Understanding Chris Marker’s Radical Sci-Fi Film La Jetée: A Study Guide Distributed to High Schools in the 1970s

Colin Marshall in Open Culture:

Pop quiz, hot shot. World War III has devastated civilization. As a prisoner of survivors living beneath the ruins of Paris, you’re made to go travel back in time, to the era of your own childhood, in order to secure aid for the present from the past. What do you do? You probably never faced this question in school — unless you were in one of the classrooms of the 1970s that received the study guide for Chris Marker’s La Jetée. Like the innovative 1962 science-fiction short itself, this educational pamphlet was distributed (and recently tweeted out again) by Janus Films, the company that first brought to American audiences the work of auteurs like Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, and Akira Kurosawa.

Written by Connecticut prep-school teacher Tom Andrews, this study guide describes La Jetée as “a brilliant mixture of fantasy and pseudo-scientific romance” that “explores new dramatic territory and forms, and rushes with a stunning logic and a powerful impact to its shocking climax.”

The film does all this “almost entirely in still photographs, their static state corresponding to the stratification of memory.” More practically speaking, at “twenty-seven minutes in length, La Jetée is an ideal class-period vehicle” that “can help students speculate on the awesome potential of life as it may exist after a third world war” as well as “man’s inhumanity to man, not only as it may occur in the future, but as it already has occurred in our past.”

More here.