Doing Time

Temporality, Hermeneutics, and Contemporary Cinema

By Lee Carruthers

Subjects: Film Studies, Hermeneutics, Philosophy, Phenomenology
Series: SUNY series, Horizons of Cinema
Paperback : 9781438460864, 186 pages, January 2017
Hardcover : 9781438460857, 186 pages, June 2016

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


1. Timeliness and Contemporary Cinema

2. Biding Our Time: Rethinking the Familiar in Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey

3. Back and Forth: Reading Reverse Chronology in François Ozon’s 5x2

4. Enduring Time: Temporal Duration in Tsai Ming-liang’s What Time Is It There?

5. Deep Time: Methods of Montage in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life


Proposes that cinematic time is not a fixed idea, but a dynamic exchange between film and viewer.


Doing Time addresses two areas of interest in recent film study—film temporality and film philosophy—to propose an innovative theorization of cinematic time that sees it as a dynamic process of engagement, or something we do as viewers. This active relation to cinematic time, which discloses a film's temporal character, is called its "timeliness. " Here it is traced across a range of fascinating case studies from Hollywood and the global art cinema, uncovering each film's characteristic way of "doing time. " Throughout, the ambiguities of filmic time are held as powerful attractions as they modulate film viewing: such pauses, gaps, repetitions, and stretches of time illuminate a living field that extends from viewing activity.

Drawing on the writings of French film critic and theorist André Bazin, as well as the phenomenology of Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Lee Carruthers forwards a claim about the value of cinematic time for thinking. She also raises the tasks of film analysis and interpretation to renewed visibility. By prioritizing the viewer's experience of filmic temporality, and offering a rich vocabulary for describing this exchange, Carruthers articulates a new sphere of theoretical inquiry that invites film viewers (and readers) to participate.

Lee Carruthers is Assistant Professor of Film Studies at the University of Calgary.


"Accessibly written while maintaining an erudite tone, [Doing Time] is not only readable, but thoroughly enjoyable. This is because Carruthers does an excellent job of explaining and reconfiguring some of the most impenetrable terms in both phenomenology and continental philosophy … The book is well organised, thoughtful, and above all, rewarding, as it gives the reader an entirely new means of not just viewing films, but of experiencing them. " — Film-Philosophy

". ..Carruthers provides a clear and accessible discussion that will be relevant to a range of readers: philosophers of time who are interested in a novel account of temporality and temporal experience as it is represented in film; philosophers of film looking for a fresh approach to the topic, in this case a comprehensive exploration of a hermeneutic approach to how we understand filmic texts; and those engaged in Film Studies and film theory who enjoy a fillip of philosophy in their reading. " — Phenomenological Reviews

"Lee Carruthers makes an original and powerful argument about the importance of 'timeliness,' providing a much-needed alternative approach to that of Deleuze to thinking seriously about the temporality of cinema. Her chapters, including one on The Tree of Life, are masterful criticism. " — William Rothman, author of Must We Kill the Thing We Love? Emersonian Perfectionism and the Films of Alfred Hitchcock