Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The World Forgetting, by the World Forgot

"How happy is the blameless vestal's lot! / The world forgetting, by the world forgot / Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! / Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd"- Eloisa to Abelard, Alexander Pope
There was only one film viewed in class today, Chris Marker's San Soleil (1983). The way they describe Marker in the articles is as if he is like some Banksy-esq character; no one really knows much about him or where he has come from, all they know is that he knows how to make films and influence other people throughout the industry. The extent to which he has done both is unknown.
Out of all of his films, San Soleil is perhaps his best known. It explores the ideas of "memory, history, and representation" through footage from Japan, Africa, Iceland, France, and San Fransisco (Lupton 152). The idea of this film reminded me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004), one of my favorite films. Both films play with the idea of memory and how we as humans remember and recreate the events of our past in our minds. Together the films look at memory and how it creates both the past and future, as well as the identities of those that share in the collective memory.
The narrator of San Soleil, Alexandra Stewart, quotes from a letter wondering how people who do not video tape or photograph memories remember them. The film questions the central notions of what makes up such things as individual and collective memory. There are no answers, just more questions posed as to the notion of what makes up how we remember our past.
With its reoccurring images, the film itself becomes a memory. Throughout the film several images reappear: cats, the wing of the plane, the children playing on the hill in Iceland. Seeing these images again serves as an instant creation of memory in the mind of the viewer. The audience is able to think back on the first time seeing the image which has become part of the memory since seeing it in the beginning of the film. This is a very powerful effect.
Another effect that worked well in the film was the use of synthesized images. These images that have become mutated represent what film cannot express. Through the grainy, strange colored pixels we "see" the Japanese unmentionables, the horrors of soldiers preparing for war, and at the end of the film, images from the entire film. These images represent the way memories themselves appear in the mind, blurry and without real definition. The outline can be seen, but there is no clear image and it is up to the mind to fill in the spaces and create the image and memory.
Source:  Lupton, Catherine. "Into the Zone." 148-163.

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