Chris Marker’s ‘Sans Soleil’ presents to us Marker’s travel log exploring various countries and cultures through documentary style footage. Marker’s ‘Sans Soleil’ is a film presented from a distance. The use of a omnipresent narrator whom recites to us Markers thoughts and notes during his travels, positions us at a voyeuristic point where we feel like we are watching these cultures secretively. Theres a distance between what the filmmaker see’s and what the viewer sees. As if we are not allowed to see these parts of the world, were beliefs and behaviours is the total opposite of western cultures. Chris Marker jumps through footage from his travel between Iceland, Japan, Guinea-Bissau and San-Francisco. In addition, he includes mesmerising edits that really make you look into yourself through the image. The film contains no synched sound.
At first I found the film quite disjointed. I was confused at what I was watching and what I was hearing. I began listening to the narrator, a woman reading letters supposedly written by a “Sandor Krasna”, whom we are told is the traveller whose footage we are watching. With a bit of research, I found that Krasna is one of many Marker pseudonyms. This concept, raises some conflicting ideas about the nature of memory. The images have been created by a fictional character, their meaning attributed through letters read by someone else entirely at a later date. Therefore, the memories and moments we are witnessing are undoubtedly flawed ‘in that history is being created after the fact and changed for one’s own means’.
‘Sans Soleil’ is a film about the accuracy of memory in a personal and cultural sense.He opens the film with a quote from T.S Eliot’s ‘Ash Wednesday’: “Because I know that time is always time/ And place is always and only place / And what is actual only for one time / And only for one place”. The opening creates a very strong ideology that moments take place in a singular spatial and temporal “zone”, never to be repeated. This idea is explored in the novel ‘On Photography’ by Susan Sontag. She explains that photography gives the photographer power to hold reality, or in this case hold the memory through moving image. Marker presents these memories as history, unreliable history.
I particularly enjoyed the natural cinematography of the film. The cameraman was well experienced, whether that be Marker/ Krasna, I found the footage to be very well shot and framed. At times I found myself quite deep into the film and the cultures being presented, I found it all quite interesting especially the monologues/ narration during his visits to Japan, a very strange country. All in all Chris Marker’s film opened my eye to the power of culture and memory, I wish one day to travel the world and make my own interpretation of ‘Sans Soleil’.