Bassae is a poetic study of a temple in Greece. The site was well chosen due to its remote location on a deserted mountainside (much harder to decontextualise a temple in central Athens). It is a fantasy film in that the narrator strips away the majority of the historical context of the site, even perhaps the context of the geographical location itself ("...this sky infused with a faint splash of purple ink trying to convince us that it is Mediterranean"). A couple of light-fingered German aristos impertinently relieved the site of its figurative elements (a frieze and metopes) at the beginning of the nineteenth century, thereby allowing the subjective interpretation of the filmmakers to work. Currently you can see these in the British Museum, which bought them at auction. An historical idea that might remain is that some historians believe that one of the Corinthian columns of the temple is an aniconic representation of the god of the temple, via Pollet's unusual focus on one particular column, I presume he was aware of this idea. Pollet recasts this temple and its precincts as a zone of awe and dread, broken stones appear as if they were broken bones, mists as if spirits of the sacrificed. There is however no imminent danger, the god is time, is an eternal sloven; slow destruction and mortality are his detritus, his nesting material.
For this short Jean Négroni narrated a text written by Alexandre Astruc (auterist-critic-turned-director before the occurrence of that great film-historical movement out of Cahiers du Cinema, the New Wave).
Classicists with no interest in film poesy might enjoy watching the film with the soundtrack off, as the temple has now been under a protective tent for many years and the film offers the chance to view it in its full glory.
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