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On the Relationship between Voice and Image in the Films of Chris Marker
Michael Wetzel


In modern discourse, the tense relationship between new media and old literature is usually portrayed as a crisis of the narrative. The postmodern macro perspective has regarded the end of the grand narrative as a genuine opportunity for change in the narrative. However, in the realm of epic creativity, this development has been greeted with an elegiac sigh: «Narrative real narrative that was before my time.«[1] Representing an entire generation of poets, Rilke formulated these words at the beginning of the last century. However, he did not associate them with any apocalyptic predictions regarding the end of time. Instead, in his farewell, he welcomes another kind of narration: the writing of one's own observations. Literature becomes a written system of recording and hence a seismograph, measuring streams of data which are no longer hermeneutically pre-processed and are of a visual as well as acoustic nature, at the very least. As Rilke's Malte promenades through Paris, he retains an awareness of certain smells of poverty, for instance, and burned frying oil. Yet he is predominantly conscious of visual and acoustic stimulants, such as the experience of hearing a word disintegrate into sounds


created by a series of individually pronounced letters. Benjamin's obituary for the narrator also speaks of a change in the function of communication. Erfahrung, which shapes a narrative like the hand of the potter shapes a vase, gives way in new media to Erlebnis, which is conveyed in the vortex of information, with its lack of distance, its sensational character, its temporality of meaning.[2] Film thus communicates shocking stimuli to the consciousness, which is, according to Freud's oft-quoted concept of the Wunderblock, constantly shedding its skin, repulsing experiences, which then accumulate underneath the perceptive threshold of a reality, in the so-called unconsciousness. Anyone familiar with the films by French cineaste Chris Marker knows that this cultural/historical caesura is not absolute. His films resist in the best sense of the word the kind of narrative cinema derived from television-like illusion. Containing an omnipresent visuality, Marker's films do not exactly maintain the illusion of the grand narrative in the Hollywood sense. Instead, they turn the end of the grand narrative (see Lyotard) into the beginnings of the small, the minor in short, the vague, roaming,

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