Saturday, 11 January 2014

Cutting Edge Film Programme: La Jetée (1962)

Figure 1: Movie Poster [Still Image]
La Jetée (1962) is a French film directed by the multi talented Chris Marker who was a photographer, filmmaker, videographer, poet, journalist, designer and a world traveler.  It is a film constructed entirely using still images. It is one of Chris Marker’s brilliant creation in his film career. Crowther accurately supports this statement when he states La Jetée is a landmark of science-fiction filmmaking, a 28-minute masterpiece told almost entirely in still frames.” (Crowther, 1962)

It is about a story set after the post nuclear war where scientists were researching on time travel, hoping to go back in time and alter it so that the future could be saved from this aftermath. Prisoners were made their guinea pigs as they carried out this experiments. When they finally found the suitable prisoner who could withstand the shock of travelling in time, the scientists could not be happier. Their test subject was a man who had vivid and obsessive memory from his pre war childhood of a woman he had previously seen on the observation platform at the airport. After multiple attempts, he was in the pre war period where he began to develop a romantic relationship with this woman. With the success of sending the subject to the past, the scientist progressed and attempted to send him to the far future. A power unit was given to this man to help his destroyed society recover when he had a brief meeting with people from the future who were technologically inclined.

Figure 2: Scientists Carrying Out The Experiment [Still Image]
As he returned from his accomplished mission, he was identified by the jailers who wanted to execute him. The people from the future contacted him and offered him freedom but he had to return to the pre war time of his childhood and find this woman again. He did return and finds her on the jetty of the airport. However, as he ran towards her, he spotted an agent of his jailers whose mission was to kill him. In his final moments, he begins to figure out what the incident he witnessed as a child actually meant. The incident that tormented his whole life was his own death.

Figure 3: Death Of The Man At The Jetty [Still Image]
The description Konrad had about this entire film could not be more precise when he states “This cutting-edge yet timeless quality is a cornerstone of Marker’s unique cinematic perspective and is what allows his films to both retain an essential freshness that many others films only hope to hold onto as time moves forward.” (Konrad, S.D)  What Konrad appears to be saying is that the whole idea of travelling through time did not affect the quality and content of the film as it kept the audience intrigued by the sequences of the event.

Not having any dialogues and relying only on the narration and sound effects to propel the story forward, this film still turned out to be successful. The sound effects put the audience in an ideal romantic state and deathly condition, beyond their desire or consciousness. The sounds were used really effectively. In a review by Romney, he highlights “Jean Ravel’s subtly rhythmic editing restores a fluid energy to the film’s succession of frozen moments.” (Romney, 2007). An example use of this would be when we see the woman on her bed and a transition of stills that gently and sensuously changes from one to another, stimulating her wavering emotions.

Figure 4: Woman On The Bed [Still Image]
In conclusion, this brilliant piece of work from Chris Marker is indeed the revelation in the art of the cinema world. Films such as Twelve Monkeys (1995)The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009) and About Time (2013) are films that revolved around the idea of travelling through time.  In a review by Hurwitz, she was precise when summarising this film when she states An odd and intense short film that has been the source of inspiration for films that followed it.” (Hurwitz, 1999)

List of Illustrations: 

Figure 1 La Jetée (1962) [Poster] at (Accessed on 10 January 2014)

Figure 2 Scientist Carrying Out The Experiment (1962) [Still Image] at (Accessed on 10 January 2014)

Figure 3 Death Of The Man at The Jetty (1962) [Still Image] at (Accessed on 10 January 2014)

Figure 4 Woman On The Bed (1962) [Still Image] at (Accessed on 10 January 2014)

List of Bibliography:

Bosley Crowther 
La Jetée (1962)
(Accessed on 10 January 2014)

Hurwitz, Emma
Review: Chris Marker - La Jetée/ San Soleil/ Level Five
(Accessed on 10 January 2014)

Konrad, Todd
No Year
La Jetée / Sans Soleil: Two Films by Chris Marker
(Accessed on 10 January 2014)

Romney, Jonathan
La Jetée: Unchained Melody
(Accessed on 10 January 2014)

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