Mike N’s review published on Letterboxd:
La Jetée is quite an experience; In just 26 minutes of still photographs it tells a story, creates and atmosphere and provides haunting imagery that are all of the highest quality. It's a remarkable accomplishment.
Using a bleak and oppressive post-war scenario to discuss subjects such as discovery, memory and love; the brilliance of the static imagery and how it can tell a story or provide information in a way that's different to moving pictures is where La Jetée truly shines. When each image stays on screen for a couple of seconds or longer, it's easier to take in all the detail of an image, the setting or the expressions of characters to create a sense of realism, as if you're looking through a photo album of the man's past, present and future life. There are many images that seem to linger, similar to the nature of the man's obsessive memories about the woman he remembers, and the overlapping transitions between images are superbly done - notably in the early Paris transformation sequence as it's taken from a city of beauty to one of ruin in a matter of seconds.
La Jetée is an exploration of the human mind, and in taps into the nature of how we operate in desperate times - recalling and creating experiences to help us through. Images of nature, children, and animals are shown - things that cannot be seen or heard in their reality. The man's relationship with the woman is a large focus, from seeing her as a child in his past to his interactions with her in the future that is shown. What I really liked is how their relationship is shown in a very raw form - I didn't know what direction they would take, and each sequence with them together is so different from the last that it feels like term 'every day is an adventure' has never been so fitting. It's wonderful.
The visual style only helps to reinforce the difference between mind and reality; with reality being a dark, depressing and horrifying place full of shadow and characters that keep you on edge. There is also some quite haunting music and sounds, from the German whispering emphasising the foreign nature of the current Paris compared to the one in the man's memories and the rumbling that sounds similar to an increasing heart-beat. It all helps create an atmosphere of tension and unease that fits with the unpredictable nature of the plot.
La Jetée is creative, enthralling, and unlike anything I've seen before. Highly recommended for those that haven't seen it.