Saturday essay The best film in the world is about the impossibility of remembering

Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil talks about the impossibility of remembering.

“Maiden remoteness somehow takes place in a time of their excessive proximity. ” – Racine

Then a black box, and a voice, “The first picture he told me was of three children on the road in Iceland in 1965.”

Five seconds moving image of three blond children in sweaters holding hands, with a greenish moor in the background. Two of the children are looking directly at the camera.

Back to the black box. “He told me that for him it was a picture of happiness and that he had tried several times to combine it with other pictures, but it had never succeeded.”

At the same time, a brief picture of the Hornet fighter, which is lowered under the deck of an aircraft carrier, as always a counterattack to continuous history.

Black box again. “He wrote to me: One day I have to place a picture all alone at the beginning of a movie with a long black picture. If they don’t see luck in the picture, at least they see black. ”

Thus starts with French Chris Markerin (1921–2012) film Sans Soleil (1983, in Finnish Without the Sun), and its beginnings have been deep in my mind since the first viewing years ago.

It reminds me of a moment from my childhood when my sister and I are hanging out in the allotment garden area with a girl in a neighboring cottage, and we are about the same age as Sans Soleilin children in Iceland. We are between the cottages on an empty plot of strawberry growing wild, with a huge pile of hay beneath us. Or maybe it’s a pile of sand? Was it a strawberry or a raspberry? Memory can’t say, and it can’t say exactly what we did that summer. On top of all that, in my memory, perhaps, in the end, there is only a photograph of us taken at that time, which is years since the last time we saw it. But it is probably a picture of momentary happiness.

From here Sans Soleil says. Marker, or his alter ego Sandor Krasna, travels through the hustle and bustle of Japan to the savannas, ports and revolutions of Africa, from San Francisco through the emus of Île-de-France to Iceland, history, memories and things through Marker and others with pictures and letters sent to the narrator. make the heart beat faster.

“I remembered Tokyo that January, or rather I remembered the pictures I filmed that January in Tokyo. They have now been replaced by my memory. They are my memory. How can people remember unless they film, photograph or video things? How has humanity been able to remember? I know: it wrote Biblical. ”

Sans Soleil is an attempt to tell what memory is with pictures and an enchanting narrator. The narrator’s voice is chosen in either French Florence Delay or in English Alexandra Stewart, both scripts are Marker’s creation and the purpose is to choose the one you understand better to make it easier to focus on the images. In French, the film is still a degree more magical than in English, it belongs to the French character.

In the first at the time of viewing my memory was mostly left by the children in Iceland, I didn’t understand much else.

Only later when I found out how big Marcel Proust expert Marker was, and after reading Proust myself, Sans Soleil began to make sense.

The film’s seemingly endless picture frame is like Marcel Proust’s overflowing word art Looking for lost time in the novel. And just like a Madeleine cake dipped in lime blossom tea, a piece of Vinteuil’s sonata or a stepping stone that suddenly gives up under a step take Proust’s narrator back to a lost past that is completely present for a moment with all its characters, tastes, smells, colors, desires and disappointments. Sans Soleil takes its viewers back to each one’s own past and the common history of mankind, which is somehow still present and at the same time lost.

“When there is nothing left of the past after human death, the destruction of objects, long life alone smell and taste, more fragile but more vibrant, more intangible, more tenacious, more faithful, and they live like souls, remember, wait, hope for everything else in ruins, support without breaking, almost as a non-existent particle, a huge structure of memory. ”

This is what Proust wrote, and this is what Marker refers to directly Immemoryworks (1997) in the forewords. Everyone has their own Madeleine cake, and Markele’s Madeleine is Alfred Hitchcockin Vertigothe main character of the film, Kim Novakin starring Madeleine. What a coincidence when the film still tells of a man looking for lost time, or as Marker puts it: coincidence is a nickname of grace for those who don’t otherwise recognize it.

Sans Soleilin the finest individual points are Vertigon a pilgrimage to the scene and an interpretation that the whirlwind of the original texts suggests that the farther the memories are, the farther they are (again, coincidence that Proust wrote of the wild swirl of colors to which tasting Madeleine cake took him), how that swirl is repeated in Madeleine’s hair, as in the portrait in the museum, how Hitchcock didn’t really invent anything, everything was already in San Francisco, except for the final scene tower, and how sometimes instead of a memory, a fake memory has to be created just to be able to live.

“Who said it was time to heal all the wounds? Better to say that time heals everything except wounds, ”together Sans Soleilin the letters read by the narrator are told. This is Proust in a nutshell.

Five years later the same road in Iceland, where three children were photographed, is covered in ash and lava. Everything is gone. Sans Soleilin the end points to its beginning, we have made a full circle, as Proust did on more than 4,000 pages. Proust’s narrator wanted to write a book, but never got it done, except that the book we read is just that book; Sans Soleil is a film that Marker’s alter ego wanted to make, though it was never successful.

“All my life I’ve been trying to understand remembering, which isn’t the opposite of forgetting, but rather its upholstery. We don’t remember, we rewrite memory a lot as history is rewritten, ”another Sans Soleilin the letter says.

I recently started keeping a diary again. At the same time, I found a bunch of writings years ago. I had forgotten everything I wrote in them. But the wounds in the soul, they are still preserved, and as I read the things I forgot, I was thrown into a wild vortex of colors for a moment.

Then the memory disappeared.

Sans Soleil can be viewed on Mubi.

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