When, in 1947, a portion of Punjab province was assigned to the newly created
Pakistani State, Albert Mayer began planning a new capital for the portion which
remained in the possession of India. Le Corbusier had been responsible since the
1950s for general planning and, more particularly, for large-scale buildings typical
of the governmental sector. A year after the death of Le Corbusier, Alain Tanner
began shooting his film in a city still partially under construction, or even, in certain
places, at the planning stage. The inhabitants of the metropolis, however, already
numbered some 120,000.
Among the most modern of cities architecturally, Chandigarh was archaically
constructed by hand. Impressions of this green horizontal city-brick not permitting
vertical development-are captured in long static shots and numerous traveling shots.
John Berger’s commentary inscribes the visual beauty of that reality within a larger
reflection: climate did strongly influence the decisions of the planners, whereas the
new city did not succeed in breaking the old social rules with a single blow. These
rules continue to determine the level of education and income, and it is not even
possible for these workers who are in the process of constructing Chandigarh to
live in it themselves.
However, the film partakes of Le Corbusier’s optimism in its appreciation of architecture
as an instrument aiding men to clarify their visions, to exercise their powers of
discernment and to establish new relations, even if the results will only make themselves
felt in the long term.