The Pier

Released:  1962

Cast:  Helene Chatelain, Davos Hanich, Jacques Ledoux

SUMMARY:  As a child, an anonymous man (Davos Hanich) witnessed an event on a pier that haunts him for the rest of his life.  He only remembers a woman’s (Helene Chatelain) face, but is able to discern that a man was killed.  As the boy grows up, World War II breaks out; after it ends, the survivors are forced to live underground to avoid radiation.  The boy grows into a man, who is among the survivors, but is imprisoned by a ruling faction.  In an effort to save the present human race, scientists have been researching time travel, trying to send people both into the past and the future.  They have had little success, as the subjects aren’t able to deal with the mental stress that comes with this process.  However, when they learn that the man has a very clear, strong memory from the past (the woman’s face), they make him their next test subject.  The man starts the programs, and after several unsuccessful attempts he is able to get into the past and meet the woman he remembers.  He continues to return to the past, and eventually develops a relationship with the woman.  However, the scientists abruptly decide (without telling him) that they will now try to send him into the future.  The man is also able to successfully make this transition, and secures a special battery that will help save humanity.  The man returns to the present, where, as his usefulness has expired, he is sentenced to execution.  He is rescued by the people from the future, who can also time-travel.  They offer to let him join them in the future, but he man instead asks to be sent back to his past, to the moment on the pier that he remembers.  His wish is granted, and after seeing the woman he starts running toward her.  As he runs, he sees one of the guards from the present; as he continues to run, he realizes that the death he knows has happened in this scene is actually his own.

MY TAKE:  This is an odd movie for two main reasons:  its plot and the way it was made.  There isn’t any live action in this film, it’s all stills.  Oddly, this starts to seem fairly active as you keep watching — it’s almost like your imagination fills in the gaps.  If you’ve ever used Adobe Flash, it’s sort of like tweening.  The film is only about 28 minutes long, but I didn’t really realize that what was going on until probably the last ten minutes.  The part in the middle of the film, where he keeps visiting the woman, is slow and makes it seem vaguely like an art film.  I felt like I was missing something that I was supposed to be grasping subliminally.  Turned out this wasn’t true, which was good for me — as I have mentioned many times before, such nuances escape and frustrate me.  At the end the story really came together:  I actually realized right before the main character did that the death he remembered was his own.  Even so, suddenly having all the pieces click into place left me with a good feeling.

RATING:  Interesting.

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