What Chris Marker’s short film La Jetée manages to achieve in just 28 minutes of Black & White still photographs with voiceover narration is nothing short of miraculous. This film quite literally bends the ordinary method of storytelling used in film. Rather than utilizing the “moving pictures” aspect of cinema it tells its story with beautifully shot still photographs of the scenes and the characters which is accompanied by one of the most beautiful film scores I’ve ever heard and excellent narration provided by Jean Negroni.
The thing that really drew me into this film was the images used to illustrate the story. Not only are the images in this film beautiful but they are also astoundingly efficient in conveying the story and triggering a reaction in the viewer. The best example of this in my mind was when the main character referred to only as “The Man” is first being experimented on by “The Experimenter” and you see a series of still shots showing his head reeling back in anguish which is accompanied by the constant sound of his heartbeat rising. This scene was just as haunting as any regular scene would be, if not even more haunting due to the score and the Black & White photography.
The story of this film explores the concept of time travel in a post-apocalyptic world. It follows the story of “The Man” as he grows from a boy in the time leading up to World War lll to a man being held in a post-apocalyptic prison led by scientists. In this post-apocalyptic world the only human survivors are referred to as “The Victors” and they live underground in order to avoid the radioactivity above. The scientists in this underground prison are attempting to travel into either into the past or the future in order to find a way to same the human race which they claim is doomed. All of the prisoners they test on either die or go mad. That is, until they test on the main character.
The Man has greater mental images of his past which makes him the more able applicant for such tests. Eventually after great suffering he is sent back with the memory of a woman’s face he saw at the airport just before witnessing a man’s death. He becomes close with “The Woman” who he only sees when he is sent back which ranges many years in time. Their relationship grows even with this oddity in his visits and they explore together. They experience life and they create memories for The Man. Eventually events transpire that am I not going to ruin but it results in an excellent conclusion that ends a beautiful, haunting, heartbreaking, and sometimes terrifying film.
I can not write much about this film considering the fact that I don’t think I truly understood what it meant. This is a perfect film that in my eyes demands repeat viewings. This was my first foray into the world of Chris Marker after hearing about his death about two weeks ago, and it was an astounding journey.