La Jetée (1962) Twelve Monkeys Future Past

La Jetée (1962) dvd cover

1995’s Twelve Monkeys is up there in my top 10 science fiction films of all time, somewhere near the very top. Everything about Terry Gilliam’s vision and David Webb’s screenplay is absolute perfection. I knew that it was inspired by a short sci-fi story called La Jetée (The Jetty) by an experimental filmmaker and photographer called Chris Marker but I hadn’t seen it until now!

La Jetée (1962) Glasses

Tagline – “This is the story of a man marked by an image from his childhood.”

This 28 minute film truly blew my mind. Made in 1962 using still photography imagines to tell the story. Some fading in and out over each other, some just stark imagery of pain and madness, framed images showing the bleakness of this tale.

La Jetée (1962) the experiment

This is the story of The Man (Davos Hanich) placed in an experiment of sleep and dreams to return back and forth to the past and future. To find a solution to the bleak dystopian future they are living now. The aftermath of World War III has devastated Paris and the survivors are forced to live underground. Have the scientists found a way to time travel to help with the present. To jump into memories in the subconscious and change the course of the future.

La Jetée (1962) Man and Woman sleep

La Jetée (1962) Man and Woman Chris Marker

The Man returns back and forth to a set memory of The Woman (Hélène Chatelain) a beautiful free spirited young lady. An emotional relationship is realised as he enters his state of mind, feeling and glimpsing moments of time, starting and finishing at an airport viewing platform, The Jetty.

La Jetée (1962) Man and Woman the jetty airport

It’s a devastating poetic experience, with The Narration key to describing the situation to the frozen in time still imagines playing out in black and white photography, all giving to the broken down society and overwhelming pain. Adding to the panic and wonder are whispered voices, German sounding voices and the sound of The Man’s heartbeat as the experiment moves along. But most of all is the breathtaking, devastating music sang by the St. Alexandre Newsky Cathedral Chorus giving a haunting mystical presence to the film.

La Jetée (1962) future people

It’s a true masterpiece and I can image it has been used in essays by directors and film student all around the world for many many years. Right now I need to watch Twelve Monkeys again, sharpish.

Mikey Wolfman says “Have fun, enjoy movies”#


I try to recreate the experiment. Visions flash in and out, lots of lady wolfs!

Further Reading Links

On La Jetée by Jean-Louis Schefer – Chris Marker Website

Twelve Monkeys (1995)

La Jetée (1962) IMDB

La Jetée (1962) The Criterion Collection

2 thoughts on “La Jetée (1962) Twelve Monkeys Future Past

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