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Figure 1. Movie Poster Directed & Written by Chris Marker, Produced by Anatole Dauman Photography: Jean Chiabaud La Jetee, “The Runway” is a science fiction featurette, which won the Prix Jean Vigo award for short film. The film is constructed entirely of still photos with narration over the top, all the stills are in black and white. It inspired later sci-fi films like the 1995 12 Monkeys, which has concepts taken directly from La Jetee. The story features a prisoner in the post Third World War Paris, which has been destroyed, who lives underground with other survivors in the Palais de Chailot galleries. Scientist who also survived had been researching time travel, in hope to seek help for the present, from the past and future. There had been many tests which led men to insanity from the time travel, as they could not handle the shock. This man, Davos Hanich, was chosen to be tested on, as he had such a vivid memory from when he was younger. The image of a woman’s face, and a man who died, though everything else was hazy to him. The tests were successful, and he was sent to the past, where he developed a romantic relationship with the lady of his memory, and in the future, met the highly advance people of the time, where he learnt he was to be executed, and was offered to be saved and kept in their time. Instead, he wishes to be in the past again to be with the woman he loved. Having his wish granted, he learnt that the strong image of his childhood was in fact of his own death, as when he was rushing to his loved one, he was shot dead by an agent. Film is known to be moving image, and a way to make films to show a story with the mixing of movement, sound, colour, angles, and so on. To take away one of the considered most important traits of films would cause confusion and doubt of how successful the film would be. La Jetee pushes the boundaries of film by doing just that, yet, still making on of the most influential Sci-Fi
stories of all time, as it still conveys a mind blowing story, with moving imagery. For this movie to work, if it were to have a different story, it perhaps would have not worked as well. Eric Mellin, film review explains how the story is so crucial to the success of the film; “La Jetée may be at once the simplest and most complicated of time-travel movies because although the plot is deceptively simple, Chris Marker doesn’t get mired in the complicated science of how time travel might work. Instead, it’s a stirring, emotional film about the unique hold memories have over people’s lives and how experiences themselves are fleeting.” (E.Mellin, 2012). The simplicity of the plot handles the most complicated of concepts, leaving the viewer open to many questions and intrigued to see how things like time travel are portrayed, without the use of CGI, affects, paper mache sets. The story will need to grasp the audience immediately, otherwise they would perhaps not take so much interest into the film, even though the images are moving, it would feel more like a narrated photo reel.
Fig 2. still 1 Of course, the story would be let down, and the movie would have been a failure if the images were not to be as affective as they are. The images carry the story, and explain things the narrator does not, like the atmosphere, the emotions and create even more wonder. The movie uses images from WWII to create the images of third war within the film, though it is probably easy to recognise these are images from a war that happened in the past, the fact that we recognise them, with the thought of our homes being at threat once again, has so much more emotional impact on the viewer than an edited photo to perhaps resemble how a third world war could look. Phill Hall, film reviewer, explains how the use of the ordinary affects us; “Indeed, one of the most remarkable things about “La Jetée” is how Marker cleverly uses quotidian settings. The postwar world could be any basement hallway, while the trip into the past takes advantage of Parisian shops, parks, streets and museum galleries – Marker knows how to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.” (P.Hall, 2011) This makes the film's story more real to the viewer, as it now feels like something that could happen, and not a magical fantasy. Chris Marker uses this technique of taking the ordinary and what we have already seen to create a feeling of fear towards the scientists. In figure 2, we can see the scientists at work, with their faces blurred out to create a very frightening affect. When ever the scientists are at work, we can hear quietly the scientists at discussion, not being able to make out much, but from their tones of voices, it creates a very serious but almost sinister vibe. The discussion is in German, which draws thoughts upon the Nazi scientists, as people know of the immoral tests which had took place in the past World War, and we immediately begin to get the vibe of time repeating it self, and that perhaps some inhumane tests are at work again, which is frightening to the viewer, as we know it can happen, and has.
Fig 3. Still 2 Much like moving image, shots were very much took into consideration in this short film of stills. The use of focus and what is captured in the frame was used to create an affect and emotion, as underground, the focus was always blurred on faces to create a feeling of unknown, like it is being hid, from something, and then, there would be a focus on faces which have heavy shadows on them,which was just as frightening, but created a feeling of emptiness, like the life had been taken out of the person, as in figure 3, you can not see their eyes, which makes them appear zombie-like, somehow. Yet, when in the past, you can see everything in focus, which makes the past seem safe and beautiful, and something the viewer is comfortable to see. The way the future is portrayed is interesting, as we don't actually see anything of what the future world may be, just the peoples faces half in dark, half in light, which suggests the idea of we're only seeing half of what the future holds, there is a lot more than what is being said, of what the people are giving. The simplicity creates such a feeling of wonder.
Fig 4. Stil 3 There is one moving image within this short film, and it's when the lady of past awakes, and looks at the man, and the audience, with such eyes full of love, happiness.. Though she is only but blinking, and it is almost a still, this simple movement puts the audience in awe. This scene not only suggests the sexual relationship between the characters, but the viewer can now clearly see how the characters are feeling for each other, we are put in Davos' feet, and we can see the beauty he does. La Jetee shows just how important a story is for an affective film, and that how special affects are
not needed, no fantasy sets, no editing, just strong images with a strong story can create the largest impact, perhaps what a lot of modern day films lack. “But it would be remiss not to point out that this film shot on a shoe-string budget and only being 27 minutes, still had a much greater impact than the bigger budgeted full-length feature.”(D.Schwartz,2007) Illustrations Fig 1. Movie Poster [Film Poster]:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:La_Jetee_Poster.jpg (Accessed 10/1/13) Fig 2. Still 1 [Film Still] http://www.design.upenn.edu/files/images/large/la_jetee_L.jpg(Accessed 10/1/13) Fig 3. Still 2 [Film Still] http://thinkinink.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/lajetteeyesight.jpg(Accessed 10/1/13) Fig 4. Still 3 [Film Still]http://chainedandperfumed.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/la-jetc3a9e1.jpg? w=500&h=256 (Accessed 10/1/13) Bibliography Eric Mellin (2012) La Jetee in www.scene-stealers.com [online] http://www.scenestealers.com/columns/overlooked-movie-monday/la-jetee-sans-soliel-blu-ray-review/ at (Accessed 10/1/13) Phill Hall (2011) La Jetee in www.filmthreat.com [online] http://www.filmthreat.com/features/34818/ at (Accessed 10/1/13) Dennis Schwartz (2007) La Jetee in Ozus movie review Blog[online] http://homepages.sover.net/~ozus/lajetee.htm at (Accessed 10/1/13)
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