Pushing aside the thick black curtains to step into a small black box in the gallery is taking the first step into another world. Chris Marker’s 1962 short piece is a film of photographs, a series of long still images, each occupying the frame for a long moment. It’s as if stepping through the curtain time slowed—as if the film’s 24 frames per second sputtered nearly to a stop and what would be incomprehensibly fast became poetically slow.
The credits identify La Jetée not as a film, but as a photo-roman—literally a photo novel. But yet what sets it apart from its cousins (graphic novels) is inherently filmic—it still controls the time it takes you. The film determines how long you watch it, how long you hear its music, sound effects and narration. There can be no flipping through the pages to see the end. It is time based; its speed and structure are fixed and limiting.
And La Jetée deliberately exploits that limitation with its narrative. Set in a post-war, radioactive Paris, we are forced to ask, how did we get here? What could have happened to bring us to this point? Is this a story of the future or of a possible future? But, of course, we can never know until all of the images roll out in front of us, and we can remember it, like the film negative remembers the light that once struck it.
Installed as a part of Event Horizon, La Jetée will be running continuously in gallery 2 until Sunday, May 2nd.