La Jetée by Chris Marker - Aesthetic Post

La Jetée by Chris Marker

La Jetée is a 1962 French science fiction short film by Chris Marker. Constructed almost entirely from optically printed photographs, the black and white film runs twenty-eight minutes. It features voice narration alongside a Trevor Duncan score, though is without dialogue (with the exception of muttering and whispering).

The setting is an underground, post-WWIII Paris, in which psychological experiments pertaining to time travel are conducted in an effort to find answers and tools for survival. Chosen for his deep-rooted memory, the film’s focus is on one man’s journey. During this experimentation, he is able to travel backward in time, where he spends time with a woman of his memories. The subject is then directed to the future, where he is given the capability to regenerate the destroyed society. When he realizes he is to be executed in the current, experimental period, he is offered refuge in the future, but requests instead to return to his pre-war past. When his request is granted, the subject finds himself in a scene depicted in the prologue, at Orly airport, where he sees the woman from his memories, and then the reality of his fate.

This fairly complex story is told in a simple, undisguised manner, but the play on memory by using still images penetrates your own mind and induces the conflict of how real memory is, and how it wavers and flashes through our lives and subconscious self. The editing and pacing of the film suggest motion, where there is actually only one part in the film that consists of “moving” film, intelligently placed, it lasts all of three seconds. La Jetée shines as a science fiction work, not for any sort of computer rendered space vehicles or aliens, but its ability to make us second guess our perception of reality and the existence of time, leaving the film in a blurred genre itself.

If you’ve not seen La Jetée, and the plot sounds familiar, it may be because it was used as the basis for the screen play of Terry Gilliam’s 1998 film Twelve Monkeys. La Jetée is considered a masterwork in photomontage and style, and its influence stretches the gamut of film, music, and even fashion, as exhibited in Antonin Tron’s 2008 La Jetée collection, his graduate showing at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp.

La Jetée’s maker, Chris Marker, has had many incarnations as an artist, practicing in several fields. Because of his reclusive personality, the closest one knows Chris Marker is deduced by his works. Marker’s film work is extensive, but his exploration of time, memory, and civilization are for what he is renown. His voice is able to challenge viewers from an intellectual perspective, especially when told in the essay format, as La Jetée is. Marker’s work is definitely worth exploring, and La Jetée is a great place to start. I’d also suggest another of his most famed films, “Sans Soleil.”

La Jetée is has been released on DVD, in combination with Sans Soleil, by Criterion. You can also view La Jetée, in various formats, on YouTube. Additionally, Zone Books has published a collection of the images and script.

There are 1 comments on this article.

  1. Just wanted to compliment you on the lovely articles here. I was looking at 5th Ave. Shoe Repair, and am now watching a weird short film!

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