La Jetée: Movie Review
La Jetée (The Pier), an interesting story told in an even more interesting medium. "One of the best of all SF films is this haunting, apocalyptic 27-minute French short by the great Chris Marker" (Rosenbaum,2007).Told entirely through still frames, this 28 minute masterpiece has been acclaimed to be a true landmark of science fiction film making, laying the benchmark for some of the best Time Travel based movies ever produced by Hollywood. Opening with the voice of a narrator, explaining how the world was destroyed and the memory of a character that we see later on in the film. How he remember's a pier, a woman and the death of an unknown man, a memory that has haunted him his entire life.
Figure 1: The woman from memory.
Set in a post apocalyptic near-future, La Jetée tells the story of a society trying to survive after the Outbreak and destructive end of the Third World War. Living deep in the underground tunnels below the city of Paris are a group of people, who are at the whims of a group of scientist's researching the art of Time Travel in an attempt to prevent the Outbreak of the War that destroyed the world. The survivor's in this film are more guinea pigs and test subjects then people, being used for the scientist's experiments against their will. This is a very similar situation to the way that scientists and researchers use animals in test's today however, in this ravaged world where the animals may have died off or returned to their natural habitat's, humans are seen as expendable and as worthy test subjects. Many of the people that are chosen to be experimented on are unable to survive the mental strain and shock that Time Travel puts onto the brain and body. Starting an endless cycle of failure's and the dwindling of an already shattered population. Resulting in a race to find a worthy candidate before all of their "resources" are used up.
Figure 2: The Time Machine
Later into the movie we finally have a worthy subject. An unknown man is strapped into the makeshift Time Travel machine and sent on a journey into the past. To a world that he has not known for a very long time. It is here that we begin to see the way our memories can effect the way we act and the things that we believe in and do. "It's a stirring, emotional film about the unique hold memories have over people's lives " (Melin,2012). Melin talk's about how memories effect and mold us as people, influencing the way we act and feel on a daily basis. The key to the past in this movie is retained in the mind of our unnamed character, the prisoner who hold's a vague memory of a woman from the pre-war world. Using this memory He is able to overcome the strain caused by the machine and sent back in time. Eventually meeting with this same woman.
Figure 3-4: The protagonist running towards the memory woman and his foreseen death
Figure 5: The death of the unknown man
The power that memories can have over the human mind is suggested in the final act of the this short masterpiece. Upon discovering the key to saving the future our unnamed character is met by a group of technologically advanced beings from the future, who offer to bring him to their own time and away from the newly restored world that he now resides. Instead of agreeing, he instead ask's to be sent back to the pre war time, hoping to find the woman of his memories. Upon arrival he finds the woman on the same pier he remember's from his childhood. This shows us that memories, whilst are considered to be little things in the back of our minds that many of us ignore, are incredibly powerful. Leaving the chance to explore the world of the future behind and going back to an much younger time, just to be with a woman you love is an incredibly strong, and influential idea.
The ending is what truly make's this film. We find out that the memory that has haunted our main character for the entire film and his life is actually the his own death, that he witnessed as a child, ending the film on a somber and macabre note. After watching this movie, I noticed many themes that have been repeated in newer Time Travel based movies, like Back to the Future(1985) and even the much newer Looper(2012). This movie really is a masterpiece and the story that the narrator shows us is one of struggle, love and intrigue. "The narrator's own haunting story is what makes this film truly mesmerizing". (Mapes,2002) A story that started off slow, but by the end of it I was taken by the world that had been created and the underlying plot, hidden away by more obvious imagery shown.
Rosenbaum(2007) Chicago Reader [Online Blog] in:http://www.chicagoreader.com At: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/la-jetee/Film?oid=1061951 (Accessed on 27/01/2015)
Melin(2012) Scene Stealers [Online Blog] in www.Scene-stealers.com At: http://www.scene-stealers.com/columns/overlooked-movie-monday/la-jetee-sans-soliel-blu-ray-review/ (Accessed on 27/01/2015)
Mapes(2002) Movie Habit [Online Blog] in www.moviehabit.com At: http://www.moviehabit.com/reviews/laj_id00.shtml (Accessed on 27/01/2015)
Figure 1: http://steren93.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/2011/12/08/analysis-2-materiality-of-film-on-la-jetee/
Figure 2: http://letsnottalkaboutmovies.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/la-jetee.html
Figure 3: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=la+jetee&safe=off&es_sm=122&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=NeXHVLvXK4P3atq_gMAL&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAg&biw=944&bih=951#imgdii=_&imgrc=NiHMOm6ORdrQTM%253A%3BkEjmwNbHSYXoyM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.soundonsight.org%252Fwp-content%252Fuploads%252F2012%252F08%252FLa-Jet%2525C3%2525A9e-.png%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.soundonsight.org%252Fsound-on-sights-best-films-ever-made%252F%3B528%3B240
Figure 4: http://www.theguardian.com/film/gallery/2009/aug/12/time-travel-movies
Figure 5: http://sensesofcinema.com/2012/editorial/welcome-to-issue-64-of-our-journal/