La Jetee is as nontraditional as science fiction films get. The entire twenty eight minute story is almost entirely told through still images. The plot centers around a man who was taken prisoner after a war that required survivors the live underground. Prisoners were subject to experiments in time travel, and when the protagonist is picked as a test, he is told to find help from the past or the future. The man has a vivid memory of his childhood of a man being shot on a jetty, which is a sign that he is capable of going back in time.. Eventually, the experiment works and he travels to a prewar time and meets a woman whom he falls in love with. After a number of trials, his handlers instead send him to the future to find a way to help their current situation. The man gets a power unit from the future people and returns to his time. After his return, he learns that he will be executed, so in a last ditch effort he contacts the future people and asks to be sent back in time permanently so he can be with the woman. He ends up back in time at the Jetty where he spots his lady friend. As he runs to her, one of the scientists who has followed him back in time shoots him. His last realization is that the memory from his childhood was of his own death on the jetty.
The most striking aspect of the film is that it is made up of almost all still images. There is a narrator, but he doesn't speak much and only explains the general plot. This leaves the viewer up to decipher the images and piece the story together themselves. One scene in particular stands out in that it features a tiny bit of movement. As the lady lies in bed, she looks like just another photograph until she opens her eyes. It almost makes you do a double take since everything before was only pictures. Also, the narration is very non intrusive. His voice isn't too loud or accented, and he doesn't speak too frequently or infrequently. It gives the viewer just enough time to figure out what is happening without getting bored or letting his mind wander. The overall tone of the film is mystery and wonder, just like the man's childhood memory. Time travel movies usually have some sort of twist, but when it's revealed that the man's memory was of his own death, heads were scratched. It makes you wonder if, given the technology, if that would even be possible and what kind of crazy paradox that would create. That's where this movie is really intriguing. It has a clear beginning and ending, but still leaves it open to contemplation.