Monday, 12 January 2015

Film Review - La Jetee (1962)

Fig.1 La Jetee (movie poster, 1962)
Directed by Chris Marker, La Jetee is a film made almost entirely of stills and is set in post-apocalyptic France. We are introduced to the film when a young boy notices a woman standing at the end of a pier. He runs to her but just as he is about the reach her, he sees a man fall to his death. World War III breaks out and the next time we meet the character, he is a prisoner being used for time travel experiments due to his strong memories of the past. John Parrot of The Film Review notes "Marker says that La Jetee was made like a piece of automatic writing, the technique favoured by the surrealists and dadaists." (Parrot, 2011). The film is said to have been the inspiration for the 1995 film Twelve Monkeys, directed by Terry Gilliam.
 Fig.2. The lady on the pier, (movie still, 1962)
The fact that the film is narrated over stills gives it a slightly eerier and more poignant feel, drawing us into the story even further. We begin to feel sad for the main character when he revisits memories of his time with the lady he first noticed on the pier (fig.2). A relationship builds up between them and just at the pivotal moment, the experiments are ended and the man is sent forwards to the future, his only wish to be back with her. Brian Dillon sums up the film nicely in his review for The Guardian; "La Jetee is a complex and poetic reflection on the destructive and redemptive powers of memory." (Dillon, 2009).
Fig.3. Experiments on our main character, (movie still, 1962)
The film climaxes when the main character revisits the pier he remembers from when he was a child. He can see the woman he loves at the end and runs to her. As he is running he sees a small child who he recognises to be the younger version of himself. The realisation then hits that as a child, the man he witnessed collapse and die was in fact, himself (Fig.3). We are never fully told who the woman in the story is and she could just as equally be the boy's mother, as she could a love interest. The fact that her face is such a strong memory could point to the former. The woman's face as a close-up also gives the film the only piece of moving image, amongst the collection of stills.
Fig.4. The man races towards to woman on the pier, (movie still, 1962)
Samuel Walters writes for "La Jetee is a fantastic film - provided that you're willing to undergo a thoroughly unique and unexpected experience." (Walters, s.d.). Although at first the arrangements of stills seems challenging to sit through, the calm nature of the narrator's voice and the close-up shots of the characters really enable us to feel a part of the film and experience some feeling of empathy with the man in the story. What may seem like a hindrance not to have moving pictures, becomes quite refreshing towards the end and a welcome treat for the senses. At only 28 minutes long, La Jetee is not a film that should be missed and will stay in your memory forever.
Illustration List:
Figure 1 - La Jetee (1962) [Movie Poster] At:
Figure 3 - Experiments on our main character (1962) [Movie Still] At:
(Accessed 07.01.15)
Figure 4 - Racing towards the woman on the pier (1962) [Movie Still] At:
(Accessed 07.01.15)
Dillon, B (28th March 2009), The Guardian article, At:
(Accessed on 07.01.15)
Parrot, J (28th August 2011), The Film Review, At:
(Accessed on 07.01.15)
Walters, S (s.d.) review, At:
(Accessed on 07.01.15)


  1. "We are never fully told who the woman in the story is and she could just as equally be the boy's mother, as she could a love interest. The fact that her face is such a strong memory could point to the former."

    Nice insightful stuff, Emma - well done :)

  2. Very nice Emma, bring on the next one :)