A poetic work of science fiction—kin to Marker’s La Jetée—Resnais’s film is a tightly wrought, mesmerizing exploration of memory and time. A man (Rich) is rescued by scientists from suicide and sent traveling in time, accompanied by a charming mouse who has been used in such experiments previously. The man becomes lost as fragmentary episodes from his past take over in a chaotic series of unordered events. Beautiful, tranquil, but increasingly menacing moments point to a love affair with a girl the man may or may not have killed.
Marker’s sole fiction film is constructed (with one crucial, brief exception) from still photographs that are combined in serial fashion with voiceover narration and music. The result is one of cinema’s most compelling works, a love story set in a bleak future and involving time travel and memory. After the destruction of civilization by war, a member of the underground survivor community, haunted by glimpses of a barely recalled face, is sent by scientists back to the past to look for a key to humanity’s salvation. There he finds a lover, love of the world when it was still alive, and traces of his earlier self. This ecstatic, lyrical film conveys the pain and weight of modern history and the intense power of images.