This essay explores director Honda Ishiro’s 1954 monster flick Godzilla as a cultural artefact at the epicentre of Japanese cinema in the wake of the atom bomb. In respect to Deleuze’s taxonomy of film in the Cinema books, Godzilla becomes an example of what Deleuze calls an action-image imprint, the monster an object capturing up the emotions of Japanese post-war society. Godzilla is constructed through what Deleuze calls the five laws of the action-image (diagrammatized), laws which not only constitute the narration but also situate the story within a socio-historic environment aligned with Friedrich Nietzsche’s analysis of universal history. Such an exploration of the film not only gathers up previous readings, but extends and turns them in new directions. Godzilla, it is often claimed, simply substitutes the rampaging monster for destructive atom bomb. ‘An imprint of Godzilla’ comes to a very different conclusion.
Aspects of this essay are revisited and reworked in Deleuze, Japanese Cinema, and the Atom Bomb: The Spectre of Impossibility (Bloomsbury, 2014), where the reading extends to the fourteen sequels of the Showa series (1954-1975).