After being shown a short snippet of the French film ‘La Jetee’ in my lecture, I had to go and watch the full film, write a review on it, research the Director and explore the techniques used. I have to say that I haven’t seen many classic, black and white films, but after watching La Jetee I really enjoyed it. The film follows “a story of man mocked by an image of his childhood. The violent scene which upset him and whose meaning he was grasped years later…” (La Jetee, 1962, Chris Marker.)
I was immediately drawn into the film with the fact that the whole narrative was manifested through black and white photographic stills. Profoundly, Chris Marker successfully created a technique of using a series of images tied with narration to create an enriching narrative so cleverly, that at the end I couldn’t help but gawk.
Each still image had a compelling meaning, a story and most of all historic connotations. At first I thought that a film filled with photographs would be quite mundane and dragging. However, Marker perfectly captures the correct stills with the protagonists perfectly in the frames to create wonderful meanings. There was a sense of realism and memory through the stills, for example, the shots of the female airhostesses walking, the women’s hair blowing and the disheveled plane created motion.
In short, Roland Barthes in his book ‘Camera Lucida’ sums up the photographic technique as the ‘Studium’, where he states “is where the images contain symbolic meanings, in which all viewers agree upon, since it presents meanings which are culturally coded.” Thereafter, this is what we describe as iconographic significance, where the decisive photographs fuse with our memory allowing us to remember particular parts of the film. For example, the photographs I am glued to remember is the man in the glasses, the women’s series of shots sleeping (which almost look like she’s moving), the ambiguous shot of the boy falling and the Paris airport.
“The girl seems tamed, she welcomes this visitor who comes and goes, who exists, laughs with her, talks to her, stops talking, listens to her, then vanishes.” (La Jetee, 1962, Chris Marker.)
Overall, I thought it was a great film, technically. The narrative itself was engaging and provided many enigmas. I thought the romance was simple and sweet, as well as heart breaking towards the end. Successfully, the film captured the World War era in Paris through images of destruction. For a film made in the 1960’s developing a time travel set in the World War period is pretty spectacular. Moreover, alongside the mesmerizing, visual images, the voice-over helpfully adds to the success of this provoking science fiction film. I have to admit that many time travel films do stem from La Jetee.
After researching this film, I am definitely inspired to make a short film consisting of several snippets of photographs. This may even be colour corrected to black and white, thus perpetuating a particular story, image and ambience. By watching this fascinating film, I have learnt that every key photograph has significant meanings, symbols, representations and signs. This leads onto semiotics, where images contain signs, signifiers, denotations, connotations and more. For example, the close up image of the women can be seen as a Polysemic image due to its several connotations. Such as; the image could suggest that she is thinking, maybe staring at something, waiting for someone and more.
My rating: 8/10
Written by: Meera Darji