Review of Chris Marker’s La Jetee
“This is the story of a man marked by an image from his childhood.” This is the introductory line of Chris Marker’s 1962 science fiction featurette, La Jetee. The short film was composed using a series of still black and white photographs. A male narrator with a tenor vocal speaks in third person, relating the story over the sequence of images. Music is used effectively to enrich the film with emotion and lend a greater comprehension of the series of events occurring in the abstract film.
Set in post-apocalyptic Paris after World War III, a man named David Hanich is one of many held prisoner by scientists who are attempting to travel into the past and future to call for help with saving the present.
In the story, a memory from pre-war allows Hanich to revisit the past. He successfully time travels into the past and develops romance with the woman in this particular memory. Because of this success, the researchers send him to the distant future where he is given a power unit sufficient to regenerate the current society. Sure that he will be killed once society has been revived, Hanich asks the researchers not that they keep him in the future or send him back to the current time but that they return him to the past, to the moment his memory took place. He had been followed to that moment by one of his captors. They kill him.
Inspired by La Jetee, we were tasked with composing a film using a sequence of 15 photographs. We could narrate our story over the top of the images if it was fitting. Unsure of what story to tell, Zoe thought the song – Avant Gardener by Courtney Barnett – which we used to inspire a story. We wanted to convey a mundane scene in our series of images that suited the song and its lyrics. The song title and the lyrics mention a garden and so we decided to go for a walk and take a series of photos in which we were sleeping in and around nature. When we screened the series of images, we spoke the lyrics. It was interesting because -as Ella pointed out – for the most part the images had little to do with the lyrics but this gap in connection meant that each individual watching and listening would subconsciously make sense of the narrated story and images in relation to each other on their own. Their mind would assume a connection and fill the lacuna we have created. This notion is definitely something that could be explored in our final film.
Ignoramous, L 2017, Chris Marker’s La Jetee Analysis: Mortality and the Illusion of Time, Filmslie, viewed 29 March 2017, <http://filmslie.com/chris-marker-la-jetee-analysis-temporality/>.
La Jatee 1962, motion picture, Argos Films, France.