Sans Soleil (1983)

sans soleil poster 1983 movie documentary
8.0 Overall Score

Just an odd mixing of film

Better to watch in clumps

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Sans Soleil

Studio:   Argo Films

Genre(s):   Documentary

Release Date(s):   February 23, 1983 (Berlin International Film Festival)

MPAA Rating:   Not Rated

sans soleil children iceland

He wrote me…

“He wrote me…” A woman tells of her correspondence with a traveler named Sandor Krasny as he examines the world and the people in it. He writes of the struggles of life and the challenges faced by people as mortality creeps in. From seeing three children on a road in Iceland, to Africa, to Japan, and beyond, the world is large, and those living in it see it anew.

Written and directed by Chris Marker, Sans Soleil is an experimental documentary, travelogue, and essay film. The movie premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and was well received by critics. The Criterion Collection released San Soleil and Marker’s other film La Jetée in a remastered edition (Criterion #387).

I checked out Sans Soleil simply because I wanted to see La Jetée. While La Jetée is a short film, Sans Soleil is a full-length film, and the way it plays with the format of documentary and travel film makes it worth checking out just for that reason.

sans soleil ceremony

Dipping into other cultures

The movie is a really odd blend of things. Despite being marketed often as a documentary, it really is simply a series of essays. Marker wrote the dialogue for the film and it really feels like a pleasant voice telling the story of this traveler. With some very heavy conversations touching on multiple subjects, it is the type of movie that is better broken down and watched in clips…it will give you the chance to digest what is being said.

Even with that, I don’t know that the film is necessarily meant to be taken entirely seriously. Some of the ramblings of the traveler (voiced by Alexandra Stewart in the English version and Florence Delay in the French version) aren’t necessarily cohesive arguments or observations. The “story” and its telling jumps around and is sometimes unbalanced. It is pretty easy to phase out a lot of what is being said…but this sometimes loses you later on.

sans soleil giraffe killed by hunter

One of the most horrifying things to watch

The visuals for the movie are also an odd collection. There is footage shot for the film and some footage coming from other sources. One of the most horrifying scenes in the movie is the killing of a giraffe by a hunter…it is both sad and brutal. This type of clip is mixed in with clips of cultural celebrations and other events that leave you pretty jarred throughout the movie.  The movie also shows Marker’s obsession with Vertigo which is referenced again…along with Marker’s other film La Jetée which originally referenced Vertigo.

Sans Soleil is a really strange film. I can’t necessarily recommend it, but it is also one of the most original films you’ll see. Is it fiction? Is it a documentary? Is a film about the world and travel? It is all of these things and none of these things. Sans Soleil if nothing else is an original piece of work and worth checking out in that regards.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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