La Jetée (1962 is a film that I actually hold very dearly in my heart, because without it atlas two of my favourite films of all time wouldn't have been made most likely. One being the film Twelve Monkeys (1995) which is more of a direct re-imagining of said film, and the other being the Terminator franchise, specifically Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991). And what both of these films have in common, is the concept of post apocalyptic time travel to prevent a future event, this idea being first Introduced with La Jetée.
This film is actually more like an extended slide show story, being a 28 minute long french short filmed by Chris Marker. What I mean by that is the film is almost entirely lacking any actual video except for a short segment of film, while the rest of the movie is conveyed through narration and still shots.
The overall plot of the film at first appears to be the idea of saving the future, but it actually becomes a more personal story, of the man who travels back, and a woman he remembers meeting from his youth, developing into a bizarre love story “These intimate recollections, essentially tied to the return of the figure of a childhood love, can only be organized in a science-fictional scenario” (Schefer, 1990)
The use of the photo's gives a feel that this is a intimate, private photo collection, like from a personal photo album being reminisced by old lovers. This makes the whole film feel more taboo, like we aren't meant to be seeing it. It also gives the impression of the halting of technological advances in the post apocalyptic world, where they have lost video and we are only left with these images, as if they were actually taken during the experiment for documentations.
This excludes the moments where are protagonist, the time traveler, goes back in time, and we what he see's, these feel more like the private album of a pair of lovers “ By whom is this adventure told? A witness, the depersonalised essence of the hero? An experimenter? Or someone who has absolute knowledge of time, death, and the paradoxes of memory? The narrator or commentator (whoever is describing the whole experiment and its length, and who possesses knowledge of the hero’s soul–of the subject of the experiment)” (Schefer, 1990)
The soundtrack for this film also resonates a feeling of looming hopelessness, a presence of everything eventually coming full circle again and the whole process looping around on itself no matter what you may do in the past “Eerie, romantic, and obsessive in its repetitions, it always sounds in La Jetée as if heard from afar, from a distant past” (Romney, 2007) This really gets across the impending doom that is not only present the entire film through the inevitable apocalypse setting, but the overall fate of our protagonist, resulting in a tragic, star-crossed romance plot.
Schefer J, (1990): http://www.chrismarker.org/jean-louis-schefer-on-la-jete/
Romney J, (2007): http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/485-la-jetee-unchained-melody