Tuesday, 28 February 2017

La Jetée (1962)

Fig 1: Poster
Chris Marker's La Jetée (1962) is a science fiction, with 28 minutes duration time made of still images and narration. The story starts with the death scene of a man at the airport in Paris before the war, seen by a child (the main character). Then the audience is introduced to the post World War III Paris, destroyed after a nuclear radiation, so people are forced to move underground. There are two type of survivors, the victors and the prisoners. Scientists are experimenting with time travel on the prisoners, in order to learn past and future so they could cure the present. After a few other prisoners, the scientists choose the specific prisoner (the main character) because of his strong emotional attachment to a memory from the past, which they believe would help them to send him to different times in the past. This memory that is very strong in his mind is from the Orly airport  from when he was a child seeing the man die. When he travels back, he sees a woman who with he forms a relationship as he travels through time. He travels back in time to Orly airport to permanently stay with her, but as he runs towards her, he is shot and dies.
Fig 2: Time travel in the laboratory

The whole film is created with still images (expect one little part where they used footage), so it is sometimes denied to be categorised as a film, but rather a photo-novel. "In fact, La Jetée does not define itself as a film at all—its credits identify it as “un photo-roman.” This means literally a “photo-novel,” but usually denotes those photographed comic strips popular in magazines of the 1950s and 1960s, especially in Europe. The label “photo-roman” suggests that what we are watching ought to be a static object—a book, rather than a film " (Romney, 2007). This film does not rely a lot on visuals, as the still images does not appear to be cinematic or theatrical, but more like they were made with a simple camera. However they still are able to grab the audience's attention, with the appearance of movements, which are created by the zooming in and out of the camera. The image doesn't move, however as the camera zooms in on a particular part of the picture, the audience gets the sense that the camera moved closer to the object , person or part of an action that we need to focus on. "The illusion of movement repeats several times throughout the film, mainly through zoom-ins.(Ignoramous, s.d.)  Another camera illusion that helps to tell the story better and make the viewer sense time skips and shifts, some fade in and fade out was used during editing. This quite shows that we are not simply turning around or looking at something else in the same location, but that we are at another location at another time.
Fig 3: Example of fade in and fade out

However, despite the fact that they were still images, the story came through quite clearly, which was also helped by the usage of fitting sounds, music and a over-voiced narrative. For example when the destroyed building are shown, sad sounding music is inserted, so it empathise on the overall emotions and feelings of the scene. "Here the film uses sound and visuals together to explore the concept of movement..." (Ignoramous, s.d.) The music is not only helps to tell the story, but to get the audience to feel a certain type of way and to highlight the current atmosphere. The music is continuously playing, when the man is teleported into another time, but as soon as he returns into the experimental laboratory, the music cuts of an the only thing that can be heard among silence is German mumbling and very quiet whispering. This gives the impression of an almost dream like state, while the whispering does not sound shooting, but rather creepy, given that fact that most viewers quite possibly do not speak German (and even if they do, it is hard to clearly hear).
Fig 4: German scientist at the laboratory

This film easily plays with the viewers' sense of time and confusion as of what is reality or dream, and where exactly the story starts and ends. What confuses the audience the most and looses their sense is the last scene, "Recall the looping plot: a boy witnesses the death of a strange man on an airport observation deck. After an apocalyptic war, he grows up in a prison camp where, due to his strong attachment to this scene, his captors select him for involuntary time travel. ...he eventually goes back to the moment at the airport he witnessed as a boy, only to realize that he himself was the strange man and is now going to die.(Schantz, 2015) Knowing what happened as the film started, this particular scene puts a final twist in the story and makes the audience question what exactly happens at the beginning. Some questions that arise include if his death is real or not, as his body might still be at the experimental laboratory, given the fact that he always returned there after time travelling. Or as he sees himself die, is his beginning or is it his end, due to the fact that that death scene is what started everything and that is what makes him the way he is; which would mean that is might be a never ending cycle.
Fig 5: Final death scene



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1 comment:

  1. Interesting review Greta :) Be careful of some of your spellings... you have 'expect' instead of 'except' ans 'shooting' instead of (what I imagine should be) 'soothing'?