La Jetee (1962)

POSTER In 1962, Chris Marker, a French director, journalist and photographer made a science fiction film called La Jetee


“This is a strangely wonderful film with many memorable images. In fact La Jetee is almost totally composed of individual frozen pictures, since it is a photo-montage with sparse narration.” ( Cannon, D 1997). Marker was a very successful director and unique due to his memorable films, la Jetee is still considered as one of the most staggering achievements in the history of film. The use of the still images is really meaningful thanks to the shots and their order that successfully communicates the flash backs and emotions, makes the story clear.

Still1 During a post-apocalyptic Paris, scientists make experiments on a prisoner who has a strong memory of the past, which they believe will increase the chances to mentally travel in time. The memory that haunted him since he was a child remained a mystery until he realized he was concerned. “This film is my favorite of those that we have covered in this course. It is a reflection of the time in which it was made in that it reflects the anxieties of the 1960s. The film was shot during the Cold War, when the fear of nuclear annihilation was a major source of concern, and the post-apocalyptic setting of the film demonstrates this, among other themes” (Bullock, T 2011) La Jetee was shot in black and white and is made of a series of still images, accompanied by soundtracks which are very relevant to the mood of the story. In a politic point of view, the film shows the anxiety of the French population during Vichy France, in which Germany has taken over northern France. This could be noticed when the scientists whisper to the protagonist.

Moreover, the enslavement of the defeated and how they are being used for experiments that causes madness or even death shows the presence of the Nazis occupation in the French public consciousness. The inescapability of the French public from the war and enslavement is shown through the fact that the main character couldn’t escape the time and his destiny regardless of his ability to travel in time. “Why did the scientists go to all the bother of killing the time-traveller at the end? Under the hypothesis that the time-travel was real, it was surely a costly waste of time for the scientists to chase the time-traveller down and shoot him. Under the alternative hypothesis that the time-travel was imagined or else purely a mental phenomenon, the scientists would then have killed the time-traveller relatively simply and costlessly by giving him, say, an injection of poison, so the shooting at the airport would be merely the time-traveller's imagination at work before he dies” (Y, Sheng 2003).

What makes this film so special and memorable is its use of psychology and the room it leaves to the people’s interpretation. The director succeeds to put the viewer next to the character where we can closely follow and watch him create scenes in his head, because obviously he didn’t travel in time. On further research, it appears to be that memories are likely to change and get distorted under drugs influence without people realizing it. In addition to that, the character’s traumatic memories, his pain and fear from death that have been haunting him during the experiment have invaded his dream.


These emotions might have been an influence on his recalling leaving him creates a scene where he gets shot.

Bibliography: Bullock, T (2011) La Jetee Film Analysis In: [Online] (Accessed on: 14/01/2013) Cannon, D (1997) La Jetee (1962) In: [Online] (Accessed on: 14/01/2013)

Y, Sheng (2003) After all the hype, I expect better than this In: [Online] (Accessed on: 14/01/2013) Illustration: Poster: 0px-La_Jetee_Poster.jpg Still1: Still2:

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