It's all here; film as memory, as letters sent back to us with a cache of images attached, then arranged and rearranged in effort to probe into the reality of fictions. Viewers within viewers relating to us. It's not a simple question of what is real and what not, with Marker everything is because captured by the eye, but what notions do we bring with us that clout the image?
He would return to this again and again, in Soleil, in Koymiko, in Le Tombeau d'Alexandre. But it's all here, as always tied to a flow of life that reveals a little of the fabric of the larger world. His essay is distinctly French, but as diffused by Soviet notions about the cinematic eye - that film tradition so deeply revolutionary they built movie trains that scoured the countryside filming the people then showing them to themselves. Here the very fabric is Soviet, the background a blank canvas from the corner least traveled.
French essay, which is to say a little dry, nonetheless filled with Marker's characteristically wry whimsy. He splices in the middle of it, a makeshift advert about reindeers. Godard borrowed so much from Marker, but he could never afford this gentleness of spirit.
Back to the essay though. At one point we see the same footage repeated three times; each time a different voice-over imprints them with different meaning. Are the workers tireless symbols of the revolutionary spirit, or poorly-trained peons slaving away? Marker insists we go beyond this clout of interpretation; could it be that we are simply watching workers work? That this man passing by the camera is not a symbol of this or that ideology, but this man?
Elsewhere, we see the Siberian wilderness of life imagined as a western; the dusty towns, the people on horseback. Imagined, the word itself says it all. How the image shapes understanding.
So, is is really that the filmed image is so malleable that it can accommodate almost anything. Yet we implicitly trust it to reveal truth, it's how we function with cinema. Marker instead calls for us, the external viewer, to investigate our own meaning in the face of this uncertainty. To be as detectives in film. How to trust the eye that sees the picture behind the manufactured notions. The true world of images behind the notion of that world cobbled from notions of them. It's all an effort for true perception really, disguised as this travelogue.
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