261mc: Sans Soleil (notes)


Because I know that time is always time

And place is always and only place…

(And what is actual is actual only for one time

And only for one place.)

– T.S. Eliot


Even though we know the narration is fiction played over visual fact, I wonder about the narrator and writer’s relationship. Have they ever met or do they just know each other through letters? I imagine our narrator reading each letter and using them to follow the writer on his journey, as she also refers to her travels. Maybe always one step behind him, never quite catching up. Or are his letters just so vivid she feels she has also been to these places and witnessed the same scenes he has?

The letters are a type of poetry/prose.

I feel Marker’s film is very much inspired/influenced by Vertoz’s Man With a Movie Camera. We see a mixture of similar imagery; people going to work, shopping and at leisure (people on the beach sunbathing in MWMC/people playing video games in arcades in SS), industry and technology (walls of TV’s in SS/factories and pistons in MWMC and trains and their tracks seem to hold a fascination for both film makers), seemingly uncalled for nudity in both- almost seemed to shock or surprise in comparison to other footage?  wrestling and sports recreation feature in both films (add more specific examples later from each film with a  rewatch of both to confirm ideas and some more still images to compare and contrast)

Sans Soleil seems to consider the value of human life and animal life. Looking at war and animals being hunted and killed. Possibly commenting on the needless slaughtering of humans in unjust wars and animals killed for unjust want. This is also echoed in the scenes of the panda’s funeral. Making us consider if our lives are worth more than that of an animal’s. Why shouldn’t an animal have a funeral as we would? (was Chris Marker an animal rights activist/vegetarian? look into this and his life, sure I remember something about him being part of a commune while making the film?) We also see a vulture feeding, is this in reference to the circle of life and out of death comes life?

chris cats.jpg

Throughout Sans Soleil we see repeated images of cats. Whether it be the Maneki-Niko, the lucky fortune cat statue so popular in Japan, or just domestic cats making an appearance it made me wonder if the cat symbolized something for Marker or if he was just a feline fan. On looking at Marker’s biography I discovered that he rarely gave interviews and when asked for a photo to represent himself in the press he often sent an image of a cat. So maybe the cats in Sans Soleil actually represent Marker himself? (look into did he own a cat and look at the film with cartoon cats he was involved with?)

The writer tells our narrator that ‘Computers offer a future for the human race’ and tells us how Pacman is a metaphor for our lives. Maybe because he is constantly rushing around not taking time to stop to enjoy life until he is finally eaten up/consumed by it?


Marker uses a series of different techniques throughout his film to get a reaction from us. Not just through the narrative and imagery but also through his editorial choices.  At some points he uses what I can only describe as a ‘synthesiser’ distortion effect on some images. Like the footage has been mixed with sound waves. There is probably a technical name for this I just don’t know (look into it, ask lecturers) It has a slightly uncomfortable effect and I imagine that was his intention. Throughout the dance scenes in the film the sound is also slightly too loud, another technique to keep us off balance? He continues to distort the images we see with filters. Most notably red filters over black and white. This helps to keep the color continuity but also seems to symbolize something. The use of red filters on war images possibly representing anger and bloodshed.

Sans Soleil uses both stills and footage from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Particularly the image of the eye and the swirling of it. Hitchcock uses a similar swirling meets eye effect in the movie Psycho at the end of it’s infamous shower scene. (are these symbols linked and what is Marker saying about them? going inside a persons mind?) This again links back to the imagery in Vertoz’s Man With a Movie Camera. Looking at how the camera’s lens captures what our eye sees but can also distort and misinterpret it.

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