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La Jetée ("The Pier") is a classic short 1962 black and white French Science Fiction film directed by Chris Marker.

It takes place in a post-apocalyptic future in which humanity has been forced underground due to the aftermath of World War III and faces extinction from lack of resources. A series of Time Travel experiments take place with a prisoner as the subject, in hopes of being able to remedy humanity's present situation.

The film is notable for being shot almost entirely as a series of still images, without dialogue other than some mumbled German.

It was adapted in a more mainstream full length film entitled12 Monkeys. David Bowie also references the film in his video for "Jump They Say".


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Tropes:

  • Affably Evil: The experimenter probably qualifies.
  • After the End: Humanity is huddling underground after nuclear war has destroyed everything and killed almost everybody.
    "The victors stood guard over a kingdom of rats."
  • Apocalypse How: Class 4, Species Extinction. Apparently the surface of the earth has been irradiated and what very few humans are left live in underground chambers.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Time travel works by apparently putting little masks with strings or wires over your eyes.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The protagonist succeeds in convincing the people of the future to help humanity in the past, and is even rescued by them after the regime opts to have him executed. Instead of traveling with them into the nigh-impermeable future, he heads into the past instead to be with the girl, leaving him open to the regime's attempt to kill him and set up a stable time loop. In short, humanity is saved with the promise of a good future, but the protagonist dies in the process.
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  • Crystal Spires and Togas: The protagonist glimpses a version of this when he is sent into the future.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: It proves that the story is definitely not taking place in Poughkeepsie.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: The people of the future world are shown, in almost every picture, with half of their faces covered in shadow.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack
  • Monumental Damage: The Eiffel Tower appears to be gone; the Arc de Triomphe is still there, but the top was destroyed by a bomb, leaving two unconnected pillars.
  • No Name Given: None of the characters have names.
  • Ominous Russian Chanting
  • Photo Montage: The film is made up of still photos, with panning effects to imply motion. Except for a literal "blink and you'll miss it", when the Woman opens her eyes.
  • Scenery Gorn: Bombed-out ruins, devastation.
  • Stable Time Loop: Enforced twice: with the time traveler convincing the people of the future to help the people of the past survive, and with the jailer killing him to create the memory that made it possible for him to travel in time in the first place.
  • You Already Changed the Past: The man's anchor to the past is his hazy childhood memory of seeing the beautiful woman at the airport, and then seeing a man die. Eventually, when trying to flee the scientists, the man travels back to the past and to that moment—and gets shot by the jailer. So what he saw as a child was himself getting killed, after having fulfilled his mission.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The man's love for the girl ultimately gets him killed.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Having brought back the information that will allow humanity to restore itself, the man is executed by his jailers. Subverted, in that it wasn't outliving his usefulness that required the man to die. Rather, he needed to die in order to create the strong childhood memory that allowed him to time travel in the first place.

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