La Jetee


Chris Marker is a cinematic essayist and audio-visual poet. Shortly after the Second World War, Marker began his career as a writer. He published his first book in 1949. In the early 1950's Marker began to work on documentary filmmaking. As a filmmaker Marker created many classics that paved the way for many of today's filmmakers. One of his many classics that is being emulated today is La Jetee. La Jetee paved the path for filmmaker Terry Gilliam's 1995 film 12 Monkeys, featuring Bruce Willis. La Jetee, which is the French word for "Jetty" and refers to the boarding area at an airport, tells a very interesting story of a man that is greatly affected by an image that he saw in his childhood. Marker did an amazing job by experimenting with words and images, along with series of stills and voice-over narration.

The main character in this film is simply referred to as "the man whose story we are telling" is chosen to travel in time. His mission was to travel into the past and future and bring back help for the people of the present. The film began with a little boy on the Jetty at the Orly Airport, in Paris. This was shortly before the outbreak of World War III. While at the airport he witnesses the shooting of an airplane, but during this horrific act of violence he made eye contact with a beautiful woman. That took his attention away from the chaos that was occurring. Since this film explores the ideas of memory, it is hard to say that the boy did in fact see this woman or that he created her to get away from the chaos. Shortly after that incident, Paris was totally destroyed. The remaining people were forced to live underground. While living underground the rulers of this underground world used the people as guinea pigs in a time travel experiment. This experiment was done to send people into the past and future to bring back a cure for the people of the present. This was a very risky experiment, because before the people could return from the past or the future they would go insane. However the main character in this film was a perfect candidate. While in the past he was obsessed with finding this woman that he saw at the airport. After leaving the past, finding nothing but sadness, he is sent to the future. He is more pleased with the things that he sees in the future, but he is still obsess with the past, because he strongly believes that this beautiful woman is still there. At the end of the experiment he is asked to choose a world to stay. He chooses the past. He began a desperate search to find this woman. He returned to the Jetty, where he first saw the face of this beautiful woman. At the Jetty the woman appeared and he began to run towards her. While running towards her he was shot and killed. The film ended.

In this film Marker expresses his obsession with memory and the importance of memory as it relates to humanity. The man in this film is destined to find a woman that he met when he witnessed a shooting at an airport. As the man travels in time trying to find this woman, you will notice the framing of different parts of the man's memory and the gaps in the recollection. This creates an unusual organization of storyline.

This film portrays the importance of memory to humans. Humans often try to hold on to memories. We never want to let go of a memory that we believe is important. We create comforting images in our minds to comfort us from things that are a threat to our existence. As in La Jetee, the main character created an image of a beautiful woman that he felt would offer comfort. However, realty will come forward and we cannot count on memories or imagination to keep us secure.

La Jetee was very interesting. It presents a theme that we all have to encounter during our existence as human beings. While watching his film I was at first not to excited by the still photos and voice-over narration. However, I started to figure out the importance of the still photos and voice-over narration. These two characteristics are needed in this film because it gives the feeling of a dream or a state of trying to remember an event. The main point that I received from this film is that there is always time in our life that we do not want to change or that we wish we could go back to, but sometimes it is too late to go back. What we create because of that is memories and sub-consciously we try to live those memories, but reality will always manifest itself.

--Monique Daley, 2001



Chris Marker Work