The Themes of Debord’s Film
In girum imus nocte...
The entire film (including the images, but already in the text of the spoken “commentary”) is based on the theme of water. Hence the quotations from poets evoking the evanescence of everything (Li Po, Omar Khayyam, Heraclitus, Bossuet, Shelley?), who all used water as a metaphor for the flowing of time.
Secondarily, there is the theme of fire; of momentary brilliance — revolution, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, youth, love, negation in the night, the Devil, battles and “unfulfilled missions” where spellbound “passing travelers” meet their doom; and desire within this night of the world (“nocte consumimur igni”).
But the water of time remains, and ultimately overwhelms and extinguishes the fire. Thus the brilliant youth of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the fire of the ardent Charge of the Light Brigade, advancing “under the cannon fire of time,” were drowned in the flowing water of their century. . . .
Manuscript fragment (22 December 1977) reproduced in In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni: Édition critique (Gallimard, 1999). This translation is from Debord’s Complete Cinematic Works (AK Press, 2003, translated and edited by Ken Knabb), which includes the scripts of all six of Debord’s films along with illustrations, documents, and extensive annotations. For further information, see Guy Debords Films.