La Jetée (1962)

Brief Intro

“La Jetée” is a 1962 French science fiction film by Chris Marker. Known for its unique structure, the film is composed almost entirely of still photographs. It tells the story of a post-apocalyptic experiment in time travel, focusing on a man haunted by a childhood memory. This memory becomes the key to his future and humanity’s survival.

Literary Devices Used in La Jetée

1. Metaphor

Movie SceneDevice Example
The protagonist’s recurring dream of the airportThe airport symbolizes a point of departure and arrival, reflecting the themes of time travel and change.
The underground campRepresents the human subconscious, where memories and fears reside.

2. Symbolism

Movie SceneDevice Example
The blurred faces of people in the protagonist’s memoriesSymbolizes the fading nature of memory and the indistinctness of past events.
The garden sceneRepresents a fleeting moment of peace and beauty amidst the chaos of the protagonist’s life.

3. Juxtaposition

Movie SceneDevice Example
Scenes of pre-war and post-war ParisHighlights the stark contrast between the serenity of the past and the devastation of the future.
The protagonist’s peaceful dreams versus his harsh realityEmphasizes the tension between what once was and what is now.

4. Irony

Movie SceneDevice Example
The protagonist believes he can change the past to save the futureIt’s ironic because his attempts are predestined, and he cannot escape his fate.
The serene image of the woman juxtaposed with the grim reality of the underground worldHighlights the irony of finding beauty in a dystopian setting.

5. Foreshadowing

Movie SceneDevice Example
The recurring image of the man’s death at the airportForeshadows the protagonist’s ultimate fate.
The scientist’s initial experiment descriptionHints at the dark consequences of tampering with time.

6. Allegory

Movie SceneDevice Example
The entire concept of time travel to change the futureServes as an allegory for the human desire to rectify past mistakes and control destiny.
The protagonist’s journeyReflects the broader human struggle against an inescapable fate.

7. Flashback

Movie SceneDevice Example
The protagonist’s memories of the woman at the pierProvide context and depth to his emotional state and motivations.
Scenes of the pre-war worldOffer a stark contrast to the present dystopian reality, enhancing the sense of loss.

8. Imagery

Movie SceneDevice Example
The vivid descriptions of the post-apocalyptic worldCreate a stark and haunting visual representation of the future.
The serene garden scenesUse lush, vibrant imagery to contrast with the bleakness of the underground world.

9. Allusion

Movie SceneDevice Example
The mention of Orpheus and EurydiceAlludes to the myth of a journey to the underworld and the impossibility of changing fate.
References to historical events and locationsGround the story in a relatable context, enhancing its realism and impact.

10. Personification

Movie SceneDevice Example
The description of time as a force that “wounds all heels”Gives time human-like qualities, emphasizing its relentless and damaging nature.
The underground camp as a “living entity”Personifies the setting, making it an active participant in the story’s unfolding drama.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies

Literary DeviceExplanation
SymbolismThe protagonist’s childhood memory of the pier symbolizes his fate and the cyclical nature of time.
IronyThe protagonist’s illusion of freedom is ironic, highlighting his ultimate lack of control over his destiny.
Literary DeviceExplanation
ImageryThe vivid depiction of the woman’s features emphasizes her significance in the protagonist’s life.
PathosThe protagonist’s longing for the woman evokes empathy and deep emotional connection.
Literary DeviceExplanation
FlashbackThe recurring flashbacks to the protagonist’s childhood establish his emotional anchor and the film’s central mystery.
Stream of ConsciousnessThe protagonist’s inner thoughts and mental journey are portrayed through a stream of consciousness narrative, revealing his deep inner conflict.

Character Dynamics

Character RelationshipExplanation
Protagonist and the WomanTheir relationship drives the narrative, with the woman representing a tether to the past and a hope for the future.
Protagonist and the ScientistThe manipulative relationship between the protagonist and the scientist highlights themes of control, power, and the ethical implications of time travel.

Thematic Analysis

SymbolismThe pier symbolizes the inescapable nature of fate and the cyclical pattern of time.
ImageryStark visual imagery of the post-apocalyptic world underscores themes of destruction and despair.
IronyThe protagonist’s perceived freedom contrasts sharply with his ultimate lack of control, emphasizing the theme of determinism.
FlashbackFlashbacks to the protagonist’s childhood highlight the importance of memory and the persistence of the past.
AllegoryThe depiction of post-apocalyptic Paris serves as an allegory for the consequences of war and human self-destruction.
PathosThe emotional journey of the protagonist creates a deep sense of empathy, underscoring the human cost of scientific experimentation.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismStill PhotographyThe use of still images emphasizes the symbolic weight of each moment.
ImageryBlack-and-White FilmThe stark contrasts in black-and-white film enhance the vivid imagery.
Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
FlashbackEditingThe seamless transition between past and present through editing strengthens the impact of flashbacks.
Stream of ConsciousnessNarrationThe continuous voice-over narration creates a stream of consciousness effect, immersing the audience in the protagonist’s mind.
Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
PathosClose-up ShotsClose-up shots of the protagonist and the woman heighten the emotional intensity.
AllegorySet DesignThe detailed and bleak set design of post-apocalyptic Paris enhances the allegorical meaning of the setting.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene Selection

Scene 1: The Opening Sequence

  • Link: Opening Sequence
  • Breakdown: The opening sequence sets the tone for the entire film, using stark imagery and powerful narration to introduce the post-apocalyptic world and the protagonist’s haunting memory. This scene establishes the key themes of memory, time, and fate.

Scene 2: The Experiment

  • Link: Experiment Scene
  • Breakdown: This scene showcases the protagonist undergoing the time travel experiment. The use of still photography and close-ups emphasizes the emotional and physical toll of the experiment, highlighting themes of sacrifice and human endurance.

Scene 3: The Climax at the Pier


Interactive Quiz

  1. What literary device is primarily used to establish the protagonist’s recurring memory of the pier?
  2. Which technique enhances the stream of consciousness effect in the film?
    • a) Color grading
    • b) Close-up shots
    • c) Voice-over narration
    • d) Background music
  3. The use of black-and-white film primarily enhances which literary device?
  4. What is the relationship between the protagonist and the woman symbolic of?
    • a) Hope and memory
    • b) Power and control
    • c) Freedom and fate
    • d) Love and loss
  5. The depiction of post-apocalyptic Paris serves as an allegory for what theme?
    • a) The beauty of nature
    • b) The consequences of war
    • c) The power of technology
    • d) The mystery of time