Film Review - La Jetée


Release Date - 1962
Director - Chris Marker 
Genre -  Sci-fi, Short film, Drama, Black&White

The movie that is said to be the main inspiration for Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys (1995), Chris Marker's La jetée is a twenty eight minute film told almost entirely in still frames, Even though the images are statics, the video give a strong sensation of movement and all cinematography elements are there. The static images “freeze” the time to emphasise the most important memories of the main character. The use of light to distinguish the present and the memories worked very well. The sun and shining images to show the glorious past and the romantic history, the darkness from the subsoil shows how depressing is the future of humanity after the third war. Despite this Jonathan Romney, goes as far to explain the stills as a story board "photographed storyboard for a science-fiction film yet to be made." (J.R. 2007) Although there is one point in the film where it isn't a photograph, a very small and subtle moment, but in that time you find yourself leaning in, watching these small moments, Andy Taylor makes a good point by saying in that small moment we truly connect with this character and jump from what feels like past to present, "In a few brief frames the woman blinks and smiles at the camera and in the moment we connect with her, the past brought miraculously to life not only for the time traveller but for the audience as well." (A.T. 2008)

Set in a future shaped by the Cold War, the Earth’s surface has been scorched and irradiated by nuclear war and what is left of the human species lives underground. In Paris, scientists experiment with time travel, attempting to send a person into the future so as to find a way to rescue humanity from the fate of the present on the grounds that those in future “cannot refuse their past”. along the way telling the story of an unnamed man whose childhood memories make him the perfect guinea pig for the experiment. After awhile he is sent into the past, where he falls in love with a woman whom he once saw on a pier.

Besides the editing and screenplay, there is one characteristic of the film that could impress. Even with a fiction story, the documental approach is really strong. As photography for so many years were regarded as proof of reality, the images of a destroyed Paris seem so real that you almost believe in the story, fig. 2. The camera seems to really have registered real circumstances. Another element that helps this sensation of reality is the voice over, guiding us through the photographs, Landon Palmer say's "Marker connects La Jetée’s careful succession of images with a voice-over narration which further gives the impression of a narrative moving forward even if the images are not." (L.P. 2010)

Film still of the destroyed Paris.

It’s an astounding example of what you can do as a filmmaker once you have a great story.

Illustration List - 

Figure One - 'Favourite Time Travel Movies - Movie Forums' (1962) From: La Jetée
Directed By: Chris Marker [Film Poster] France: Argos Films 

Figure Two - 'La Jetée Captured - From the Current - The Criterion Collection' (1962)
From: La Jetée. Directed By: Chris Marker [Film Poster] France: Argos Films 
At: www.criterion.com

Bibliography - 

Palmer, Landon. (2010) 'Criterion Files #387: La Jetée' From: La Jetée
In: http://filmschoolrejects.com 14.07.10 [online]
At: http://filmschoolrejects.com/features/criterion-files-387-la-jetee.php (Accessed on 20.01.15)

Romney, Jonathan (2007) 'La Jetée: Unchained Melody' From: La Jetée
In:http://www.criterion.com 25.06.07 [online]
At:http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/485-la-jetee-unchained-melody (Accessed on 20.01.15)

Taylor, Andy (2008) 'Andy's Anachronisms - Time Travel Movie Reviews' From: La Jetée
In: http://www.timetravelreviews.com [online]
At: http://www.timetravelreviews.com/movies/la_jetee.html (Accessed on 20.01.15)

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review Becky - great choice of supporting quotes, and a very thoughtful discussion around the 'reality' that a photograph portrays. :)