Chris Marker’s distinctive voice as a ciné-essayist, visual artist, sociopolitical commentator, globetrotter and ethnographer was already identiable in his first solo feature-length film Letter from Siberia. Therefore, if morning shows the day, then the forecast was bright and clear! In this alternately playful and perceptive epistolary travelogue, he joyously blended multifarious stylistic, formal, thematic and even meta-narrative elements – dry documentation, idiosyncratic musings, zany animations, satirical infusion of advertising elements, deadpan observations, and mock-serious examination of how a documentarian’s subjectivity laces different political colours to their depictions – while capturing the spread, complexities and oddities of Siberia, a place that represents the edge of the world for many. Marker covered it through different angles, and that certainly included its vast expanse, its austere and rugged beauty, its geographic isolation, its prohibitive weather, and interspersed these with glimpses of its working-class people, their habitats, the renowned trans-Siberian railways and massive Soviet infrastructure projects that were underway. But, he counterpointed these conventional elements with quirky facets and interludes – the history of gold rush and how that spirit is still alive among a solitary few; the story of a pet bear; the locale’s unique folk culture; a rather curious animated section on the woolly mammoth that were said to have walked this land in prehistoric times; and, on a hilarious if sardonic note, a faux commercial – aimed at Europeans and Americans – on the consumerist value of a reindeer which form an integral part of life there. And, in its most memorably self-reflexive touch, he showed a couple of scenes thrice – one involving a bus and a car, and another involving construction men – wherein he wryly imbued the same visuals with dramatically different political interpretations.
Director: Chris Marker
Genre: Documentary/Essay Film/Travelogue