La Jetée – the film that received a cult status soon after its release, along with Sans Soleil is regarded as Marker‘s best film. Every frame in this film is a black and white photograph. It unites photography and cinema and develops a new language that Philippe Dubois calls “cinématogramme” (cinematogram) . A film that incorporates the movements and editing techniques, of cinema like slow dissolves, varied tempo, match cuts and dolly zoom shot  into photographs.
Photographs lock meaning and realities representing the subject. The subjective interpretation of a photograph does not interfere with its temporal reality of having existed in the past. Concurrently, the photograph is never separate from its referent or at least not immediately . Though photographs are the primary element of cinema, but cinema is not as ‘complete’ and ‘full’ as the photograph. It does always carry the referent but the referent in cinema keeps changing. Hence the impact of the referent is not as great as that in a photograph. But what can be extrapolated from the understanding of the hybridisation that reflects cinema like La Jetée?
The stills in La Jetee are not frames cut out from a film reel but they are actual photographs shot from a Pentax camera. By engaging Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida with Marker’s La Jetée, another dimension of temporal reality materialises. According to Barthes (comparable to Andre Bazin’s idea in What is Cinema), a photograph is not a copy of reality but the emanation of past reality . A photograph is a deferred reality. A reality that existed once upon a time but is no more. The image of the woman in La Jetee was “of reality and of past” , more so because it not only activated the past for the man, but made it his present.
Barthes talks about death in a photograph, presence of time and the look of the photograph. A common circumstance of Barthes in Camera Lucida and the man in La Jetée is instrumental in their juxtaposed interpretation – the obsession and love for one image – the image mirroring their deaths. In La Jetée, the image of the woman at Orly that the man carries with him throughout the war is actually the image of his death. Whilst Barthes redeems The Winter Garden photograph of his mother that ‘inscribes his own death’ .
In Camera Lucida, Barthes has expressed his fondness for photography as opposed to cinema. But what meanings are called upon in a cinema constructed of photographs. How the photographs are resurrection in La Jetée? What happens when the medium becomes the meaning? How does one understand La Jetée– as a film or photograph? The following conversations are trying to engage Chris Marker’s La Jetée with Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes. The two photographs illustrate a few points of observation on the effects of time, space and death.
This is a work in progress.
“Photography’s noeme has nothing to with analogy (a feature it shares with all kinds of representations).”
Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
As one views this photograph, there are four circuits of time that are formed – the time when this photograph was taken (then), the time when one sees it (now), the time that overlaps the past of the man with the present and the woman’s present with the future. Then outlasts the one who is viewing the photograph (now) when the viewer is not around. The third and the fourth time determinants are intriguing. We know that the man has travelled in time, so he has replaced his present with his past and the woman’s present has been replaced by the future. There are alternates to both their times because otherwise each of their present will be something completely different if not replaced. Those are the third and the fourth circuits of time.Punctum of time is quite prominent in this photograph. “Whether or not the subject is already dead, every photograph is this catastrophe” . As Barthes elaborates further on this point saying that a photograph is always defeated by time, either the subject is dead or is going to die. In the ‘present’ of the man, the woman is already dead and the man is going to die .
“Now the look, it it insists (all the more, if it lasts, if it traverses, with the photograph, time)- the look is always potentially crazy:it is at once the effect of truth and the effect of madness.”
-Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
 Chris Marker, Memories of the Future, Catherine Lupton, talks about P Dubois , La Jetee de Chris Marker, oule cinematogramme de la conscience, Theoreme, no 6, Reseaches sur Chris Marker, 2002, pg 9-45
 Chris Marker was highly influenced by Vertigo. He included the giant sequoia tree sequence in La Jetee. The woman in La Jetee, played by Héléne Chatelain, wears her hair the same way as the the character of Madeleine played by Kim Novak.
 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, pg 5
 Ibid, pg 89
 Ibid, pg 88
 Ibid, pg 76
 Ibid, pg 93
 Code or Connotation. It is the imposition of the second meaning that talks about the treatment of the photograph in terms of framing, syntax, photogenia, pose, trick efffects. Elaborated in ‘The Photographic Message by Barthes in Image Music Text, pg 15-31
 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, pg 88,89
 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, pg 96
 At the back of his mind, the man knows that he will be killed by the experimenters just like the men before him. He does not realises it right now as he is too absorbed in his moments with the woman.
 Other instances in the film include – the scientist takeing off the sponge eye masks, he looks into the camera to give a feeling that he is looking at the man, the people of the future look directly into the camera which is to show that they are looking at the man.