Chris Marker, Filmmaker Behind Science Fiction Classic La Jetée, Has Died

Slate's Culture Blog
July 30 2012 11:43 AM

Filmmaker Chris Marker, 1921-2012

Still from La jetee
Still from Chris Marker's film La jetée.

Still from YouTube.

Chris Marker, the French filmmaker and film essayist behind such films as Sans Soleil and the science fiction classic La jetée, has died at 91. Marker was one of the pioneering filmmakers behind the essay film, a loosely defined form that combines documentary footage with personal reflection. Recent successes like Waltz with Bashir, Tarnation, and the great 1986 film Sherman’s March could be considered peers and descendants of Marker’s work, along with aspects of the documentaries of contemporary filmmakers like Werner Herzog and Errol Morris.

Marker created an unlikely science fiction classic in La jetée, which would eventually become the basis for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. Composed almost entirely of a series of still images—with the notable exception of one moving image—La jetée tells the story of a man imprisoned under Paris in a post-apocalyptic future, who is sent into the past in hopes of somehow saving the present. It’s a stunningly evocative and imaginative film that holds up against Hollywood’s greatest science fiction, even though its budget allowed for little more in the way of special effects than shots of men in hammocks with pads over their eyes. (These are the time machines.)

The principal theme of La jetée is the inability to escape time, and so there is, sadly, perhaps no more fitting occasion to watch La jetée than today. It’s available on DVD from the Criterion Collection, or you can watch it on YouTube below.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.