Thursday, 3 February 2011

Film Review: La Jetée Dir. Chris Marker

La Jetée


Directed by Chris marker


"In a devastated Paris in the aftermath of WWIII, The few surviving humans begin researching time travel, hoping to send someone back to the pre-war world for food, supplies and maybe a solution to their dire position. One man is haunted by a vague childhood memory that will prove fateful."(Cassady)


Set in a post apocalyptic Paris, the aftermath of world war three has forced survivors underground whilst the victors of the war rule over the uninhabitable radioactive surface. A man who is plagued by a childhood memory of a woman and a dying man on an airport jetée (french for jetty or pier).

The film is a photomontage, made up almost entriely from photo stills. A brave move which only just pays off. Damian Cannon puts in his review "By altering the time for which each shot is held (at times a quick succession of similar images approximates to film) a tight grasp of pace and a certain level of suspense is achieved"(Cannon, 1997). Indeed it appears as though the images move fluidly, their stillness masked by the narrative and subtlety. The lenght of time each image is held for is perfectly excecuted with dissolves and hard cuts that make sense and give a nice timing to the film.

Fig 2

An author for Time Out London, credited as DT said "... the fluid montage leads the viewer into the sensation of watching moving images. Until, that is, an extraordinary epiphany when an image genuinely does move: the man's sleeping lover opens her eyes"(DT). Indeed the sensation is quite surreal, knowing full well that the film is 99% still image yet perceiving it entirely as a moving image. The feeling is quite surreal and is probably the only reason the film can get away with it. The moment where we are treated to 'real' film is striking, I personally jumped slightly as I was amazed by the clarity and grittyness of the photographs and looking quite intently when the woman's eye's moved.

The best analogy for it is to make reference to street actors, those who pretend to be statues and then when the audience is least expecting it they move, or jump out. It's not expected and when it happens exclamations abound!

The use of stock photo's from previous wars, the pacing, use of props and grainy film stock really emphasise the post apocalyptic future depicted . Both DT and Cannon mention this; "Marker uses monochrome images recognisably from the past, such as the ruins of Europe after WWII, and with a few small props and effects, subtly suggests a future environment"(DT) "... this effect is achieved through the choice of superlative black & white photographs; these are grainy enough and shot in such a way that the immediate impression is of wartime photojournalism whilst the events captured suggest far more than they illustrate." (Cannon, 1997). I agree that the shots of the 'present' destroyed Paris is very reminiscient of photojournalism and compounds the story as well as giving it credibility. The style helps to suspend disbelief in a story that if summarised is quite wild.

Fig 4

James Travers equates the film to a documentary, "Marker’s approach to this film gives it the feel of a documentary, bringing a shocking sense of realism..." (James Travers, 2000). Although the film does have some slight documentary elements I feel that Cannon has the right of it; there is more photojournalism to the piece than documentary. The lack of facts, important people and important dates detracts from its validaty as a faux future documentary piece.


Fig 1. Cover art for La Jetée [digital image] At: (Accessed 2/3/2011)

Fig 2 Movie stills of La Jetée [digital image] At: (Accessed 2/3/2011)

Fig 3 Movie still from La Jetée [digital image] At (Accessed 2/3/2011)

Fig 4 Movie still from La Jetée [digital image] At (Accessed 2/3/2011)


Cannon, Damien. Review for Movie Reviews UK. Published 1997 (Accessed 3/2/2011)

Cassady, Marty. IMDB Plot Summary of La Jetée, 3/2/2011)

Crowther, Bosely. Review for the New York Times, Tomatoes. Published January 16th 1976 (Accessed 3/2/2011)

DT. Film review at Time Out London, (accessed 3/2/2011)

Travers, James. Review for Filmes De France. Published 2000 (Accessed 3/2/2011)

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