broach the issue of the “ideology” of technology above all medial contents and its artistic organization: This beginning is called the apparatus debate. More exactly, the object of investigation was no longer only the film as a formal or aesthetic thing, more important was the total apparatus of cinema, in which the spectator takes a substantial role and carries in his experiences as a subject.

Thus at the beginning of the seventies a debate took place in different French film magazines. This was a major thing, and runs under the keyword „Ideology and Apparatus “. The actual impact was an interview of the Frenchman Marcelin Pleynet, which he had given in 1969 in the magazine Cinéthique. He wasn’t concerned any longer about its contents or aesthetic, no it was about the question which the cinema shows off if technology produces ideology. For this reason Pleynet opened a discussion which we couldn’t even find under the “lefts” in France. They missed the reference to the spectator object, as well as a discussion with the ideological contents, which couldn’t carry out a purely semioticall orientated theory. Pleynet was one of the first theoreticians who participated in the debate. More general representatives of the debate were: Jean Louis Baudry, J.P. Lebel and Jean Louis Comolli which we like to present in the following contribution.

2. Representative of the apparatus debate and their point of view

Lets start with Marcelin Pleynet; we set up the following thesis: “Cinema is determined by the apparatus of the cinema”, or “The apparatus is a complete ideological machinery” What reasons do they give for that thesis? Pleynet calls cinema an “ideological apparatus, which spreads civil ideology”. (H.Winkler pg.20) For him, technology is now no longer object-free, but is subject even to an ideology, which is independent of its contents. He said; „Before a film is produced, the technical construction of the camera produces civil ideology “. (H.Winkler pg.20) Therefore the camera possesses „human abilities“, which change virtual reality. The spectator isn’t shown the reality, but imposed a perspective. He becomes a „pre-created “spectator, who has no choice, what to see and what to think.

Further his opinion was that the technology of the camera has a certain historical situation and certain locatable interests. You can understand it in the following- in each epoch the status of art was different than today and so the product which was converted with the technology. You will recognize this by the quality of the camera (colour sharpness, attitudes.), which determines the final product seen by the spectator. This can be explained by looking at the beginning of film history where there were only black-and-white and mute films. They could represent reality only in the beginnings since technical means were still in their baby shoes compared to today’s modern technique, with colour, sound, sharpness, and camera focusing as well as digital techniques, Reality can now be reflected truthfully.

Interesting for Pleynet is also the pursued question about the space constituent mechanisms of film. The camera produces a perspective code which shows a cut of reality representing the whole of the cinematic area. In this way mistakes or unnecessary information, for example failed scenes are omitted in order to straighten the film. (H.Winkler: “Der filmische Raum und der Zuschauer”, pg.19-22)

Already one year later in 1970 Tel Quel member Jean Louise Baudry took the considerations of Pleynet, and specified the approach of technical equipment as an ideology-donating instrument. The apparatus of cinematography, named by Baudry the cinema equipment film, now considered as a direct advancement of an apparently scientific method.

It started with the construction of a monocular central perspective in the 14th century. For Baudry, the spectator plays a crucial role, because he is placed into a certain position. The audience is ought to forget the technique and to identify with the situation. At the same time he supplemented Pleynets purely technical machinery with the question of the spectator subject. He drew a parallel between the psychological and the cinematographical apparatus. The ideology of the cinema conceals itself to the spectator as „the unconscious “, which always shows up when the apparatus works incorrectly. The language of unconscious, which shows up in dreams, in slips of the tongue or in jokes seem to reflect technical collapse in the cinema. Among others blunders can be for example film tears, out of focus, wrong connections and other disturbances in the film. Due to this disturbances the spectator is pulled out from the reality, created by the film and becomes again conscious of the material basis (technology).

Moreover Baudry deals with the term of the psychoanalytical subject. He drew a parallel to the mirror situation, which was sketched by Lacan. He observed babies at the age of 6 and 18 months old seeing their picture in the mirror with a clear rejoicing. The child doesn’t recognize the mirror image as himself, but develops a new reality and thus a new „play partner“.

For Baudry the mirror is the canvas, which reflects the entire outside reality in which the cinema spectator recognizes themselves. He stated: „Reality mimed by the cinema “… „first of all a self “(H.Winkler pg.26). The gap between spectator and canvas is bridged by two kinds of identification, which are running simultaneously. One is the identification with the protagonist and the other one the identification with the view of the camera. It is made clear that the subject which faces the potential overwhelming object world corresponds to a psychological need which is represented by a central perspective picture construction. The identification, which the spectator develops his relationship what is happening on the canvas, is not psychologically or generally human, but by cinema/ film self constituted mechanism.

Baudry was the first to connect the Marxist term of ideology and psychoanalytical term of the displacement. Marxism and psychoanalysis were connected to follow the desire of an investigation of ideology. (H.Winkler: “Der filmische Raum und der Zuschauer”, pg.22.28)


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The debate on “apparatus” and “ideology”
University of Sheffield
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Tina Feuerstacke (Author)Regine Seibt (Author), 2005, The debate on “apparatus” and “ideology”, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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