Nostalgia and La Jetée


  • Karla Huebner Wright University



film, cinema, Chris Marker, memory, nostalgia, trauma, lived experience, repetition


This essay contemplates Chris Marker’s film La Jetée (1962) via Svetlana Boym’s conceptualization of “restorative” versus “reflective” nostalgia. It looks in part at the film’s presentation of the protagonist’s restorative nostalgia, but unlike previous examinations of nostalgia’s role in La Jetée, this essay foregrounds the viewer’s own experience of a reflective nostalgia for the film. The author considers her personal and subjective, and historically specific, encounters with La Jetée in relation to how the film may produce a similar nostalgia in others through its storytelling and unusual combination of photographic and cinematic form. Drawing also on Réda Bensmaïa’s semiotic and psychoanalytic analysis of the film’s “pictogrammatic” quality, the essay further considers the possible roles of trauma and masochism in the film and for its viewers, and relates the experience of watching La Jetée to that of watching An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (also 1962). The essay therefore situates both films in the context of historically situated yet ever-changing lived experience.

Author Biography

Karla Huebner, Wright University

Karla Huebner is Associate Professor of Art History and Affiliate Faculty in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. She received her Ph.D. in the History of Art and Architecture from the University of Pittsburgh and her M.A. from American University in Washington, DC. Her research areas include surrealism, women artists, the history of gender and sexuality, and Czech modernism from 1890-1950.




How to Cite

Huebner, K. (2015). Nostalgia and La Jetée. Contemporaneity: Historical Presence in Visual Culture, 4, 95–107.