Black and white films often give me the impression that what I’m about to see will be painfully boring and that most of it might just probably be a drag. Some films serve as an exception to my assumption, and La Jetée (even though not really a movie, but a photo novel), for me, is just one of them. The black and white gives off the feeling of being dated, and yet timeless at the same time, while the utilization of snapshots instead of moving visuals also capture a specific fragment of time in one still shot. These two elements already possess the notion of time, even without the element of a theme or a plot.
I think that the best thing about La Jetée being a photo novel is its emphasis on the most critical scenes. Compared to a normal movie wherein the viewer might overlook some scenes or even fail to give much attention to the important details, the frozen shots focus on the heart of the matter, as the presence of distracting factors — when it comes to the visual aspect — is not that apparent.
The combination of the snapshots and narration felt as though it was some kind of historical slideshow or documentary I was watching. Although there were parts wherein other characters can be heard talking, my concentration remained on the narrator’s voice, eagerly waiting for what’s going to happen next.
Much of the photo novel focuses on the man’s encounters with his love interest. Scenes concentrated on her, scenes of him and her together, as well as everything else which had a connection to her. This clarifies her pivotal role in the progression of the plot and her significance in the main character’s life. Most of the scenes were also set in another time, with the man travelling to either the future or past, through the use of the time-machine or even by using plain memory, but never did the film focus on him just staying in the present.
The fact that the man would die right in front of his very eyes as a child was unexpected at the very least. It was a perfect twist to a movie which involves a play in time. He chooses to travel back to the past after his assignment was accomplished primarily because it had the moments that had stuck to him the most. Of course by then he knew that he served no purpose to the men who treated him as a science project. Oddly enough, he was also their remaining chance at survival when they were still in the testing phase of the project. Although he was free to travel back and forth in time, there is an irony in the fact that he was killed by the same people who had used him to be a guinea pig for testing the machine (which implies that he really didn’t have a choice/freedom after all since they were going to kill him anyway). This shows that although he might think that he has control over time because he had the option to choose to skip to the future or go back to his past, he, in truth, did not posses even an inch of control over his own life.