Sans Soleil is a meditation on the nature of human memory, showing the inability to recall the context and nuances of memory and how, as a result, the perception of personal and global histories are affected.
Sans Soleil is often labeled as a documentary, travelogue, or essay-film.
Stretching the genre of documentary, this experimental essay-film is a composition of thoughts, images and scenes, mainly from Japan and Guinea-Bissau, "two extreme poles of survival". Some other scenes were filmed in Iceland, Paris, and San Francisco. A female narrator reads from letters supposedly sent to her by the (fictitious) cameraman Sandor Krasna.
Sans Soleil contains some stock footage, clips from Japanese films and television, and a few excerpts from other films. The original documentary footage was filmed by Marker with a 16mm Beaulieu silent film camera in conjunction with a non-sync portable tape recorder.