Analysis # 2: La Jetée

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by lleslieblog on 09-12-2011

La Jetée is a movie that normally would not interest me at first glance.  Black and white film is one thing and a language I cannot speak is another, but only still images?!  But after my professor’s insisting that the film was good prevailed, I have come to peace with the film.  I might even say it’s not half bad.  The story is interesting but what makes it more interesting is the film techniques used in it.  One is correct to say that there is a limit to what techniques may be used, but nonetheless, Chris Marker does well in using a lot more than I thought possible.

Unlike insane jaw-dropping film techniques that you would only find in a blockbuster film, La Jetée uses subtle, simple techniques that make the short more believable at the first viewing and impressive at the second.  The movie starts off with a landscape shot of an airport; the zooming out of the camera with the sound of an airplane fooled me into thinking what I was seeing was a recording of the landscape.  After realizing nothing moved, I couldn’t help but think that most landscape shots, and even pillow shots probably don’t require recording anyway.  Another thing I thought was interesting, that I had noticed but had not deemed important until a second viewing, was the shaking of the screen, even if 99% of the shots were still images.

To be honest, I find most forms of time traveling absurd and this story’s way is barely excusable.  In the movie, the protagonist time travels to the past by some form of sedation.  The scientists stick a needle into the protagonist as he lies on a hammock and he ends up in the past or future.  Wow.  But where the story fails to make sense, the film techniques make up for it.  The film uses dissolves when the protagonist enters the past, and normally, this poor form of filming would upset me; but in this case, a dissolve is a good simulation into what sedation is like.  What makes the time traveling better is the man’s coming out of the past.  It commonly is an abrupt end to all music and dialogue, as well as shot change to point-of-view camera angle at the smug lead doctor’s face.

La Jetée lacked motion, but it still felt like certain parts of the film was indeed moving.  The film would use fast past shot changes to simulate running (ex: the last scene) and blurred images to simulate fast movement (ex: the airplane taking off at the end of the beginning airport seen).  Much of this reminded me of cartoons and how certain images are made to simulate movement.  I believe Chris Marker was aware of cartooning and implemented their techniques in his film.  I also think that the hear of the films materiality is the still shots.  They make us aware of what we are watching and entertain the idea that formal filming is not needed to make a good movie… or story.

While I do believe, much of Chris Marker’s artistic decisions express his ideas about cinema, I cannot help but wonder if the story also expresses his ideas about both cinema and the world.  Every film technique used supported the story but does  his story support a message?  The fact that the man lives in a post-apocalyptic future and the his choice of living in the past versus living in the even farther, seemingly peaceful, future is important.  I find it interesting, that the man ended up dying because of it.  Does Chris Marker mean to say that relying on old stories or old ways will be our demise?

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