Despite being less than 30 minutes long, La Jetée manages to squeeze in more ideas than most two hour blockbusters.
Made in 1962 by Chris Marker, it tells the tale of a man in France who witnesses and survives the start of World War Three as a young boy. These vivid memories then make him the perfect candidate for his captors experiments with time travel, which sees him sent both into the past and into the future.
Made 18 years after World War Two and in the middle of the Cold War it’s theme of worldwide nuclear holocaust seems particularly prescient. Given its release in February 1962, it predates the Cuban Missile Crisis by 8 months, when the world was teetering on the brink.
It was the inspiration for the fabulous 12 Monkeys and shares a lot of similar themes, but crucially not the budget. Aside from a single shot of about 5-6 seconds in length, there are no moving images. Instead, it is composed of a sequence of still images. Aside from some whispering in what is apparently German (this itself is largely symbolic given France’s relationship both to WWII and Germany in general), all the speaking comes from a single narrator who explains all.
It really is a brilliant movie, with some really thought provoking ideas and a style I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. If you’ve got a spare 28 minutes this is they way to spend it.