Nº7 2021 (1)

Staring Back

Sara Delshad 

Last year I went through a series of Chris Marker’s short movies in which he filmed animals. The first thing that caught my eyes and, in a way, surprised me was that some animals directly looked at Marker’s camera. First, I thought it was funny but after a few minutes I realized that these frames reminded me of similar ones in some of his other movies, which I had seen years ago. These animals’ stares at the camera truly encouraged me to dig deeper into Marker’s other movies to explore similar stares, no matter if they came from people or animals. Later, I had no idea what I was going to do with those shots. I had found myself involved in Marker’s own game. Since he is one of the filmmakers that I admire and love, I figured out it would help me tighten my bond with his works.

The more I found this kind of images in his films, the more enthusiastic I got about the idea of making a project about them. I found out that there is a book by Marker consisting of almost 200 black and white photographs from his personal archives, taken from 1952 to 2006. This fact  convinced me of his passion for recording others (both people and animals) staring back at his camera. I also decided to borrow its very title for my video: Staring Back. I haven’t ever read the book, but searching on the Internet about it I came across some pages, and also a few texts stating that some of these photographs are linked to his classic films La Jetée, Sans Soleil, and The Case of the Grinning Cat. One can also find portraits of famous faces like Simone Signoret (his beloved friend). However, most of these photographs feature people he encountered travelling the world: those who stared back at him.

In this audiovisual essay I tried to show and express why Chris Marker was interested in faces, what he wanted to do with them, and how he did it. As the filmmaker himself admits, he only achieves a real relationship when a face, a visage turns towards him. For someone like Marker, faces and gazes turn into images of happiness when placed inside the camera’s frame and stare directly at it. Marker’s special and first hand style has always been interpreted as a mixture of harmony, humor and irony. This manner of shooting faces stems from this same playfulness and humor, insisting on shooting as long as possible until the subject responded to the camera and the relationship that Marker sought would happen.

To me, by shooting subjects’ “staring back”, Marker also sought to make a triangular relationship encompassing himself, his subjects and us, the spectators. Often people have affirmed that Chris Marker had very few friends. Thereby, through his films, he created the sincere friendships he was continuously looking for; and not only with his subjects inside the camera’s frame, but also with us, outside the frame. Thus, it is unlikely that one cannot feel herself in his films while watching them.

How to cite this article: Delshad, S. (2021) Staring Back. Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays, 7(1). ISSN: 2659-4269

Other videoessays in this issue:

De la femme
Caterina Cucinotta (Universidade NOVA de Lisboa) & Jesús Ramé López (URJC)

Window Diaries
Diego Ginartes & Valentín Via 


Students Showcase

How To Cook When Instant Food Doesn’t Fill You Up
Claudia Bielsa Gómez Tostón Salazar, Nuria de Andrés Masa & Bahía Delgado Manso (UC3M)

Ocho apellidos vascos and Spanish Popular Culture
Milagros Valerio, Claudia Sánchez Mar Muñoz (UC3M)