Real Life is Elsewhere

January 10, 2022 / Amber Weir

Dedicated to the stars, the balls of fire in the sky, where I find meaning.


Marianne and Ferdinand are on the run together. They are “lovers” who are not in love. If true love is about accepting the other person as a reflection of yourself, this isn’t the case for them. They’re both sitting on the same beach, distanced from one another, taking a moment to ponder. They might speak the same language and see the same sky, but ultimately they experience the world very differently. 

Marianne gets lost in a dazzling daydream, staring at the vastness of the ocean. The crisp scent of pink sea salt twirls across the shore. Marianne remembers people she has shared moments with in the form of shapes and shades of colors. Her favorite people are spirals — they contain endless possibilities with depth and a range of complexities. Circles, on the other hand, are bland. They signal repetitive paths she has already taken.

She finds eternity in this moment: right here, where nothing but the beauty of the sun reflecting over the shimmering water matters. She might be alone, but she can feel the memories of those who came before her. Each grain of sand in between her toes acts as a reminder of those who have walked before her, and those who will come after her.

Overhead, a fighter plane darts through an innocent cloud, leaving Marianne filled with sadness. She thinks, Life is so different from books. I wish it were the same: clear, logical, organized. Disillusioned by the thought of war and nuclear weapons, she wonders how humans have the power to destroy all that is living and all that is beautiful. Aware that her thoughts are subjective, Marianne pauses to feel and breathe. By accepting her insignificance as a human, she has found a form of peace.

Ferdinand is further up on the beach, staring into the blanket of blue water. Ferdinand is ruled by logic; he wants to figure out existence, but each fact he learns takes him away from living and closer to his death. Has he spent his whole life centered around his final goodbye? Structures provide Ferdinand with the illusion that our world is ordered and logical. Thoughts and ideas are his friends, but also his unraveling.

He sighs, thinking, Ten minutes ago, I saw death everywhere. Now it's just the opposite; look at the seas, the waves, the sky. Life might be sad, but it’s always beautiful. Moments later, the death of blue occurs to Ferdinand. He can no longer see the beauty of the ocean. He’s totally consumed by his thoughts. The beach might be silent, but his mind is screaming. A blue and green parrot jumps onto his shoulder. He doesn’t care. Life is meaningless. Life is suffering. Ever since Ferdinard began questioning his existence, it has opened an endless stream of doubt and uncertainty. He might be alive, but he is certainly not living.

                    END SCENE.


Let’s be hypnotized by Jean Luc Godard’s Pierrot le Fou (1965), where the beauty of in-between spaces rules supreme. The film flows seamlessly like air, capturing shadows and nuances between each shade of color. Silhouettes dance across the screen. Words are profound yet contradictory, mirroring the human condition.

The film begins with a story surrounding Ferdinand and Marianne, presented as lovers who end up on the run together. This narrative is intentionally underdeveloped and becomes completely disjointed as the film unfolds. To enjoy Godard, audiences must enter his universe by suspending disbelief and falling into a prism filled with color, darkness, and questions.

Eternal questions without any response — don’t expect any definite answers. Those are up to you — yes, you — the audience.

A film like Pierrot le Fou might be frustrating for audiences watching it for the first time. Godard’s film is the epitome of French New Wave cinema: stylish, experimental, reflexive, and absolutely absurd. Known for his erratic creative vision, Godard often didn’t have scripts,  allowing spontaneous events to transpire in his films. Continuity errors in the editing are incorporated into the narrative as intentional chaos.

Godard is an honest director who reminds the audience that the film is a film. Characters often break the fourth wall; periodically, you can hear cues from the director, or one of the characters is doing something so bizarre that you can’t help but remember you are watching a film.

Under the surface of this imaginatively constructed world, the characters struggle with a deeper question: Does life have meaning? If so, who or what creates meaning?

This film is set during a wave of existentialist thought after two world wars. For the first time in human history, nuclear weapons had been unleashed, and there was a sense of despair from the sheer magnitude of lives lost.  Godard was anti-imperialist, anti-nuclear weapons, and anti-war. His political philosophy is a theme throughout his films, and following Pierrot le Fou, he would go on to create even more radical films.

Godard distinguishes between existentialism, where individuals believe life is meaningless, but humans can still create meaning, and existential nihilism, which states that life is meaningless and nothing matters.  Marianne is an existentialist; she can make her own meaning through art and personal style. Ferdinand is the existential nihilist, whom Godard uses as a warning of how not to live.

Pierrot le Fou is not a film, but an attempt to live,” says Godard. “It reminds us [that] one must attempt to live.”

While we may never know the true meaning of Pierrot le Fou, we know how it made us feel — which is perhaps more important.

The film is extremely intertextual and borrows from different art forms. The narration is split into chapters like a book. Godard also chose to include the work of other artists: Picasso, Van Gogh, Warhol, and Lichtenstein, among others. Their images are often reimagined in the film, reminding the audience about the longevity of art which can live on past our lives.

I connect with this film because like Godard, I believe that if we share anything as humans, it’s our desire to create meaning across different mediums. Over time, as a species, we’ve connected to literature, paintings, film, music, and fashion. Through art, we can project our own experiences when interpreting a work and find out about the human condition.

There’s power in accepting that the world we are living in is objectively absurd.  Coincidences happen on a daily basis, and to try to rationalize such a life through intellect and logic alone, like Ferdinand, can bring the downfall of an individual.

Every night, I look to the sky as Marianne once looked to the sea. I admire the beauty of the stars and like to think that stars hold the light of people who have died. Maybe one day, I will return to space and be with the stars, emitting light to others. Until then, I will embrace the unknown elements of my existence.

In this lifetime, I want to enjoy the beauty that is all around me, because one day the stars will expire, the ocean will stop moving, and all the art created by humans will be gone. There will be no explanation, and I won’t be here to see it.

But that’s OK, because real life is elsewhere. ■

by: Amber Weir

layout: Charlotte Rovelli

photographer: Charlotte Rovelli

stylist: Noelle Campos & Zaha Kahwaja

hmuas: Jordan Buarello & Marissa Kapp

models: Maliabo Diamba, Rachel Lazatin Aquino & Sophia Santos

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