Sans Soleil – Chris Marker (1983)

Sans Soleil (Sunless in English) is a 1983 French film directed by Chris Marker. It is a meditation on the nature of human memory, showing the inability to recall the context and nuances of memory and how, as a result, the perception of personal and global histories are affected.

Sans Soleil is Marker’s tour de force as a cinematic essayist, all playful musings and meandering digressions, in which passing observations on such apparently banal subjects as pet cats and video games yield profound insights into the big issues of twentieth-century civilization: history, memory, political power, the function of representation, ritual and time. The premise of Sans Soleil is a woman reading out letters from a globe-trotting cameraman, who we learn in the closing credits is named Sandor Krasna. Krasna is drawn especially to Japan and the former Portuguese West African colonies of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau; he also visits Iceland, Île-de-France, and San Francisco, being obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. We must lean on these bare coordinates all we can, since nothing can fully prepare the novice viewer for the exhilarating kaleidoscope of ideas, associations, and fleetingly gorgeous visions that Sans Soleil offers. Like a piece of music, it does demand (and generously repay) repeat viewings. Through Krasna—whose presence is itself filtered through the sensibility of the woman who reads, and occasionally comments upon, his letters—Marker fuses the urbane wit of his earliest travel films to the persona of the political militant, now somewhat disabused by the collapse of the struggles he has supported, but not so shortsighted as to deny the value of those who, “like Che Guevara, tremble with indignation every time an injustice is committed.”

Link to Sans Soleil Part 1:

Link to Sans Soleil Part 2:


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