Chris Marker: La Jetée (AFTERALL)
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Chris Marker's legendary "ciné roman" ("film novel") La Jetée is considered one of the greatest and most influential experimental films of all time. This short film--a postapocalyptic story composed almost entirely of black-and-white still photographs -- has been praised by cultural theorists and Netflix subscribers alike. In this illustrated study of La Jetée, Janet Harbord focuses in part on the film's treatment of time -- its shifts from a pre-war past to a projected future a further future of the future (each with its own signature images and sound) -- arguing that in this way it addresses the nature of consciousness and the simultaneity of time-frames that we inhabit. Harbord moves easily from a close reading of the film to discussions of broader cultural issues, lucidly piecing together the enigma that is La Jetée.
time zones), softening the hard edges of separate spaces, the dissolve has more than one effect. On the one hand, the dissolve produces a lyricism through a sink into the photograph and through it to another, rather than moving on from the image. In the first sequence of recall, the images of the peacetime bedroom, the animals grazing, the woman walking in a field have no obvious connection except for their pastness. This is underscored by the visual technique of the dissolve through which we are
see in the world of the camp and the future, and its opposite, idolatry and the worship of ideal bodies (statues). In various sequences of the film, in the peace-time images to the underground corridors, statues loom. The broken stone torsos recall the passion for bodies inherited through a past of pagan-inflected Christianity. The bodies of saints suffer and display their agony through injured bodies. In the middle of this film about a politically dystopian future, Marker installs a moment of
brought the possibility of future wars into focus. In La Jetée, it is not simply that the past presents material to be reworked, but that its reworking is directed at the future. In thinking of the past, as Marker shows us, we are automatically bound to the other terms of the triad: the present and the future. If La Jetée speaks of the inseparability of these terms, philosophical enquiry allows us to see the various framings of their relation. During the twentieth century there were, at least,
consisting of faces without bodies that seem to float in the frame. The use of high contrast lighting creates sharp contours of white and black, forming a pattern in which black objects attached to the foreheads of 20 | Chris Marker the figures become focal points. The man recites the camp leader’s request for salvation, a request that performs a tautological loop. If the people of the future have survived, their gift to humanity in fact ensures their own existence. The man is given resources
redescribing the world. Instead they re-imagine it, and it becomes possible to think that the environment may function as a result of images rather than vice versa. Photographs, for Flusser, are the virtual possibilities of a future. Marker, we might say, is involved in the same project. The photographs of La Jetée suggest a historical consciousness potentially torn from its roots. The imposition of a past, present and future tense on a range of disparate photographs reveals two things: that the