La Jetee (1962)

The basis for Terry Gilliam’s time travel tale Twelve Monkeys, La Jetee is an intriguing French short film that defies genre, though with undeniable elements of science fiction, which of course explains its presence on the 101 Sci-Fi Movies.

Eschewing the idea of a motion picture, director Chris Marker, has crafted a photo story using still photography (with the exception of a two second shot), montages, music, sound and suggestion.

The Man (Davos Hanich) has a gift, he is able to hold onto his memories, a specific image from the past that has been with him all of his life. An image featuring a lovely Woman (Helene Chatelain).

Living in a post-apocalyptic world of underground France following a devastating third world war, He is used as a guinea pig to have himself projected back in time, through a rather grueling and painful process, to see about recovering supplies for His world, each trip back he finds himself keeping company with this Woman, who is quite accepting of his nature.

They begin to fall in love, but after a trip into the future to recover an energy source, his captors prepare to retire him, and his escape to the past reveals why the singular image from his childhood has stayed with him as long as it has.

The film is dark, romantic, tragic and of course, steeped in science fiction, and it is no wonder it’s called a masterpiece.

Clocking in at 28 minutes the film engages you the entire time, drawing you into its photo essay of the Man’s existence, the terrors of underground France, the pangs of love and pain as he runs to his fate.

It’s an interesting experience watching a film as a photo-story, the photography is all black and white, drawing your attention to specific images, and yet, for all of that, I still became emotionally involved in the film, even though I knew what was going to happen before the end of the film… I have seen Twelve Monkeys after all.

Even so, it’s still an interesting watch, a thought-provoking heartache of a film that succeeds at being a top-notch science fiction film with no special effects at all! And not to mention a rather troubling looking character in odd glasses…

Have a look!

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