• Agents of Change

    • Alain Resnais died, but left an infinite legacy, similar to the montage in his films, developed through different corridors that simultaneously take light to endless rooms. Magical sequences where characters experience memory.

    Alain Resnais (1922-2014) / 

    The recent death of the French master encourages us to reflect on films and their ability to become a vessel for our memory. As he would prove from the very beginning of his career, by collaborating poetically with literary artists like Marguerite Duras (Hiroshima, Mon Amour, 1959) or Alain Robbe-Grillet (The Last Year in Marienbad, 1961), the cinematic instrument can become a conscious map to explore what happens in our imagination.

    There are different ways of perceiving what has already happened; which can later happen again, as many times as we want, even if this is only in our mind. Resnais launched different interrogatives, as if he was a navigator stranded on a desert island who throws the only bottle he has out to the sea: does a memory only happen with a memory? Or, how can each individual experience the “same reality”?

    His documentary Night and Fog (1955), with contributions by Chris Marker, is a portrait of the holocaust that is so close to the atrocious actions that took place, it seems that it could have been filmed in real time. The filmmaker’s ability to transform the actions of horror which he could not film into objects and geometries of a black and white hell is nothing short of striking; hallways filmed with inaudible lamentations that will resonate in our consciousness forever.

    Muriel, The Time of a Return (1963), constitutes a fragmented tale in an exacerbated fashion, as a memory, where our mind builds a barrier for love and the creation of the memory is the only possible remedy.

    Resnais began his career working as an editor, but he always viewed film as a montage; one can feel how the film is in his hands, observed and redrawn with each cut, which challenges and questions the existence and functions of time. In Providence (1977) and in My Uncle from America (1980), Resnais tells us of the unreality of the world, which at the same time is also that of our imagination. As either a novel in our head that then invades the pages of a book, which happens in Providence, or as if this was a scientific experiment, as happens with My Uncle from America, there is always somebody that perceives, comes up with a theory and who finally makes decisions.

    Resnais is dead and it's almost as if this was the death of Film also (the classics, obviously), and the great masters. The proliferation of transformations in digital formats, the birth of extremities in the shape of interfaces…it’s clear that the change is imminent and, without there being any more constants in the world other than change itself, film mutes its body. Smoking/No Smoking (1993) proposed, as few other didactic works have done, the nature of freedom within this reality, with its philosophical essence and binary form. Do you or do you not? But by selecting either one of these options, your environment takes another, so that the combination is infinite and plays out like a game of chess. The experimented chess player tells us the endless nature of the game and we, novices, find it dull. We cannot see the extraordinary landscape of the black and white board, as the exterior landscape of a holiday resort in Marienbad.

    Tagged: Alain Resnais, cinema, filmmakers, Agents of Change Credits: Image (Joel Ryan /Associated Press)