In this film-essay, a traveller takes a journey through the vast and mysterious territory of Siberia, recording his observations on its people and places, wildlife and culture.
A word from Tënk
Despite being commissioned by the Association France-U.R.S.S, an association created to promote cooperation between France and the Soviet Union, Letter from Siberia remains a perfectly Markerian film. Lampooning institutional and propaganda films by adopting their codes and thereby transcending them, this defiant and mischief-filled film is, in reality, a pretext for a study of the meaning of images and the role of perspective.
The “letter home” structure of the film, dictated by a traveler/observer who makes use of a camera in lieu of a pen to create his missives, is a stroke of pure genius. With its playful tone and completely uninhibited subjectivity, the film is drawn from the complexities of the mind itself. Marker, the unfettered virtuoso behind the wheel on this highway of sounds and images, where the only guardrails are the ramparts of his own imagination, shares his fragmented vision of a Siberia caught between tradition and modernity.
Marker is uninterested in factual neutrality, instead embarking on poetic digressions about what this mysterious land and its inhabitants inspire in him. This includes multiple asides taken from different eras of images that are interspersed throughout the film: animated segments, photographic vignettes, fictional news broadcasts, fake advertisements…not to mention a notorious style exercise—which Raymond Queneau would certainly be proud—that comments, with three very different intentions, on one series of images filmed in the capital of Yakoutsk.
Behind this brilliant playing ground where Marker amuses himself (and the complicit viewer along with him!) lies a profound reflection on the multiple meanings of images that he invites us to take part in. Because, as it’s important to remember, images are never banal or inoffensive.
Tënk’s programming assistant