According to Zach Blas, in today’s ‘Global Face Culture’ the face is constantly being mediated and is continually giving away affective agency: 'the face [is] a mode of governance, a quantitative code, template, and standardized form of measure and management'. But the face-as-seen-on-screen has always been this type of image-entity. In Cinema I, Deleuze claims the screen face as an affection-image: close-up, it is the medial thing affecting the viewer. Deleuze describes in detail a scene from Josef von Sternberg’s 1934 film The Scarlet Empress, where the icon face of Marlene Dietrich dissolves in to media: '[...] the face of the young woman is caught between the white of the voile curtain and the white of the pillow […] until we see the astonishing image, which seems to have come from video, where the face is now only a geometric incrustation of the voile'.
This image and Deleuze’s framing register a posthuman Dietrich: not a media celebrity, but a medial entity. In the recent science fiction films of Scarlett Johansson, Johansson’s face is both a medial entity and the audience’s interface: present or implied it is what mediates between the digital, science fiction-otherness and a familiar, premediated expectedness. Like Marlene Dietrich this face is already icon: the most desirable of all faces, quantised, requested, abstracted—an image-entity. The Johansson films knowingly narrativise abstraction—the making of Scarlett Johansson the image. They are not about but rather are showing us the creation of an alien, non-human, commodity from the bones of the perfect human-image: a process of weaponization, othering, estrangement. This is also-always digital image making; Johansson’s face as digital material. As Casey Alt has argued, in object-oriented animation environments a Deleuzean representation of affective space is very much in play. In the interfacing of voile and video-work meaning is affect—there is no effective outside of the image. Likewise in object-oriented programming 'all the changes occur within the separately encapsulated objects'. The morphing cyborgian aesthetics of Scarlett Johansson’s recent screen-face—peeling, dissolving, transforming, replicating, simulating—are an affective close-up, a complex image-entity.