PRINT January 2013

Sophie Fiennes

Still from Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil, 1983, 16 mm transferred to 35 mm, color and black-and-white, sound, 103 minutes.


I SAW SANS SOLEIL (1983) for the first time in London when I was twenty years old. I was going about educating myself, seeing as many films as I could—something made possible by the city’s rich repertory-cinema culture of the 1980s. Several years out of college, I was, thankfully, never forced to write an essay or attempt to be clever about the film to anyone. It was a very private affair. The mysterious, hypnotic voice-over—“he wrote . . . he wrote . . . he wrote”—the interior nature of the reflections and their poetic charge, the otherness of Tokyo in its apparent banality (Africa seemed more familiar by comparison). I understood the film was self-reflexive, that cinema was an inherently fragmented form momentarily shaped by dreams and, as the narrator puts it, “things that quicken the heart.” The film determined its own unique language. I didn’t

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