Marker is far less impressed by the camera’s neutrality or its ability to record things whole. He loves imagery, but does not trust it. His essential influences – Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov – are filmmakers who explored montage (or editing) as a stimulus to argument. Pictures come to life if we are looking, thinking, testing; they demand definition, not just awed witness.
Above all, Mr. Marker sees that imagery has become a chief resort of our collective memory – but in a way that stresses our isolation as much as our involvement. To adapt the critic John Berger (another Markerian) a little: photographs evoke presence and absence at the same time. We are there, in the scene, yet cut off from it. It is the model for so much of modern experience – our amazing ability to acquire information usually depends on some distancing mechanism. We do not know things so much as pretend to know them.