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- image via lemmy_caution on flickr I decided to write this before reading any information that was available online. The following notes were written based on my own impressions after watching La Jetée for the first time. La Jetée is a 30 minute short science fiction film. It deals with the following themes: war, time travel, romance, abusive authority and identity. The filmmaker's decision to use (primarily) still images, limited sound effects and a narrator, works as a short film. The director relies on our own imagination and identification with the main character to create the illusion of distinct periods of time, the blending of time and communication between characters. I would not be able to watch a feature length sci-fi film (as much as I love them) if it were composed entirely of still images, but I was surprised to find that my attention was held for the whole film and I had become emotionally invested in it by the end. You can watch Pt.1, 2, and 3 on YouTube, thanks to RobinofSactown. Here are some observations I made while watching:
I appreciated how the director used different types of music to change the tone of the different scenes. There was the haunting choir in the beginning of the film and during the destruction of Paris shots, the gear-like, fuzzy sounds during the experiments and the tranquil melody during the happy time between the lovers at the museum. The whispering during the experiment scenes is confusing, in a way that makes you identify with the Man. We don't know what is being said and lose our sense of being the omnipresent viewer. We're drawn even further into his confusing and frightening reality. Sometimes the contrast between image and music can create a transgressive or thought provoking reaction - during the (I assume) love scene, the sounds are not romantic, in fact, they are very machine like. However, the woman's facial expression shots seem calm, peaceful. It's jarring. At one point she even moves - the only point in the movie that is live action. This scene is both intimate and uncomfortable. The elements fit together yet don't belong - her soft frame and the strange sounds, etc. In most cases I do not like title cards with lots of descriptive text. But with short films I can be forgiving for some reason, I do not know why. I am more able to accept the fact that some additional context must be provided. In this film there are only two at the beginning, which isn't that much of a bother. If there had been lots of title cards throughout the movie, I would have been really annoyed, and felt that beyond the two in the beginning, the film should be able to carry itself. But, it didn't do that so it was fine. I especially like it in short films where the film begins and ends in the same location. In this film, it opens and closes on the jet strip at Orly. The film returns to it's origin, and the beginning and final scenes are like bookends to a well told story. It's a visual marker for me that yes, it's over. Goodbye. The director used jump cut editing in the first few scenes to increase tension at the point where the boy begins to realize something bad is happening. The cuts between the passengers are faster than before, and increase in speed. The CU shot of the girl is held for a long time, demonstrating her significance for the rest of the film (foreshadowing). The director uses fade-to-black between periods demonstrating a change in the time continuum. He uses slow dissolves between similar shots for a dreamy, lost effect when the Man is wandering around looking for the Woman. During the experiment scenes, when the Man is being sent back and forth through time, the mix between CU, BCU, and ECU shots of faces add to tension. I think using solely still images is one way to successfully tell a story that would be much more expensive if it were live action. I am not sure if this would work for every story or for every genre, but in this case it does. The Head Experimenter character, with his goofy glasses, reminded me of the mad genuis character in Jeunet's City Of The Lost Children. I wonder if he was influenced by La Jetée as well. As the Man travels more often back in time, the focus becomes less on his experience with time travel itself and more about his evolving relationship with the Woman. After a while, you can almost forget the element of time travel (almost). At a certain point, the narrator even says that she accepts that he comes and goes, is silent, that she doesn't question it. The nature of their relationship takes on other dimensions and is easy to relate to. We can all relate to either being the mysterious person a relationship or having loved someone who was mysterious and distant. By their final scene together at the museum, it seems like a regular date - just a normal, happy couple. In this case the mix of medium and CU shots demonstrate intimacy rather than fear or tension as in the scenes with the experimenters. The same shooting techniques, applied under different conditions, can convey quite different tones. Close to the end of the film, he is sent to the future. He doesn't realize he will never see the Woman again. He is excited about escaping war and wants to see what is to come. But in the future, the people seem very tranquilized. The future in this short is demonstrated by showing the characters in the future as only heads with black backgrounds. We project our own ideas of what the future is on this bare visual landscape.By keeping it simple, we are more able to believe in it. In the future, he is given something to take back to the past and so he returns. In the present, he realizes he has just been a pawn all along and that the experimenters are going to kill him. However, the people from the future, who also time travel, offer him the chance to escape. He doesn't want to go to the future, where everyone seems so flat, and requests to go back to the time before the war, to his favorite moment as a child on that jet strip in Orly when he first saw the woman. He is sent there, and begins to seek out the woman. He sees her and runs to her. The audio has changed to the choir music from the opening scene, signaling (to me) the end or a climax. Suddenly, the man sees an experimenter from the camp. The Man realizes what he remembered as a child and solves his own mystery - what he had witnessed as a child was his own death - seeing himself, "now", being killed by the experimenter in front of him. The trauma he experienced was that of seeing a beautiful woman in one moment, a woman he is simultaneously seeing for the first time and had a relationship with as an adult in the future, and then witnessing his adult self being murdered. This short was pretty kickass and I realize how it could have influenced the director who made 12 Monkeys. I enjoyed 12 Monkeys and will probably watch it again to see if I find more comparisons between the two films.????????????????#400????????1??????????????????????????
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Explore Daniela Capistrano’s original writing and reporting.