Sans Soleil


Throughout the entire time of watching this movie I was searching for some sort of plot or main idea. I went home and tried to watch it again on Netflix and I have yet to discover either one. The narrators voice is so dull and the images do not connect at all, it makes watching the movie very hard because I would get so frustrated trying to understand it all, I just wanted to give up. It is obvious that the narrator is discussing memories of traveling to Africa and Japan but having all of the images jump around without any connection seems useless to me.

Since this is an essay film and this movie being my first experience of viewing one, I decided to do some research to understand exactly what an essay film was. According to an essay film is “An odd hybrid of the documentary and experimental form, the essay film couples visual — usually documentary — images with extensive narration to create a cohesive cinematic thesis. These films often skew all forms of conventions of both fiction and mainstream non-fiction films: there is no plot as such and few interviews. Instead there is solely the argument of the film. The themes that this style addresses often concern memory, ethnography and the medium of cinema itself.” This explained why I couldn’t find a plot, however there still like an argument/main idea which I was never able to understand. The essay film is an appropriate form for this movie because it is memories of  traveling different places and seeing many different things and people. It is hard to put so much memory all together so by using the essay film genre you can incorporate the images to explain the different memories as you jump around which is exactly what was done in this movie.

One scene that really stuck in my head for some reason was the shrine of cats, where the Japanese would go to pray for the protection, the life and the death of their cats. I thought this was strange because we have shrines here but usually of people or some religious figure, I wanted to know why cats were so important to them and why not any other animal or person?

Every scene in the movie addresses memory because it is the travelers memories of his experience. One scene is in an arcade center where a man is beating the heads of Japanese Congressmen, a different variation of an earlier  game the traveler recalls where animals are used to beat down. His memory is of previous encounters with these people and an earlier game in comparison with their new encounter in Japan and the new form of the game.

Allan Casebier identifies the movie in his article “A Destructive Documentary.”  In it he says “The film offers a multi-level exploration of many interrelated phenomena. It is about filmmaking, and it is about the making and forgetting of film images. The film aims to deconstruct certain traditional conceptions about documentary filmmaking, the representation of history and our consciousness about both.” I believe this is exactly what the film did and I do not think it was a success although many scholars believe it was. It may be just the genre of essay film that I do not like but Sans Soleil was not my kind of movie.

Works Cited

“Explore Type: Essay Film.” AllMovie. Web. 03 Apr. 2011. <>.

Casebier, Allan. “A Deconstructive Documentary.” Journal of Film and Video. 1988. Web. 3 Apr. 2011. <>.

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