This one prefaces Resnais subsequent work, memory and what forms appear in it. The consistently brilliant touch of this is that he visualizes memory by means of cinema, a space which the camera can literally explore.
Here he stumbles upon a fitting metaphor for the mind, the National Library of France. We see how knowledge is routinely amassed and categorized there, how people daily wade through so much information which then is merely stored away for future reference. What looks frightening to me is not that what is infinite and beyond words is believed that it can fit into shelves, but the megalomania behind the enterprise, the belief that among these shelves the secrets of the universe may be unlocked one day.
But what is stored away there is merely thought or the objects of it. Our civilization destroyed by some imaginary catastrophe, how will an alien visiting the ruins of this library know how we experienced through our eyes a gust of wind or a sunset?
To accommodate with the ever increasing influx of information, we're shown how the library burrows further underground, digging deeper inside of us. Resnais explores this cavernous place with a camera that recalls the future endeavors of Sacha Vierny, and although a bit obvious in what is intended by it, as a prologue of what was then to come, it's a great watch.
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