Level Five

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Chris Marker

REVIEWED: 05-18-98

French filmmaker Chris Marker's prolific career has been distinguished by his artful melding of genres, primarily historical documentary, multimedia, and science fiction. In Level Five, he continues his inimitable exploration of the interactions among history, memory, and the visual image. This dense, intricate mosaic traces a woman's obsessive odyssey as she reconstructs a video game left unfinished by her deceased lover. He was a computer artist, she was a writer, and their relationship, once lived away from the computer screen, is now wholly housed within it. The subject of the game: the Battle of Okinawa, in the twilight of World War II. To finish the game, a player must re-create in scrupulous veracity every last detail of the war through cyber-imagery: the newsreels, the bombings, the mass suicides.

As in his acclaimed La jetée (which inspired Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys), Marker here seeks to reinvent the way we experience history. By questioning the reliability of visual memory, and indicting all media as a confluence of lies, confusion, and betrayal, he fashions a provocative cinema of distrust. This film demands every cell of your cerebellum, but its compelling surreality is hard to shake off.

--Peg Aloi

Other Films by Chris Marker
La Jetée

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The Day the Earth Stood Still

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