Sans Soleil: An Essay Film

Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil is definitely one of the most confusing and unique films I have ever watched. While watching this film in class, I often found myself asking, “what is this really all about?” The two themes that Marker focused on in this essay film were memory and travel. The film featured a female narrator who would reminisce and read letters from travels in Africa and Japan. The footage was very scattered and dispersed and often very loosely connected, if connected at all. The first shot opens up with the image of three children playing along a road in Iceland as the narrator recites, “The first image he told me about was of three children on a road in Iceland, in 1965. He said that for him it was the image of happiness and also that he had tried several times to link it to other images, but it never worked. He wrote me: one day I’ll have to put it all alone at the beginning of a film with a long piece of black leader; if they don’t see happiness in the picture, at least they’ll see the black.” For some reason this image really stuck in my memory and I often found myself thinking about how these children would be related to the rest of the story/film which is abundant of memories and experiences from Japan and Africa, not Iceland. As the film progresses, the same shot is shown once again when the title of the film, Sans Soleil, is introduced within the film and as the narrator says, “Nonetheless I’m collecting the sets, inventing the twists, putting in my favorite creatures. I’ve even given it a title, indeed the title of those Mussorgsky songs: Sunless.” I felt as though the repetition of the shot of the three children ties the story together a little bit.
Other scenes that caught my eye include the scene of the man playing in the arcade. The author states that the object of the game was to smack the heads of political leaders with a bat-like object. The author reminisces that he has met the figures that are featured in the game. And also that others played the game with much enthusiasm and eagerness. This shows that the film subtly but surely depicts social views on politics and it’s candidates in Japan. Also, there are many shots of shrines devoted to cats and other animals in Japan.
Overall, I believe Sans Soleil was a very confusing and scattered essay film. I still do not understand much of the reasoning behind the film or the purpose, however I do see it as an interesting and different form of film-making that I was not exposed to in the past.

“Markertext.com : Chris Marker : Sans Soleil.” Markertext.com : Chris Marker – Image = Text. Web. 03 Apr. 2011. .

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