Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

Description of a Struggle | Description of a Memory


Description of a Memory

On August 9, 2008 at 11:30am at the Roda Theatre in Berkeley, Chris Marker’s 1960 essay film / documentary about Israel, Description of a Struggle, will be screened as part of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. It is being shown in conjunction with an homage documentary entitled Description of a Memory directed by Dan Geva. Quoted descriptions for both from the SFJFF website are below. Thanks to Adrian Chan of Gravity 7 for the heads-up.

Description of a Struggle

A young boy joyfully rides a pushcart down the hilly streets of Haifa, a humped camel crosses a street, and an innocent girl paints an unseen picture in what may best represent the emergence of a new country and its unknown future. These are the arresting images captured by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Chris Marker (La Jetée, Sans Soleil) in his 1961 travels to Israel. Winner of the Golden Bear at the 1961 Berlin Film Festival, Marker’s remarkable documentary thoroughly examined, critiqued and predicted the newly created state’s past, present and future. Striking in the beauty of its images, ranging from the vastness of the desert landscape and the tranquility of the sea to the hubris of Tel Aviv, Description of a Struggle allows a rare and memorable glance at an Israel in the

Description of a Memory

Camel CrossingNearly 50 years after Chris Marker’s landmark 1961 documentary about Israel, Description of a Struggle, Dan Geva’s film engages with and pays tribute to its progenitor. Clearly, Marker’s film left a lasting impression on the Israeli-born Geva, who uses images from the original film as a springboard to uncovering the many changes that have taken place in the physical and political landscapes of Israel and in its inhabitants. Attempting to answer questions originally raised by Marker, Geva tracks down some of the people featured in Marker’s film (what did happen to that young girl at the easel?), with surprising and emotionally complex results. Description of a Memory is an intimate portrait of the nature of change in a multifaceted land where history and memories intertwine to create an odyssey both personal and universal.

Be sure to check out the trailer, which shows the author studying Marker’s earlier film on a screen within the screen.

I have no memory of the first time I saw your film. To recall the beginning, I’ll have to rewind to the moment before it all began.

Combat Intérieur

Marker’s commentary opens by posing, insightfully, prophetically, the problematic of an ultimate (and unfilmable?) struggle (“…perhaps the only decisive one”): le combat intérieur:

Nation élue, nation errante, nation matyre, nation ressuscitée, Israël a connu le combat sous toutes ses formes.

Il en découvre aujourd’hui une nouvelle — le combat qu’un jeune État plein de forces doit mener contre lui-même pour rester fidèle, dans la victoire, à ce qui fut sa gloire dans l’oppression.

Sous les images de la vie quotidienne en Israël, se livre à chaque instant ce combat intérieur, moins apparent que celui des armes, et peut-être le seul décisif.

Rough Translation

Chosen nation, wandering nation, martyred nation, revived nation, Israel has known struggle in all its forms.

It is discovering a new one today – the struggle that a powerful young state must engage in with itself in order to remain faithful, in victory, to that which was its glory in oppression.

Beneath the images of daily life in Israel, this interior struggle – less apparent than that of armaments, and perhaps the only decisive one – reveals itself in each moment.

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Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory
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