La Jetee is an experimental film mostly formed with a set of stills structured to form the narrative. The photos are displayed within the five second average so that the audience can take in the individual images and work out what characters are doing within the shot and scene. The whole sequence felt like a cleverly produced animatic because at times there seemed to be brief movements with the rush of images. The only real movement was the unknown woman waking up and blinking, which breaks the connection of the very still images. The film is in monochrome, which defined the scenes as sinister and really capturing the emotion of a secretive experimenter as portrayed as what a viewer would see on the surface. As the film progresses, the experimenter seems to have hold over the unknown man instead of the proposed opportunity that it first appears. "The narrator's own haunting story is what makes this film truly mesmerizing." (Mapes, 2010) The quote states how the decision of the story told by a narrator is what engages the audience into this world and brings the flow of images to life.
Figure 1, Lee Jay, 2011, Set of stills showing how La Jetee was constructed
The story was narrated throughout the sequence as the images are solid frames so there is not a lot of information of what the characters are thinking and how they would react in certain scenes. The decision of the narrated voice gives purpose for each image to continue the thread of the narrative. Also the soundtrack added a lot of dramatic atmosphere as they were powerful booms to describe the intensity of the unknown man in the machine and the goal that he has to achieve. The music expressed the theme of science fiction, the passion to travel further and break the limitations of what science could accomplish. "A remarkable and unique experiment short that consists solely of still frames, narration, music and sound effects as it relates an apocalyptic tale of memory and time-travel." (MovieGuide, 2007) The evidence relates to how narration, music and sound replace the usual acting and dialogue that a viewer would expect to see, because of this the film really feels like a dramatic silent movie based on hope and the need to escape a dying world. The 'memories' refer to the unknown man and flash of childhood nightmares, which again connects to the theme that this character is trying to escape but in this case it is a battle against himself.
Figure 2, PennDesign, 2009, La Jetee still of experiment
The narrative is a post apocalyptic world, a visual fantasy of what it would look like after 'World War three'. Small props and little effects suggest that the environment is set in the future. The little amount space used also implies that the world has become smaller and there are only a few humans left surviving in the destruction. The theme of time-travelling because important to the story of survival, as a last chance to try and journey back before the world became a victim of the war. The experiments are carried out in the form of injections, which appears disturbing because the idea of needles and experiments strapped in chairs seems like a dark visual reference of mad scientists but in this film the context means to look at this scene as a symbol of desperation of the will to succeed. The unknown man travels back in time and meets an unknown woman and become lovers, the woman is the obstacle in the story because it keeps the main in the past and unable to restore the planet to make it habitable again. The authorities then force the unknown man into the future to meet a species of people that have a control box that could save the dying planet but when he returns, the unknown man discovers he is no longer needed. He travels back to his childhood in hope of seeing the woman again but the film ends with a man shooting him, this is a message that he was unable to escape the nightmare of his own death. The idea that a person's fate/ destiny are unavoidable, therefore there is no escape.
Figure 3, BlackLab, 2011, La Jetee still of Experimenter
Figure 4, Mulvaney Jon, 2011, La Jetee still of Unknown Man
The editing in the film included montage by flashing between selections of the same images, to make the viewer feel they are still experiencing the same scene. The experiment scene shows this technique clearly because it begins with a close up of the unknown man strapped in the machine, then into a two shot so that the experimenter and space can be seen and then back into the close up. This approach shows the significance of the room and placement of the people in the photographs. "The soundtrack's texture is similarly sparse, and the fluid montage leads the viewer into the sensation of watching moving images." (Andrew, 2006) Andrew points out how the quick montage of the stills make it feel very much like an animation in it's own right because once the audience is drawn into the story the images seem to sink together so that images seem to be subtly moving. A lot of dissolves cross dissolves and wipes were used to describe that the man has suddenly journeyed forward or back in time so the viewer can clearly understand that it is no longer the same world. They were also used to identify the change in still as a cut would be made to move onto the next scene.
Figure 5, Seven Tavern , 2008, La Jetee still of pier
Figure 1, Lee Jay, (2011), Set of Stills as La Jetee was constructed, @ http://leejayxia.com/blog/la-jetee/, Accessed on: 2nd October 2008
Figure 2, PennDesign, (2009), La Jetee still of experiment, @ http://www.design.upenn.edu/calendar/la-jetee-response, Accessed on: 10th April 2009
Figure 3, BlackLab, (2011), La Jetee still of experimenter, @ http://blacklab.visualsociety.com/2009/09/15/la-jetee/, Accessed on: 15th September 2009
Figure 4, Mulvaney Jon, (2011), La Jetee still of Unknown Man, @ http://www.criterion.com/films/329-la-jetee, Accessed on: 2011
Figure 5, SevenTavern, (2008), La Jetee still of Pier, @ http://www.7tavern.com/4/27/3637, Accessed on: 16th May 2010
Andrew Geoffrey, (2006), Timeout - film, @ http://www.timeout.com/film/reviews/77181/la_jetee.html, Accessed on: 24th June 2006
Mapes Marty, (2010), Movie Habit, @ http://www.moviehabit.com/reviews/laj_id00.shtml, Accessed on: 4th September 2000
TV guides movie guide, (2007), La Jeete: Review, @ http://movies.tvguide.com/la-jetee/review/132177, Accessed on: 6th June 2007