October 3, 2010
Wikipedia | La jetée (English: The Jetty or The Pier) (1962) is a 28-minute black and white science fiction film by Chris Marker. Constructed almost entirely from still photos, it tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel. The film won the Prix Jean Vigo for short film.
The main character (Davos Hanich) is a prisoner in the aftermath of the Third World War, in a destroyed, 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, but eventually settle upon the prisoner, whose key to the past is a vague but obsessive childhood memory of a woman (Hélène Chatelain) during an incident where a man was killed on the boarding platform (‘the jetty’) at Orly Airport.
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 and does find her, but an agent of his jailers has followed, and assassinates him. In his final moments, he thus comes to realise that the death which he witnessed as a child, and which has haunted him for his entire life, was none other than his own.