‘‘Sans Soleil’’: a Journey Without Limits

Twenty years after « La Jetée », Chris Marker continued to give the main role to the spectator.

How not to think of those old fashioned postcards pined on the fridge while watching Sans Soleil. “il m’écrivait / me disait »… Not only the action but the people in it s well are not only framed by Ariel Dombasle’s voiceover but also the camera lens and our screen itself. The idea of filming the real underlines the meaningful and well-known Shakespearian verses: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players;”. Consequently, every projection, every displaying of the work provides a stage and for this perfect play.

Are we going toward a beginning or an end?

Chris Marker is known for dealing with Time. His 1962’s work “La Jetée” which marked the climax of his career, stand as a undenialble proof. Sans Soleil is also an artefact that breaks the notion of time and space as we understand it. Going back and forth between Africa’s animist culture and Japan’s new technologies, Marker underlines not only the cultural frontier between the two but also the idea of a time flowing very differently on the same planet. If we pay attention to the commentary, it also raises the question of past and future. The two societies presented here can also be understood as one. Where the “natural” but also “post-apocalyptic” landscapes of Africa are either following and/or preceding the futuristic and electronic culture of Asia. Hence, them movie can be read as a fragmented memory of the world. Therefore, are we going toward a beginning or an end? Those two interpretations are left opened by director.

But who is watching and who is being watched?

The movie also alludes the question of the gaze. By questioning this interrogation, the sequence in which Hitchcock’s film Vertigo appears clearly put the gaze and the human eye on the spotlight. Echoeing at the same time the Kino-Eye of Dziga Vertov. Talking of gazes, the movie is in fact full of them: on TV, on ads but also the ones of other cameras. When we think about it, his pattern even goes further, including the one of the Cat and the Owl. Both of them are overrepresented in the work. Even though there is not clear evidence explaining the recurrence of their apparition, hypothesis can be formulated.The cat and the owl are both nocturnal creatures and “working” in the shadow. Their presences are only noticeable once they are in the action. The same goes for Marker and his work: “capturing” moments of everyday life without being noticed by his “preys”. Cats and owls also have this kind of mysterious and elusive aura that Marker seems to have kept in the media. Last but not least, the gaze of the two creatures is round and black fitting perfectly the lens of the camera.

The owl, the cat, Marker, the people recorded,… none of them are eternal. Neither the high building of Tokyo nor the desert of Africa will be forever standing. Hence, maybe Marker though that recording everything from his trips was a way to leave an evidence of our lives and while providing, a trustworthy testimony of the many things that rules and ruled our existence. Through the digitalisation of his film by the machine, Marker provides an ethnographic material under the form of immaterial images. For the generations to come but also those who come after?

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