Zahreddine and Marker’s La Jetée

Zahreddine’s Eldorado as imprint homage to Chris Marker’s La Jetée

At the climax of the story, we find that the character, after having accumulated a certain number of physical injuries, sentimental and spiritual catastrophes, finds himself, finally, in the presence of this very woman, “…the catalyst to his conclusion…” As he says in the end of the second act, he has either to ascend to her pedestal, or be driven to the depths. In his acceptance, in seeing her again, he is forced to reconcile with a reality outside of her. Meaning, to observe with love what can only be accepted with virtue. After having suffered the result of her disappearance, of his alienation from his love, we hear him say, at the beginning of the third act, “…I don’t believe in the soul…I believe in this moment right now…” A few months later, this very protagonist would, “…appeal to your soul if you do not understand. Somewhere, her heart races, and she thinks of me. To that, I say nothing else, except I would be a fool not to hear her sing.” And in the very same text, the passages of the Manhattan edition, he would, “…remember the eyes of a woman who knew me, from surface to soul, I’ll never know love again.” This acceptance comes at the cost of his mission, at the expense of his journey having any navigating principle.

In Eldorado, while we are excluded from the reality of his mission until the very end of the second act, when he reveals in the passage the history of his having left in the first place, the archetypal story of a love lost never to be united again, the narrative always moves, from onset toward the final word, to the resolution of this very breath. Possessing the impetus to carry his own life forward, the narrative carries itself in a unidirectional way. All the abstractions that seem to drift away from a central, driving force of narrative actually possess the character to return to the heart and soul of his journey. When he is distracted, he is brought back to the matter at hand, grounded again, either by his own admission, or by his mirror self. He cannot escape, “…because you are still there…” Having lost, at the culmination of Eldorado, the impetus to a mission, his journey combusts into a million fragments of what he had been, a revelatory expansion into the deep unknown. Eldorado is the last living tale of a protagonist who is ushered into a journey, with the expectation of returning at the end with the elixir in his hand. From then on, the protagonist’s mission diffuses, he enters into a flight of chaos, chasing the fleeting gift of past.

As in Marker’s La Jetée, where, “The man finally realizes that there is no escape from Time, and that the image that had haunted him since childhood was that of the moment of his own death,”[1] the hero is forced to reconcile with the ultimate truth that governs his entire being, that, “There is no way to escape Time and return to the past as if it could be lived over again; there is no way for the hero to escape the implacable, preordained drive of the story…”[2] It is no surprise then that at the end of Eldorado we come to realize that the story has been told in reverse, that the very first words,

He waited at the pier.

Are exactly where we find him at the conclusion of the story. It can thus be ascertained, from the complex multitude of returns and images the protagonist experiences, that the entire novel is a replication of his journey, a stake chapter out of the annals of his own life. Memory, thus, is the driving figure, and not the protagonist himself. Where the protagonist is exactly cannot so well be known, until we find ourselves in possession of Manhattan, where it is abundantly clear, the prose told in a direct, invigorating first person, through the conscious, living and breathing eyes of our hero, and Eldorado, the flight into the subconscious gallery of his deepest conflict, remains etched in the past, the narrator having subsided from the podium of words, silenced by an everlasting clarity that resonates when a character finds themselves in the presence of resolution. The underlying motivation, the great ungovernable task that drives Eldorado forward is the writing of the story itself, which, when fused with the knowledge of it being bred of an escape into the archive of his memories, suggests the great ungovernable task that drives Eldorado is memory itself. And the only balancing enigma that surfaces to silence the shutter of his mobile imagination is the figure of the woman he distinctly remembers, whom he watches from a distance, observing in her beauty the silence of the night.

 

He did not know in that moment where he had arrived. He slowed down, his head fixed to the ground, like a tired dog stepping into a wet guttural home. He turned a corner, where he felt he had been freed, led by his own decision. Then, he saw her.

No length of time can imply how long it had been since he’d seen her last. It would seem he had passed through paradigms unscathed, supplied to hold her in his sight once more. But could it be so romantic! He had expected the end to be kinder to his frail needs. But he realized he was paying his penal price.

He urged with the fire of his youth to approach her, but he could not move from his place. He remained transfixed, a marching fiend stripped of his legs. He knew he should have, in that moment, gone up to her, to salvage, at least, a memory he could carry over the passing.

The endangered street. The cabin rope we lunged over the drowning rails. The image of you dancing at the fountain. Somebody must have saved you. I was a fool for you, he thought, a mule.

He watched her, beside the steel enclosure of a home. Scattered images of a life together. The shading of the light, the shadow of the street lamp forming on their shoulders. Had she been warned, she might have noticed the stranger lurking in the shadows. But she would never notice. The insignificant loom large.

Sometime later she disappeared, they all disappear. He had crouched in the darkness, mesmerized by the memory, overtaken by calm. He wished for himself that the feeling would last. Having seen it all again.

He walked over to her house, dreary with ornaments of fall. The path had led him there and he relented to reflect. Inside, he heard the playing of her mother’s cello. He peered in through the glass, stained with the embellishment of lived life. Her mother wilted in her chair, as she had done each night, playing a song of hope. She refused to lament the dead. She didn’t believe in death, older now but still beautiful.

With the image impressed in his mind, he walked. He heard a voice he recognized call his name. It wasn’t true. Nobody knew his name. He had come a long way to return where he had begun. Still, he did not hear his name when it might have saved him.

The endings surged and seized hold of him. He was alive, yes, the boy was at last alive.

The next morning sang the wail of a new beginning, it surprised them all. The ash fell in citrus rain. You would have wept at the sight, he would say. The jester must’ve been watching, lurking as he does.

 

 

As with Marker’s La Jetée,

The remembered image of the woman focuses the ambiguities of memory’s nature and the role that memory  plays in creating the identity of the hero (and by implication other human subjects). La Jetée recognizes that            memories become memories ‘on account of their scars’; their intensity is directly related to the             proximity of trauma and loss, and to expose them to its presence. In Marker’s film the founding memory     poses the enigma of the hero’s selfhood, which turns out to be his own annihilation.[3]

The relationship between Eldorado and Marker’s film is most evocative in the end. In his flight towards the woman, “He recognizes a guard who has followed him from the camp and who shoots him in the end.”[4] His flight brings the resolution to the narrative, and in his seeing her face one last time, our hero is governed by an implacable silence. While the hero in Marker’s tragedy is caught in the moment of reunion and ultimately killed, our protagonist is able to return, actually, to his instigating place, a state of calm overcoming him. The flight he makes from the officers who burn his house, who chase him away and lead him into her presence are catalyst to his reunion with the image.

There are three stages to the resolution in Eldorado, all of which are strongly connected to the archetypal and thematic forces at play. The stages begin with the emergence of a foreign force. “Suddenly,” the protagonist says, “I was overcome by the strangest sensation.” [1] At the moment of his declaration, he is physically bound in the family home of his hosts. The lady of the household, duly named, was to play in his production, and her daughter, to assist him in the process. Their relationship, as everything in this stage of the drama, collapses, when the patriarchal figure returns to the scene, the man of the house. In a dramatic turn of events, the two women confess their enduring love for him, the man is angered, and their son, an indifferent character in Eldorado but the beginnings of a significant role in the writer’s later works, declares his intention to transform himself into a woman.

The transformative nature of this scene stands as an instigating force in the final resolution of the novel. It is no surprise then that the writer on the stage, whose mirror self has taken him on quite the interior journey, is finally silenced after the culmination of this scene. The mirror self appears beside the writer, questioning him on his agreeable mood, to which the writer responds, curtly, that he is in an agreeable mood, for having finally come to a conclusion. The mirror self asks what the conclusion may be, but there is no response, only a laugh, a sigh, and an enchanting smile. From two characters whose drawn out dialogues do much of the talking in the text, the simplicity of their exchange comes at an ideal time. Having passed the threshold of the final tasks, the writer is ready to surrender to the inevitable, and in so doing, to carry on into the end

[1] Marker, Catherine Lupton, 89

[2] Ibid, 93

[3] Ibid, 95

[4] Ibid, 89