Using Chris Marker’s films as their example, Valentin Diaconov and Alexey Artamonov will discuss how images become a memory material and form, which express the subjectivity of opinion.
Chris Marker is a legendary man. With his cinematographic and political activity spanning over sixty years, he has traveled across the world dozens of times, capturing history in the making with his camera. One could say that Marker is one of the most renowned documentarists of all time—however, it wouldn’t reflect the truth entirely. Primarily because he is still relatively unknown in Russia, which has always remained Marker’s inspiration source, from his early piece, Letter from Siberia (1957), to the late The Last Bolshevik (1992). But also, because all of his works are literary masterpieces, as much as cinematic ones. His “essay films” (a term coined by the iconic French film theorist Hervé Bazin, especially in relation to Letter from Siberia) are independent and free from the dictatorship of objectivity, and in this sense, are essentially fictional.
Marker’s talent of combining a penetrating glance with personal contemplation, word with image, and politics with love, is hard to equal. His films are historical and political, yet made by a poet at the same time, according to Bazin’s account of Letter from Siberia. Genuine interest in and respect for the Other, in the social, cultural and universal humane meanings, have always informed Marker’s practice and can be seen as early as in his Statues Also Die (1953), made in collaboration with Alain Resnais, where the issues of race in the finale are compared to the general problem of oppression, leading to the film’s ban in de Gaulle’s France for ten years. Marker’s unique means of escaping a colonial approach to a different culture and its exotization, as well as his main tool, have always been words. He did not believe in objectivity and had nothing to offer but himself. The genre of an essay film became his form of political representation of reality.
Statues Also Die
Dir. Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Ghislain Cloquet. France, 1953. 30 mins.
Letter from Siberia
Dir. Chris Marker. France, 1958. 62 mins.