Celebrating the 50th anniversary of its release and marking the recent death of its author, Chis Marker’s La Jetée is one of the most celebrated photo-films in the history of cinema. Created almost entirely out of still images and narrated in voice over, it is a complex and poetic reflection on the destructive and redemptive powers of memory and is credited with inspiring inspired Terry Gilliam’s 1995 film, 12 Monkeys.
Set in a post-apocalyptic Paris destroyed by nuclear war, it follows the survivors forced to retreat underground – where scientists conduct experiments in time travel in an effort to escape from a terrible present to a better past or future. The film’s protagonist is a prisoner chosen for his unique quality of having retained a single clear image from his pre-war childhood – that of a woman he had seen on the observation platform (the jetty) at Orly Airport shortly before witnessing a man die. The scientists send him back in time, where he develops a relationship with the woman, and then forward in time to acquire the technology to rebuild his own destroyed society. On returning to the past, pursued by his jailers, he meets the woman at the airport. In a split second he realises that in the incident that has haunted him for his entire life he was in fact witnessing his own death.
Although Marker’s legendary film is just 28 minutes long, few other films have matched its combination of devastating emotional power, formal brilliance and philosophical complexity. It is a stunning parable of our modern fate –embracing, loss, memory, hope, the death of the world and the irrepressible power of love.
“This strange and poetic film, a fusion of science and fiction, psychological fable and photomontage… creates its own conventions from scratch. It triumphantly succeeds where science fiction invariably fails.” – J.G. Ballard
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Benjamin Villaverde | Spain | 2011 | 20min | Sugg. 12A
Inspired by La Jetée, Le Futur is a mockumentary about the difficulty of fitting into a perfect society, in a future that’s closer than we think. At the end of the filming his earlier short, Heels, Benjamin’s camcorder broke, and as a result, Le Futur was shot with a Pentax photo camera, which accounts for the succession of black and white photographs – a la La Jetée.