This week we analyzed the film La Jetée. The film takes place in a devastated Paris, after a fictional nuclear war has taken place. The survivors are separated into victors and victims, scientists and test subjects. These tests take the form of experimentation in time travel, where the victim must endure physical and psychological investigations of their body and brain. There is a consistent eerie tone to this film, created by the still images, the music and the narration.
The images, rather than moving film, trap this work in a foreign, past era. The pictures are dreary, stunted, sinister and mysterious, they are linear in order, beginning in a macro lens, setting up the story for the viewer. They then fade into close-up, emotive imagery, mostly of our main character (as seen below)
The music plays a really large part in this film; orchestral, rising, swelling and falling, the watcher is heavily informed of mood and tone due to the eeriness of the choir, or dreariness of the brass. The voiceover work is a mixture of a narrator, and then, at times, there’s an eerie whisper. This whisper is often in the ‘present day’ scenes, when the test subject is clueless to the plots of the scientists, and we as the viewer are slightly more clued in.
The powerful utilization of still imagery in La Jetée allows the viewer to rest and pause in these stunted spaces, it let the directer show more completely and compactly both “action and reaction… thereby [enabling him] to distill down to the raw, honest, and most candid emotions of the actors’ facial expressions in his chosen images.” The simplification of film draws us into a much more sensitive understanding of sound and sight. Hence, when there’s a break in music, or pause in the imagery, we notice straight away.
Oxford Dictionary, ‘Lacuna’, viewed 20 March 2017, <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/lacuna >.
Quirk, C. 2014, ‘The Role of Emotion in Oppression in Marker’s La Jetée and Sembène’s La Noire de…’, Film Matters, vol. 7, pp.41
Vimeo, ‘Le Jetée by Chris Marker’, viewed 20 March 2017, <https://vimeo.com/31209852>