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A masterpiece and then a manifesto,
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This review is from: La Jetée (1962) / Sans Soleil (1983) [DVD]  (DVD)
The first film is a dense little masterpiece in black and white without any budget nor special effects, or so few. A child sees something, some event he does not understand and the world is destroyed right after that. The child will survive and his memory with him. Years later he falls in the hands of a mad doctor who sends him in the past where he meets a woman and falls for her. Then the doctor sends him to the future and the man discovers the future is ready to accept them and that humanity has survived provided a few adaptations producing a world without any war, social problems and shortages. The traditional romantic idealism.
But one day the doctor sends him to the exact time of his recollection and he discovers that the child he was actually saw his own arrival there and his getting shot on the spot. You can then more or less, according to your morbidity, reflect on the meaning of this event: an outsider from the future arrives and is killed on the spot. Not bad at all. But worse indeed is the fact that we must have reached the sixth dimension since time works in both directions simultaneously and space is no longer in anyway two-dimensional and aging. Is that relativity the result of the fact we can look at any space and time from different points of view? The answer has to be positive of course. Post-modernism is the law. The present contains the future and is the future of the past it contains too.
The second film is the illustration of the letters of some traveler who travels a lot in Japan, some in Australia and from time to time in Africa, Guinea Bissau precisely. It is a film on rites and rituals having to do with life and death, trying to accommodate death so that we can survive a little bit more than expected. Life is always a survival and not an end in itself. This is very Buddhist but the filmmaker is trying to make it general.
The interest then when he speaks of the guerrilla warfare in Guinea Bissau is not the communist guerrilla warfare itself that will eventually turn socialist and then realist, but in fact the side remark that in Europe it brought the Portuguese fascist dictatorship down but that it also made the Europeans suddenly dream of a new revolution. It sure was a revolution (dedicated to carnations) in Portugal and then there was the post-Franco era in Spain, but the revolution was a dream in the corner of a narrow-minded communist leader in Portugal and very fast things went back to the democratic order and the soldiers went back to their barracks and let elections decide on who will be governing the country.
This is the real discourse of this second film, emphasized by the killing of a giraffe whose objective was nothing but the final and lethal bullet in its head since the repast, the banquet, the feast will be for a band of vultures. The discourse becomes general then. Life is always the result of death. Something has to die for something else to live, but if you try to force this historical movement, you produce quite a lot more death than life and anyway the vultures will come and put things back in place. It is the vision of Buddhist rites, prayers and meditation in parallel with the tranquil walk of some emus that represent the natural course of history and we do not have the right to get out of the lane: dangerous and useless.
The allusion to Hitchcock's film Vertigo is typical: the prey is in fact attracting the predator and the prey knows she/he is doing that, even if the chauvinistic predator considers he/she leads the game, from behind mind you as if the prey were on a leash, but when a farmer takes a pig to the market with a rope around its neck, who leads who? The farmer or the pig?
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU