Saturday, 21 January 2017

“La Jetée” (1962)

Fig. 1 “La Jetée” Poster

 “La Jetée” is a French science fiction film made by Chris Marker in 1962. Chris Marker is a French writer, photographer, documentary film director and film essayist. He has produced 40 odd films, but best known are:La Jetée” (1962), “Le Joli Mai” (1963) and A Grin Without a Cat” (1977). “La Jetée” film is constructed from still black and white photos, which tells a story of a post-nuclear war and aftermath experiments. This film is only 28 minutes long, which consists of many memories from uneasy experiments to travel in the past and future. This narrative story telling film lets viewer fully be involved with the story. As Jonathan Rosenbaum describes it in his film  review: “...A story that is told almost exclusively in still frames.” (Rosenbaum, 2013)
Fig.2 Airport

Watching “La Jetée” for the first time might be confusing as the main protagonist goes through the harsh life experience. Seeing how a person dies in airport, when he was just a child. However, the strongest image from the past was left of a woman, which was close to him when that person passed away. Without further ado, the audience is taken to see same boy all grown up and being a prisoner in the aftermath of World War III. In a post-apocalyptic Paris where survivors live in underground galleries. 
Fig.3 Dynamic lighting

The environment in pictures changes passively. From showing airport and planes, the pictures slowly come to people and the main characters of the film. Moreover, the airport is presented as normal area in medium grey colour.(Fig. 2) This colour mostly dominates in the shots before the apocalypse. But as the war strikes in Paris everything turns dark. The dynamic dark colour showing on building walls and peoples' faces, makes the picture/film more dramatic, as if something worse than war will happen.(Fig. 3) Nevertheless, there are shots with light grey too. The bright grey colour only appears when the protagonist was back in the past with the same exact woman, which he saw in his early childhood.(Fig.4) Also, they developed a romantic relationship between them. That's why bright colours are shown in those images to bring warmness and innocence into the film.

Moreover, “La Jetée” is only made from images so there is a lack of action in it. That’s why sound plays a big part in this film. As the main protagonist goes though rough experiments to travel back in the past, the background sounds become  more clear. For example, as the main character is feeling nervous it is possible to hear the heart beating getting faster. As Andrew describes this in his film review: "The soundtrack's texture is similarly sparse, and the fluid montage leads the viewer into the sensation of watching moving images."(Andrew, 2006). The viewer is directly put to feel and hear what the main character experiences. The connection between images and sound is perfectly coherent making this film unique and interesting.
Fig. 5 Protagonist dies in airport

In conclusion, Chris Marker did amazing work by displaying pictures and making it seem like a film, even though for some people might see it as some kind of diary or just an essay with pictures. However, in short period this film explains a lot more. The infinite loop which never lets us rest, that has the real meaning in this film. As Samuel writes in his review: ... He documented history and built a narrative around what he observed and the results were always profound” (Samuel, 2013).


Geoff, A. (2006) “La Jetée” review. At: (Accessed on 21/01/2017)

 Rosenbaum, J. (2013)  "La Jetée" review. At: (Accessed on 21/01/2017)

Samuel, P. (2013) "La Jetée" review. At:  (Accessed on 21/01/2017)

Illustration List: 

Fig. 1 “La Jetée” Poster. At:  (Accessed on 21/01/2017)

Fig. 2 Airport (film still) From: “La Jetée” Directed by: Chris Marker Released: France
At: (Accessed on 21/01/2017)
Fig. 3 Dynamic lighting (film still) From: “La Jetée” Directed by: Chris Marker Released: France
At: (Accessed on 21/01/2017)
Fig. 4  (film still) From: “La Jetée” Directed by: Chris Marker Released: France 
At:  (Accessed on 21/01/2017)
Fig.5 Protagonist dies in airport (film still) From: “La Jetée” Directed by: Chris Marker Released: France At:  (Accessed on 21/01/2017)

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