I really liked La Jetee because of how pleasantly surprised I was after seeing it. When I heard that it was a 30-minute slideshow type film in black and white, part of me was intrigued by the idea, but for the most part it didn’t seem to appeal to me very much. It being different from what we’d normally expect a film to be seemed to affect my going into it in both ways. I was interested in seeing it but almost to simply decide that I didn’t like it anyway. I was surprised however, that after the first few scenes (Photographs? Segments?), I seemed completely immersed in it. I found myself looking closely at every image and following every line.
I think more than the images, what really made the film was the narration. It was an interesting contrast from Blow-Up wherein dialogue hardly played a role in the development of the movie. In the same way, it was also interesting in constrast to Punch-Drunk Love which made use of visual cues to communicate most of it’s subtext. The narration in La Jetee seemed to have been purposefully done in such a way that made the audience feel as though a book was being read to us. Even with the lack of visuals provided by the film, it didn’t fail to hold my attention as the story itself seemed to have this certain mystery to it that just made me want to see what would happen next.
Also contributing to this was the strange setting of the film. It made for an interesting “science-fiction” film, being set in post-apocalyptic France, with the conditions of underground societal hierarchies wherein those from lower levels were experimented on with time travel technology. It was interesting how the feel of the film seemed the opposite, with black and white still images of dark sewers where people were being injected with some sort of formula which would allow them to travel through time. I don’t know about other people, but when I hear science-fiction, what comes to mind are strange looking machines and unrealistically imagined technology.
I’m usually uninterested in films like these – science-fiction, still photographs, black and white – but this film I like. The underlying philosophical ideas didn’t make it better either, as I don’t really care for philosophy. I was surprised however, that considering how short my attention span is, I actually felt that La Jetee ended prematurely. It left me wanting more, not cause of its open-endedness, but because of how interested I was in it. It might have done the job it was made to do in its 27-minute entirety, but I felt that so much more could have happened. The story and the characters could have developed so much more. In the same way, I think this also makes it so great. It built me up and disappeared at its peak. Imagine if a series finale ended with a cliffhanger, except with La Jetee, you’re only as invested as you can be after 20+ minutes and you couldn’t have expected any more anyway.