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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Film Review - La Jetée (1962)

Fig. 1 La  Jetée Film Poster

Chris Marker’s 1962 film "La Jetée" is one of the most distinctive and memorable of the films which emerged from the French New Wave filmmakers, of the early 1960’s. It tells a haunting story, which was composed of black and white individual frozen photos, a photo-montage with very little dialogue.

Fig. 2 La  Jetée  Film Still

Marker worked with Alan Renais on his documentary short films and it is said that in "La Jetee "The influence of the early work of Alan Renais is evident" (Travers,2000). With Renais themes of time and memory are seen with disturbing clarity throughout the duration of the film. Also Marker himself is best known as a maker of documentaries, with "La Jetée" being his only fictional piece. The approach that Marker had was to give this film the feeling of a documentary with a shocking sense of realism for the audience.

Fig. 3 La  Jetée Film Still

Set in the future, the Earth has barely survived a nuclear holocaust, which has driven humanity underground. With minimal resources, scientists beneath the ruins of Paris are searching for salvation through the single avenue left open called "TIME". The team of scientists realise that the only way to save humanity from extinction, is to find away to send someone into the past or the future to ask for help. So experiments are performed in a quest to refine their technique. But the results are devastating with either resulting in the darkness if insanity or death of the volunteer. Determined to persevere, the scientist discover, that they are failing because the test subjects are unable to grip the past. With this new information, a new volunteer is selected, through the analysis of his dreams. He seems to be fixated upon one instant from his past. As a small boy he witnessed the shooting of a man, at an airport and found himself gazing into the face of a young woman. It is this single moment that they believe will provide a connection for their time-traveller.

Fig. 4 La  Jetée Film Still

Weeks pass in a haze of pain, disorientation and gradually remembering more and more of the past. Forgotten visit of parks, children and birds everything that was taken for granted by everyone before the nuclear holocaust. The method of temporal projection improves, allowing the accurate placement within any desired moment of the past. However the past is a dead end as far as saving the present, only going into the future can save the few last survivors.
The technical style of "La Jetée" provides fraction of while it is such a memorable film, with the essential story is projected in a surprising detail for such a short film. The effect that achieved this was the choice of black and white photography’s. Which were shot in such a way that immediate impression of wartime whilst the events that are captured suggest far more than they show. The time the shot was held, was with a tight grasp of pace from each photo, adding a certain level of suspense to film. But "Interestingly, perhaps the most significant result of "La Jetée" is that the basis structures utilised in cinema are stripped bare and revealed unadorned." (Cannon, 1962)

Fig. 4 La  Jetée Film Still

Marker himself is well-rounded in all locations of the art form; he is a writer, poet, documentarian, film-maker and photographer. So in "La Jetée" he knew exactly how he wanted every frame (photo) to appear and why he wanted which scenes to appear in those formats. Even though the 28 minute long film was composed of individual frozen photos and "Theses photographs, however are powerful enough to categorize this film as a visual masterpiece that conveys a very powerful emotional attachment" (Young,2001) There is one segment of motion throughout the whole film. This actually does not characterize this as your traditional motion picture just as Marker wanted it to be. It is carefully place during the flashback of when the volunteer was at his happiest. In a POV shot we see the women is lying in bed, she blinks and smiles This segment of motion does not take away for the rest of the film but I could be said that it adds to the intensity of the film.

List of Illustrations  
Figure 2. La  Jetée (1962) La  Jetée Film Still. (Accessed on 08/02/2011)
Figure 3. La  Jetée (1962) La  Jetée Film Still. (Accessed on 08/02/2011)
Figure 4. La  Jetée (1962) La  Jetée Film Still. (Accessed on 08/02/2011)
Figure 5. La  Jetée (1962) La  Jetée Film Still. (Accessed on 08/02/2011) 
Travers,James(2000)LaJetée(1962)Review. (Accessed on 08/02/2011)
Cannon,Damian (1997) La Jetee (1962).
(Accessed on 08/02/2011)
Young, Jordan (2001) LA JETEE, 1962 (Film Reviews). (Accessed on 08/02/2011)

1 comment:

  1. Really nice review, Sasha - you give context, and analysis and relate the film to the wider themes of the unit. Lovely! :D