What is lacuna?

After watching La Jetée by Chris Marker, it opened my eyes to the concept of lacuna in a macro and micro sense, and how one supports the other. Hence, I’ve chosen to use the film (and reference the novel) Nineteen Eight-Four (1984) to visualize lacuna in a cinemagraphic sense, and also a philosophical sense. Both these movies deal with the uncertainty of a Post-War era, and use the concept “an unfilled space; a gap… a depression or cavity” (Oxford Dictionary) in both theme and film techniques.

Nineteen Eight-Four, is an imagined world, driven by the unmentionable fear stirred by a world war. Although there’s colour and movement within this piece, there are moments of awkward silence that highlight the authors reigning terror. Orwell was openly an antifascist and democratic socialist, “profoundly disturbed for the ‘inhumane collectivism’ of the Soviet Union, in particular, by what he perceived as the ‘ends-over-means’ mentality of the Communist Party dictatorship and by the ‘total’ control over society… by the bureaucratic apparatus of the Soviet State.” (Resch, 1997) Hence, these political fears of one ruler and a highly mediated society, enforced by World War I gave birth to the Big Brother ideology.

(Klein, 2016)

This still is from a quiet scene, where our primary character sits seemingly idle and compliant to the large face interfering with his personal space. Yet the voiceover reads the words Winston writes in his journal, of his distaste and inner rebellion against the state. We not only see hollow space within his living situation, but in the human connectivity despite both occupying the same frame. The camera often lays still, and the normalcy of quietness/disconnectedness in conversation draws our attention to the emptiness in relationship brought about by a common fear/constant spectator.

Moreover, these techniques bring light to a much greater lacuna. Created in an era where the future was uncertain and filled with dread, film techniques in Nineteen Eight-Four (1984) draw our focus to the larger gap, cavity or depression at hand – the connotations of a post-war era. The quiet spaces, silent moments and dreary pauses all point to the anxiety of the unknown gap of time that follows war – a depression that cannot be planned for or altered by the everyday civilian; that is the greatest lacuna at hand in this film.


Bleach by Pass, The Original Trailer for 1984 had this Ridiculous Soundtrack, viewed 20 March 2017, <http://www.bleachbypass.com/the-original-trailer-for-1984-had-this-ridiculous-soundtrack/&gt;

Oxford Dictionary, ‘Lacuna’, viewed 20 March 2017, <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/lacuna >.

Resch, R.P. 1997, ‘Utopia, dystopia, and the middle class in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four’, Boundary 2, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 137

La Jetée by Chris Marker: Plot Summary

This week we analyzed the film La Jetée. The film takes place in a devastated Paris, after a fictional nuclear war has taken place. The survivors are separated into victors and victims, scientists and test subjects. These tests take the form of experimentation in time travel, where the victim must endure physical and psychological investigations of their body and brain. There is a consistent eerie tone to this film, created by the still images, the music and the narration.

The images, rather than moving film, trap this work in a foreign, past era. The pictures are dreary, stunted, sinister and mysterious, they are linear in order, beginning in a macro lens, setting up the story for the viewer. They then fade into close-up, emotive imagery, mostly of our main character (as seen below)

(Koyama, 2012)

(Koyama, 2012)

The music plays a really large part in this film; orchestral, rising, swelling and falling, the watcher is heavily informed of mood and tone due to the eeriness of the choir, or dreariness of the brass. The voiceover work is a mixture of a narrator, and then, at times, there’s an eerie whisper. This whisper is often in the ‘present day’ scenes, when the test subject is clueless to the plots of the scientists, and we as the viewer are slightly more clued in.

The powerful utilization of still imagery in La Jetée allows the viewer to rest and pause in these stunted spaces, it let the directer show more completely and compactly both “action and reaction… thereby [enabling him] to distill down to the raw, honest, and most candid emotions of the actors’ facial expressions in his chosen images.” The simplification of film draws us into a much more sensitive understanding of sound and sight. Hence, when there’s a break in music, or pause in the imagery, we notice straight away.

Oxford Dictionary, ‘Lacuna’, viewed 20 March 2017, <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/lacuna >.

Quirk, C. 2014, ‘The Role of Emotion in Oppression in Marker’s La Jetée and Sembène’s La Noire de…’, Film Matters, vol. 7, pp.41

Vimeo, ‘Le Jetée by Chris Marker’, viewed 20 March 2017, <https://vimeo.com/31209852>