Time the Redeemer: Time as an Object of Cinema in a Post-Metaphysical Age

  • Author(s): Greg Watkins
  • When: 2016-01
  • Where: Journal of Religion & Film
  • To close, let us revisit La Jetée for a moment. I think the power of that movie comes in part from the kind of religious transfiguration of the present moment that it is trying to achieve. At one level, it does this simply by suggesting that we view our present moment from the perspective of an apocalyptic future, to consider, in other words, how ‘precious’ otherwise mundane realities can become in light of possible disaster. But by using the time-loop plot device, the religious power of this movie runs more deeply. The particular shape of this movie gives us a visceral experience of that transfigured present moment when the sequence of photo-montage ever so briefly becomes the moving image of film, that is, when the sequence of photos of the woman in bed speeds up to the point of becoming a real, cinematic moment – the representation of everyday reality through moving images. As the protagonist of that film follows his own attraction to this woman and to the past, we are being cultivated to feel a kind of awakening to the present moment that we suddenly experience when the photo-montage becomes the moving images of cinema. Then, at the end of the movie, the “puzzle film” feature of the circling around of the time-travel plot, and the resulting death of the protagonist, only move us further, I would argue, in the direction of a kind of transfiguring, religious sentiment about the everyday world and the people in it. What bursts through as a kind of sacred moment in the moving-image sequence is even further valorized through the loss of that possibility for the protagonist at the end of the movie. He can not stay where he most wants to be, in a kind of redeemed, transfigured past. But that place is our place; we find ourselves there already. How will we see it?

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