Guy Debord - In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (1978)


In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni is a 1978 film by the situationist Guy Debord, the title of which is a medieval Latin palindrome meaning “we turn in the night and are consumed by fire”.

The film opens with an excoriating attack on the cinema-going public and its world, and on conventional cinema itself. However, the bulk of the film is given over to Debord’s quite personal reflections on his life, loves and times, taking in his early pre-situationist years in the Sant-Germain-des-Prés district of Paris, the Situationist International, and the various European locales in which he lived after the dissolution of the International in 1972.

Like The Society of the Spectacle, In girum combines a spoken text with a series of static images and film clips (the latter largely taken from existing sources). However, as Debord pointed out in a 1989 note in the critical edition of In girum:

“The situation shifts in In girim due to several important differences: I directly shot a portion of the images; I wrote the text specifically for this particular film; and the theme of the film is not the spectacle, but real life. The films that interrupt the discource do so primarily to support it positively, even if there is an element of irony (Lacenaire, the Devil, the fragment from Cocteau, or Custer’s last stand). The Charge of the Light Brigade is intended to crudely and eulogistically ‘represent’ a dozen years of the SI’s actions.

As for the use of music, even though it is detourned like everything else, it will be felt by everyone in the normal way; it is never distanciated and always has a positive, ‘lyrical’ aim.”

This version of the film differs from earlier versions in that Debord’s French voiceover has been replaced by an English-language narration by the American actress, Dore Bowen. The text spoken by Bowen is drawn from Ken Knabb’s translation. That translation also provides occasional subtitles for non-English dialogue within the film clips that Debord borrows and intertitles. The visuals appear to have been drawn from the French Gaumont DVD. Editing and production on this new version were by Konrad Steiner.

Knabb’s translation of the main narrative can be found here.

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