Chris Marker and the Cinema as Time Machine
Science Fiction Studies
The emergence of time travel as a widespread literary theme in the fin-de-siècle period was part of a search for new areas for colonization once colonialism had completed its domination of all the world's blank spaces. Time travel is in a sense travel between the unevenly developed countries of this world projected onto the universe. As Wells and Proust dreamed-each in his different way-of entering and mapping "the fourth dimension" (a period cliché), the Zeitgeist generated cinema to effect this time travel. In the cinema, Wells's invisible man fuses with his time traveller: the film viewer moves invisibly across the ages. All this prepares for an analysis of the film which is perhaps the most powerful cinematic embodiment of the theme of time travel: Chris Marker's La Jetée. The film's aesthetic strategies (e.g., the use of stills) create a "time-after-time" in a world devastated by a nuclear war. It also translates linear into circular time; reveals a Proustian concern with memory and imagination, absence and presence; and integrates a sense of tragedy into SF, along with philosophical sophistication and even a supernaturalism often denied mainstream SF works. In one of the greatest of all SF films, the technological medium becomes a spiritualist one also.