Clair Obscur is written from Louis Armand’s screen play, given honourable mention at the 2009 Alpe Adria Trieste International Film Festival. Its opening (‘Overture’) merges the sound of an electric typewriter with that of celluloid feeding through a reel to reel projector. A camera zooms into the workings of the projector and onto the word “Clair”, “typed, backwards letter by letter.”
Clair Obscur continues to exploit cinema’s methods of staging, framing, editing, rehearsing and re-enacting reality, in a prolonged meditation on the unreality of war and the nightmare of its consequences.The context is the war in former-Yugoslavia; the narrative begins in Trieste in 1938. The novel moves between locations and periods and transposes people and places. Using the potential threat posed by the camera’s presence, Armand implicates the reader, demonstrating how constant surveillance can undercut our understanding of what is real and what is not. He asks us how we can “take responsibility for things which don’t exist,” if we are awake or asleep, and if we “know anything about objects, what causes them?”
Clair Obscur might be read as taking a preoccupation with cinematic prose to its logical conclusion, but in fact the novel avoids all the pitfalls that that might imply. Its form is sustained, careful, rigorous and sure of purpose. The notion of travel pervades the book and, in Clair Obscur, Armand succeeds in taking his reader on a difficult, but very worthwhile journey.
*Photograph (c) Roberto Vicic
*CLAIR OBSCUR by Louis Armand is now available in a Kindle edition from Amazon.com