Cinema is often described as a time-machine, offering viewers ephemeral impressions of what has been and what could yet come to pass. It is a means of crossing space, of travelling without moving to experience Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas, and beyond into outer space, across oceans of time. This year’s main theme is Journey(s): of discovery, both of the self and of one’s surroundings; voyages within, to the depths of the soul, or without, to the far reaches of space; departures and returns.
Often the stories will appear, on the surface, to be about a straightforward road trip, such as Touki Bouki, Vanishing Point, Sullivan’s Travels or Wild Strawberries. But there is always a parallel journey, leading in Burmese Harp, Santi-Vina and The Swimmer towards eye-opening self-discovery. Time (including Historical time) and Space travel, on the other hand, presents the viewer with a spatiotemporal paradox: the experience of “there” and “then” takes place in the “now.” In this set of films, Genghis Khan, Moranbong, Fitzcarraldo, Indocine, and Ran are set in the historical past; Journey to the Beginning of Time, The Time Machine, and La Jetée are time-travel stories, while 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, and Total Recall take place in space. Such films expose a narrative divide between audience and screen, between objective and subjective, internal and external, that leads viewers to position themselves—as the protagonists inevitably do—against an immensity of elemental forces which cannot be controlled but merely experienced and survived.
In contrast, It Happened One Night, Night Train, 27 Down, Sullivan’s Travels, Wild Strawberries, The Swimmer, Vanishing Point, and Tongpan touch on more immediate, personal, and social questions. Frequently the means of transportation—train, automobile, bus—serves as a complex mechanism for representing society with its class divisions in seating and clearly assigned archetypal roles. The Empty Dream, Johnny Got His Gun, and La Jetée are trips that occur in the psyche, understood as a rupture with reality, while The Black Hand Gang, Touki Bouki, La Grande vadrouille, and The Brain, lighten the mood with the silly exploits of their protagonists who, after much ado about leaving, always find themselves right back where they started.