In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni  

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"The movie-going public ... is now recruited almost entirely from ... the stratum of low-level skilled employees in the various “service” occupations [and] in many ways they resemble slaves" --tr. Ken Knabb

"I pride myself on having made a film out of whatever rubbish was at hand; and I find it amusing that people will complain about it who have allowed their entire lives to be dominated by every kind of rubbish." --ibid

"It thus has to be admitted that there has been neither success nor failure for Guy Debord and his extravagant pretensions." --ibid

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni is a 1978 black and white political film by Guy Debord first shown in 1981. This film, Debord's sixth and last one, is largely autobiographical but begins with a thorough and pitiless critique of the spectator who goes to the cinema to forget about his dispossessed daily life as a modern slave:

"I will make no concessions to the public in this film [... and] this particular public, which has been so totally deprived of freedom and which has tolerated every sort of abuse, deserves less than any other to be treated gently. The advertising manipulators, with the usual impudence of those who know that people tend to justify whatever affronts they don’t avenge, calmly declare that “People who love life go to the cinema.” But this life and this cinema are equally paltry, which is why it hardly matters if one is substituted for the other."[1] (tr. Ken Knabb)

The film consists of material filmed by Debord (tracking shots from a boat in Venice, tracking shots of Paris), maps of Europe, his Le Jeu de la Guerre Kriegsspiel, aerial photos, snippets from famous films (mainly western films, war films (Charge of the Light Brigade) but also a Zorro film and a film depicting General Custer), several minutes of blank screen, photo stills (including advertising photos and portraits). Over the entire film we hear the monotone voice-over of Debord. There is no music apart from the occasional piece of classical music and a jazz composition.



The title of the movie is a palindrome known as "the Devil's verse." It is Latin for "We enter the circle at night and are consumed by fire", and was said to describe the behavior of moths. It is likely from medieval rather than ancient times. As of July 2014 its earliest occurrence in Google Books is in Nouveau dictionnaire proverbial, satirique et burlesque[2] (1826) by Antoine Caillot (without preview) and with preview in this[3] work from 1858.

The phrase is also found in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.


Debord cites such authors as Musil, Clausewitz, Swift (“It is no small satisfaction to present a work that is beyond all criticism”) and Jomini.


The entire film (including the images, but already in the text of the spoken “commentary”) is based on the theme of water. ... Secondarily, there is the theme of fire. [4]

Reception and influence

Glockgirl at IMDb comments that "the use of stills upon which the discourse progresses from the evocation of the mechanisms of the society of the spectacle, the alienation by consumption, the oppression of modern society to the deception of imbecile propaganda cinema, transmitting falsehood, to considerations about Paris, the loss of its true spirit and about himself, Guy Debord, is not only an illustration of détournement ... but it is simply a beautiful work of modern visual poetry."

A 2007 retrospective of the SI in Basel and Utrecht was aptly titled "In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni".

Films cited

"The voice-over narrative within ... is superimposed with filmed images of Zorro, the comic book character Prince Valiant, and the use of films, such as Marcel Carné Les Visiteurs du soir, and Les Enfants du paradis, Jean Cocteau's Orphée , and Carol Reed's The Third Man."

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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