Unreal Nature

February 27, 2016

The Potency of a Memory

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… Forgetting is not an abandonment of the past, but permission to elaborate, to reconstruct differently, to mix up the syntax.

This is from Chris Marker: La Jetée, by Janet Harbord (2009):

La Jetée (1962) is a ciné-roman, a film novel that operates within the strictest economies. It is a film composed almost exclusively of still images, with the bare essentials of a story told in voice-over. It is an extraordinary film of ‘a man marked by an image from his childhood,’ and it opens with a replay of this childhood moment. These are the ‘facts,’ although facts benefit us little in this particular story.

[line break added] In the circular movement of the film, in which the end arrives at the beginning and so the beginning is also the ending, the concrete facts do not add up to much. A child witnesses his own death as a man, defying the premise of chronological time.We are told that the child sees the man (his future self) fall to the ground. We see the falling figure but we are left with an uncertainty concerning the whereabouts of the child; perhaps that is him, poised precariously on the railing, but we cannot be certain.

[line break added] If this is the story of a man’s recall of a moment as a boy, where, in memory, is the mind’s eye? The perspective in this opening sequence seems to place us above or outside of this scene, as if captured through a crane shot followed by a tracking shot showing a scattering of people. … How is it that memory is infected by the photographic, and conversely, that photographic devices have come to serve the requirements of memory?

La_Jetee_Poster

… The still photograph evokes remembrance, the memory of this place on this day. But the movement across its still surface creates an anxiety about what we are moving towards. This is not a film composed of still images, where both cinema and photography remain distinct. This is a film that finds qualities of movement and stillness in each, that braids together remembering and forgetting, that points us in conflicting directions.

… Forgetting is not an abandonment of the past, but permission to elaborate, to reconstruct differently, to mix up the syntax. Both memory and cinema work with an unstable set of associations, contingent on the circumstances in which they appear. If the potency of a memory is the opening enigma of La Jetée, the rest of the film is an exploration of the ways in which recording devices, such as film and photography, perform a choreography with memory’s work.

-Julie

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