A Great Film You’ve Never Seen #1: La Jetee

“Nothing tells memories from ordinary moments, only afterwards do they claim rememberance on account of their scars.”
– from La Jetee

Okay, so some of you are probably looking at the title and thinking “French film? Pass.” But don’t. This is an amazing short film from 1963.

If you’re familiar with 12 Monkeys this was the short film that feature was based on. The basic plot is the same: A post-apocalyptic future where people live underground. An unnamed man is chosen to take part in an time travel experiment. The form of time travel on display is much more spiritual in nature than scientific. A traveler must have a very vivid memory and focus on that to travel back. The unnamed man has a memory of being a child at the airport and seeing a man die and look on a woman’s face. Using this he travels back into his own past and falls in love with a woman.

What I like about La Jetee more than 12 Monkeys is that the short film doesn’t concern la jeteeitself with the lead character possibly being mad or the quest to prevent the apocalypse. Instead, La Jetee focuses simply on trying desperately to re-experience memories when you think that you’ve lost the ability to feel emotions like you once did before. One of the cool aspects of the short film is its form. Its a photo roman. This is basically a slideshow with voice-over narration to tell the story and its absolutely perfect. Because the film is so contingent on memory, telling the story in still photos is the best way to do it. Everything is a captured frozen moment. The musical score is superb and gets across the otherworldly nature of the story.

I have to say that it evoked a very strong emotional response from me while watching it. My eyes welled up, especially in the final scene. It has to be one of the most beautifully done science fiction films ever made. The best thing? It’s available to see on YouTube! The whole thing. Its only 25 minutes long so I really encourage you to watch it. There’s a really good English dub which doesn’t come across as annoying because there’s no moving mouths to have to sync up with. And I think the translation does an excellent job of getting the poetry of the film across. I don’t think you’ll regret it. The links are below and I hope you enjoy:

Part 1 – http://youtube.com/watch?v=Nw0UIhLArTM
Part 2 – http://youtube.com/watch?v=SBnQKslFQYQ
Part 3 – http://youtube.com/watch?v=wN5YJi_XuEE

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~ by Seth on August 22, 2007.

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