Duras reportage II

As I mentioned earlier, Son Nom de Venise dans Calcutta Désert is developped out of the same soundtrack featured by India Song. This practice arises several interesting observations. Normally we are so used to the fact that images and sound are always provided together we no longer remember that they are actually seperate techniques – recorded often seperately and manipulated definitely seperately. We must recollect that in the advent of sound film how those silent film theorists (Arnheim in particular ) were so worried about sound detroying the unique aesthetics of film as an art. As a compromise, Eisenstein and his collegues Pudovkin and Alexandrov pointed out in their 1928 ‘statement’ that sound could be an artistic potentiality if it is used contrapuntally. But even Eisenstein wouldn’t have thought about constructing images out of sound. Higher priority of visual information is taken for granted for him. In his cooperation with Prokofiev, it is Prokofiev who has to follow his prints. Nevertheless, if this is all about music, things could be easier. A dance music can be accompanied diegetically by a dance sequence, as we see in India Song, or non-diegetically, as we see in Son Nom. But what about dialogue and voice-over? And this is where things are really getting contrapuntal. For example, the dialogue between the Delphine Seyrig character and the ‘jeune attaché’, or that with the vice-consul, are diegetic in India Song. What does it feel like to have them as non-diegetic sources? They become voice-over. Curiously, this kind of voice-over is unlike the usual ones we are quite familiar with, which serves more or less a narrative function. Now they are non-narrative – they are leading nowhere, just like the images. As for those which are already voice-over, the role doesn’t change. For example : in the opening sequence of India Song, the images are that of a sunrise. And the sound track consists of a woman’s voice (in Vietnamese or Laotian) and later two women’s account (in French) of this mendicant’s long jouney. It is perfectly understandable that the visual and the aural are not necessarily dependent on each other. It could be substituted with a close pan across the terracotta floor tiles, as we see in Son Nom, or with anything else – imagine the Great Wall of China or African children playing. It really doesn’t matter, since no matter what we put on the screen, the brain will always be able to associate them with the sound and derive out of them some significance.

We see that by depriving all formerly diegetic sounds of their visual source, the sound track is indeed getting more independent, or should I say, contrapuntal. If the bulk of films today do not concern themselves with accomplishing this function, the Duras films, especially this one, can be indeed regarded as the other extreme. Duras is not cinematically experienced. That is probably why she is always able to offer a fresh view regardless of the conventions. It is not that nobody agrees that contrapuntal sound is an artistic possibility. It is just that they know, unconsciously maybe, that such a composition is too intellectually demanding. There is simply too much for the brain to do all this simultaneously and continuously : to decipher the image, to decipher the sound, and to associate them. Thus they tend to weaken the part played by the sound by two ways : to illustrate or confirm; to give the mood – in either case we don’t have to listen carefully.

Duras, on the other hand, tends to downplay the visual. And Le Camion (77) is a good example of it. As a matter of fact, this is probably the best example I can think of. A friend of mine told me that the only way he can enjoy this film is to close his eyes and listen. Because the author insists on our ability to imagine things by asking ‘Vous voyez?’. And she has absolutely no intention to corroborate our imagination with her own. The images presented – devastated landscape mostly, in addition to Duras and Depardieu sitting around the table reading – are like the soundtrack : they are just cues to the real images she prepared us to see. She affirms in the begining of it that ‘oui, c’est un film’ because she sees the possibility (from the experience of Son Nom de Venise) of not telling, but implying a story by the images. And this is something new. It is the extreme opposite of classical narration.


No comments:

Popular Posts

Blog Archive