World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

La Jetée

Article Id: WHEBN0000018230
Reproduction Date:

Title: La Jetée  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Chris Marker, 12 Monkeys, Trevor Duncan, List of dystopian films, Alain Resnais
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

La Jetée

La Jetée
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Chris Marker
Produced by Anatole Dauman
Screenplay by Chris Marker
Starring Hélène Chatelain
Davos Hanich
Jacques Ledoux
Narrated by Jean Négroni
Music by Trevor Duncan
Cinematography Chris Marker
Edited by Jean Ravel
Argos Films
Distributed by Argos Films
Release dates
  • 16 February 1962 (1962-02-16) (France)
Running time
28 minutes
Country France
Language French

La Jetée (French pronunciation: ​) ("The Jetty," here referring to an outdoor viewing pier at an airport), is a 1962 French science fiction featurette by Chris Marker. Constructed almost entirely from still photos, it tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel. It is 28 minutes long and shot in black and white. It won the Prix Jean Vigo for short film.

The 1995 science fiction film 12 Monkeys was inspired by and borrows several concepts directly from La Jetée.


  • Plot summary 1
  • Interpretation 2
  • Cast 3
  • Production 4
  • Influence and legacy 5
  • Home media release 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Plot summary

A man (Davos Hanich) is a prisoner in the aftermath of World War III in post-apocalyptic Paris where survivors live underground in the Palais de Chaillot galleries. Scientists research time travel, hoping to send test subjects to different time periods "to call past and future to the rescue of the present". They have difficulty finding subjects who can mentally withstand the shock of time travel. The scientists eventually settle upon the prisoner; his key to the past is a vague but obsessive memory from his pre-war childhood of a woman (Hélène Chatelain) he had seen on the observation platform ("the jetty") at Orly Airport shortly before witnessing a startling incident there. He had not understood exactly what happened but knew he had seen a man die.

After several attempts, he reaches the pre-war period. He meets the woman from his memory, and they develop a romantic relationship. After his successful passages to the past, the experimenters attempt to send him into the far future. In a brief meeting with the technologically advanced people of the future, he is given a power unit sufficient to regenerate his own destroyed society.

Upon his return, with his mission accomplished, he discerns that he is to be executed by his jailers. He is contacted by the people of the future, who offer to help him escape to their time permanently; but he asks instead to be returned to the pre-war time of his childhood, hoping to find the woman again. He is returned to the past, placed on the jetty at the airport, and it occurs to him that the child version of himself is probably also there at the same time. But he is more concerned with locating the woman and he quickly spots her. However, as he rushes to her, he notices an agent of his jailers who has followed him and realizes the agent is about to kill him. In his final moments, he comes to understand that the incident he witnessed as a child, which has haunted him ever since, was his own death.


Carol Mavor, in a book on postwar French fiction, Black and Blue, describes La Jetée as taking "place in a no-place (u-topia) in no-time (u-chronia)" which she connects to the time and place of the fairy tale. She goes on by saying "even the sound of the title resonates with the fairy-tale surprise of finding oneself in another world: La Jetée evokes 'là j'étais' (there I was)". By "u-topia", Mavor does not refer to "utopia" as the word is commonly; she also describes an ambiguity of dystopia/utopia in the film, separately: "It is dystopia with the hope of utopia, or is it utopia cut by the threat of dystopia."[1]

Tor Books blogger Jake Hinkson summed up his interpretation in the title of an essay about the film, "There's No Escape Out of Time". He elaborated:
What [the main character] finds ... is that the past is never as simple as we wish it to be. To return to it is to realize that we never understood it. He also finds–and here it is impossible to miss Marker's message for his viewers–a person cannot escape from their own time, anyway. Try as we might to lose ourselves, we will always be dragged back into the world, into the here and now. Ultimately, there is no escape from the present.
Hinkson also addresses the symbolic use of imagery: "The Man is blindfolded with some kind of padded device and he sees images. The Man is chosen for this assignment because ... he has maintained a sharp mind because of his attachment to certain images. Thus a film told through the use of still photos becomes about looking at images." He further observes that Marker himself did not refer to La Jetée as a film, but as photo novel.[2]
The FilmsLie blog[3] suggests that:
La Jetee tells the story of a man who sees his own death as a child without realizing it. He lives his life (presumably), only to find out the moment that has marked his entire life is the memory of his own death. From a philosophical point of view, La Jetee is an existentialist tale of doomed existence, inevitability, and predetermined death. And what better way to express this idea than by using lifeless photographs to tell the story of a life that is only perceived as such? If the main character is trapped in a time loop and sees his death as a child, what reasons does he have to believe he has actually existed?



La Jetée is constructed almost entirely from optically printed photographs playing out as a photomontage of varying rhythm. It contains only one brief shot (of the woman mentioned above sleeping and suddenly waking up) originating on a motion-picture camera, this due to the fact that Marker could only afford to hire one for an afternoon. The stills were taken with a Pentax Spotmatic[4] and the motion-picture segment was shot with a 35mm Arriflex.[5] The film has no dialogue aside from small sections of muttering in German and people talking in an airport terminal. The story is told by a voice-over narrator. The scene in which the hero and the woman look at a cut-away trunk of a tree is a reference to Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film Vertigo which Marker also references in his 1983 film Sans soleil.[6]

Influence and legacy

Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys (1995) was inspired by and takes several concepts directly from La Jetée (acknowledging this debt in the opening credits). In 2015, the SyFy Channel released a television show also titled 12 Monkeys that is "based on La Jetée" (as by the closing credits). In 1996, Zone Books released a book which reproduced the film's original images along with the script in both English and French;[7] re-released in 2008, it is now out of print.[8] The 2003 short film, La puppé, is both an homage to and a parody of La Jetée.[9] The video for Sigue Sigue Sputnik's 1989 single "Dancerama" is also an homage to La Jetée.[10] The film is one of the influences in the video for David Bowie's "Jump They Say" (1993).[11] The music video for Isis's "In Fiction", from 2004's Panopticon, drew comparisons with La Jetée.[12] The song "Last Night at the Jetty" by Panda Bear has lyrics inspired by the themes of the film.

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009) also takes inspiration in the relationship between the woman and the time traveller.[13][14] In 2010, Time ranked La Jetée first in its list of "Top 10 time-travel movies".[15] Kode9 (music, script) in collaboration with Ms. Haptic (narration, script), Marcel Weber (aka MFO) (images, script) and Lucy Benson (images, script) created an homage to La Jetée in 2011, for the Unsound Festival.[16][17] The plot of the homage centers around the woman instead of the man and is a "reimagining" rather than a "remix" in that it features a completely new, original script that further develops the narrative whilst remaining true to the original plot. The two stories function in harmony with one another. The images and music of "Her Ghost" are almost exclusively sourced from the original film, however they are significantly reworked so as to create an original piece. A live performance of "Her Ghost" was part of the Chris Marker retrospective at Centre Pompidou in Paris 2013. In 2012, in correspondence with the Sight & Sound Poll, the British Film Institute deemed La Jetée as the 50th greatest film of all time.[18]

Home media release

In Region 2, the film is available with English subtitles in the La Jetée/Sans soleil digipack released by Arte Video. In Region 1, the Criterion Collection has released a La Jetée/Sans soleil combination DVD / Blu-ray, which features the option of hearing the English or French narration.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Interview with Antoine Bonfanti, 2004
  5. ^ .
  6. ^ "On Vertigo", special feature on the Criterion Collection DVD of La Jetée and Sans soleil. The same scene also appears in Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys.
  7. ^ Marker, Chris (1992). La Jetée. New York: Zone Books. ISBN 978-0-942299-67-0.
  8. ^ at the MIT PressLa Jetée
  9. ^ Independent Lens La puppé, backgrounder, 2008. Last accessed: 12 January 2008.
  10. ^ Sigue Sigue Sputnik singles discography on Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "David Bowie's 'Jump They Say'", special feature on the Criterion Collection DVD of La Jetée and Sans soleil
  12. ^ Wang, Lee (12 December 2006). "Isis: Clearing the Eye DVD". PopMatters. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  13. ^ The time traveling film critic
  14. ^ Timlepczyk: Movies: La Jetée
  15. ^ "La Jetée, 1962". Time. 26 October 2010
  17. ^
  18. ^

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.