La jetée (1962)

Genres - Avant-garde / Experimental, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Sci-Fi, Romantic Fantasy  |   Run Time - 28 min.  |   Countries - France  |  
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One of the finest science fiction films ever made, Chris Marker's La jetée is a brilliant philosophical treatise packed into 28 minutes of film. Though it is Marker's only fictional work, it stands as one of the most eloquent visions of his artistic obsessions: travel, images, and memory. Concerning a nameless protagonist who voyages from the radioactive rubble of the post-WWIII present to the verdant past, the film is a travelogue of sorts--a journey through time instead of space--in which the man's childhood memories literally define his existence. Faced with a choice of living in a perfectly ordered distant future or in the moments immediately before nuclear destruction, he chooses to return to the woman from his youthful dreams and live in a vertiginous state of nostalgia. The film's "photo-roman" (still photo) style seems to mirror the impressionistic quality of memory, which the viewer pieces together into a coherent visual experience. Yet, at one point in the film, the protagonist's lover stares into the camera -- until suddenly she blinks. Subtle yet shockingly effective, La jetée brilliantly explodes the rules of what makes a film, forcing the audience to reassess its preconceptions about cinema, as well as about time, memory, and how we experience reality.