I was powerfully impressed by TENET as philosophical figuration and wrote a first review soon after seeing it, on the basis of the Deleuze/Zizek parallax that I have been developing on this blog. Kent Palmer responded to my review, trying to spell out the details of the film in a more extended set of terms.
We do not agree on some of the details, but our two reviews can be seen as complementary, constituting a Blake/Palmer parallax around the film TENET taken as an anamorphic object of thought. Kent Palmer’s style of thought is more architectonic, whereas mine is more heuristic.
To restate our points of agreement (1-4), before going further (5- ):
1) TENET lends itself to philosophical interpretation as it dramatises, gives figural form to, an ongoing contemporary meta-paradigmatic change in the images of time, thought and logic, and a meta-ontological change in the images of Being.
2) The Zizek/Deleuze parallax is a fruitful heuristic device for the investigation of the figurative, philosophical and cultural documents that participate in that meta-paradigmatic change, seen as meta-noetic (a change in the way of thinking) and meta-ontological (a change in the vision of Being).
3) An important part of this meta-noetic and meta-ontological change is logical, requiring the apprenticeship of non-standard modes of thought, widening of our thought-images to include modal, temporal, intuitionist, and para-consistent logics as « ordinary » procedures of thinking and living.
4) Both styles (architectonic and heuristic) are necessary, constituting a useful meta-parallax for exploring the widest (and wildest) field of thought and also for opening and following multiple passages between different conceptual domains.
5) TENET is a story of individuation in the Nietzschean-Jungian sense of becoming who one is. The main character (whom we may call « Prot ») is nameless (and clueless) until he gains enough knowledge and experience to name himself the « Protagonist ».
6) Given the ignorance, subterfuge, and uncertainty that preside over all stages of the plot this self-identification as the Protagonist can only be a hypothesis. Prot learns to live in a world in which identity is unstable, conjectural.
7) The non-standard logic of time figured in the film is well described by the topological logic of non-orientable surfaces that Zizek that Zizek expounds in SEX AND THE FAILED ABSOLUTE. Kent and I disagree one some of the details, but we agree that the equivalents of the Moebius Strip, the cross-cap, and the Klein Bottle can be found in TENET, thus obliging Prot, the proto-Protagonist to think time differently.
Note: Kent Palmer has a different set of equivalences for the unorientable surfaces.
8) The equivalent of this temporal and topological logic in terms of formal logic is in Deleuze’s immanent use of the three syntheses. For me, the immanent connective synthesis is expressed by the moebius strip of the forward and backward timelines of the objects and characters.
9) The disjunctive synthesis is the set of doubles and alternatives such that we never know for certain who is who in relation to the unorientable timelines (Max/Neil, Ives/Sir Michael Cosby, Prot/Protagonist), we have only conjectures.
10) The conjunctive synthesis is effectuated by Prot when he realises he is the Protagonist, he is behind the recruitment, training, and briefing (always incomplete) of all the other characters, and also of their « retirement » when necessary. Neil realising that he must go back in time to his death to open the gate is also a case of the conjunctive synthesis, but it is based on a transcendent use of the disjunctive synthesis, as he thinks this is his « fate ».
Note: Kent Palmer has a different set of equivalences for the three syntheses.
11) For me the film recounts Prot’s initiation into and apprenticeship of Wild Being in Deleuze’s sense of (extra-)Being:
concepts are the things themselves, but things in a free and wild state, outside all the « anthropological predicates » (DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION xx-xxi, translation modified by me).
Wild Being is an expanded de-anthropologized version of Being, a form of meta-Being.
12) This is where my interpretation differs most from Kent’s. I see no need for Hyper-Being except as a term for the contracted state of Wild Being embodied in singularities such as the turnstiles (where the hyper-twist occurs). Nor do I see any need for the other types of Being that he posits.
In this piece I have concentrated on the points of agreement between our two reviews, while indicating the points of disagreement as well. I prefer to see these two points of view as not giving rise to polemic and debate focused on deciding who is right but as occasions for « free and wild » exchange, in an ongoing « divergent dialogue ».
Anyone interested in Continental Philosophy who has not yet dived into the rich and varied set of writings assembled on Kent Palmer’s academia.edu page have been missing out on a unique experience of conceptual expansion.