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Level 5

A young woman inherits a job working on a computer game about the Battle of Okinawa, a turning point in World War II. The original programmer has died, leaving the grieving lover he called Laura (after a favourite film and song) to pick up the pieces. Marker uses this set-up to launch a meditation on human nature, memory, history and computers, as his female protagonist searches the Internet for information on the horrendous Okinawa conflict, which involved large numbers of civilian deaths and incidents of mass suicide. Marker’s radical style mixes computer-manipulated imagery, interviews and historical footage with simple sequences of monologues addressed to the camera by his main character. Among those recounting their memories is Japanese filmmaker Nagisa Oshima. Level 5 is not only a filmmaker’s wry confession and testament but also an elegiac meditation on death and transcendence. (France, 1996. English subtitles. Colour. 106 mins.) Plus Les Statues meurent aussi/Statues Also Die, Marker’s profoundly humanistic study of African art and its decline under colonialism. The film introduced two themes that were to become central to the director’s work: the belief that all great human societies represent a victory over adversity, positing a view of man as ‘master of the world’; and the belief that such mastery is only possible if man is at one with the natural world. Marker believes that art should seek to ‘guarantee’ this harmony, as early African art does, rather than reflect its loss. At first banned by the censors as an attack on French colonialism, this deeply felt work finally appeared ten years later in a truncated version.

France, 1953. English subtitles. Black and white. 30 mins.

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