Sans Soleil

Sans Soleil
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Question: What film seems most like a poem to you?

My answer to this question is Sans Soleil by Chris Marker.  This 1982 film is categorized as a documentary, but it’s not really typical of the form.  The female narrator refers constantly to the letters and diary of a man who traveled all over the world.  The footage transports us to the places he visited–Tokyo, Iceland, and the San Francisco Bay area.  We hear his thoughts and questions and observations in her voice, so there’s a constant tug between he said and she said:

“He said, ‘The more you watch Japanese TV, the more you realize it watches you.'”

Marker’s juxtaposition of scene and image is jarring and beautiful.  The travelogue structure allows for a wide range of reflection, from the popularity of arcade games to the Hitchcock film Vertigo to a line in a poem by T.S. Eliot.  We visit a temple dedicated to lost cats.  Say a prayer and perhaps your kitten will come home.  We visit a family bending in the wind in a meadow.  We see dogs running on the beach, barking at the surf.  We are asked to analyze our world in this imagery.  Sans Soleil is a  film for thinking and in thinking, getting lost in thought.


  1. That’s a really interesting question. Immediately I thought of someone’s quote, where he or she said that poetry strives to be nearly, but not quite, cliche — because it describes and encapsulates, and yet attempts to remain fresh enough so that the words actually retain their own meaning.
    I’m bungling that quotation, but whatever. I guess I would think of David Lynch films, though I find them frightening and annoying.

  2. Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line. Malick thought through the analogy between the ideogram and the film frame. Overwhelming movie.

  3. “My Twentieth Century.” I think it was a Czech film. Edison put in appearances, so did a donkey, twins I think, or maybe a switching of identity-role; and a ravishing soundtrack I never could figure out where it was from, though it sounded like Classical music of the first order.
    Also, that Bergman film, “Persona” I think it was called. That was a poem too.

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