timespace coordinates: 2035, subterranean compound / ruins of Philadelphia (after a deadly virus released in 1996 wipes out almost all of humanity, forcing survivors to live underground) > 1990 / 1996 Baltimore + battlefield during ww1
12 Monkeys, also known as Twelve Monkeys, is a 1995 American neo-noir science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam, inspired by Chris Marker‘s 1962 short film La Jetée, and starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad Pitt, with Christopher Plummer and David Morse in supporting roles.
References to time, time travel, and monkeys are scattered throughout the film, including the Woody Woodpecker cartoon “Time Tunnel” playing on the TV in a hotel room, the Marx Brothers film Monkey Business (1931) on TV in the asylum, and the subplots involving monkeys (drug testing, news stories and animal rights). The film is also intended to be a study of people’s declining ability to communicate in modern civilization due to the interference of technology. (Memory,_time,_and_technology)
12 Monkeys is inspired by the French short film La Jetée (1962); as in La Jetée, characters are haunted by the images of their own deaths. Like La Jetée, 12 Monkeys contains references to Alfred Hitchcock‘s Vertigo (1958). Toward the end of the film, Cole and Railly hide in a theater showing a 24-hour Hitchcock marathon and watch a scene from Vertigo. Railly then transforms herself with a blonde wig, as Judy (Kim Novak) transforms herself into blonde Madeleine in Vertigo; Cole sees her emerge within a red light, as Scottie (James Stewart) saw Judy emerge within a green light. Brief notes of Bernard Herrmann‘s film score can also be heard. Railly also wears the same coat Novak wore in the first part of Vertigo. The scene at Muir Woods National Monument, where Judy (as Madeleine) looks at the growth rings of a felled redwood and traces back events in her past life, resonates with larger themes in 12 Monkeys. Cole and Railly later have a similar conversation while the same music from Vertigo is repeated. The Muir Woods scene in Vertigo is also reenacted in La Jetée. In a previous scene in the film, Cole wakes up in a hospital bed with the scientists talking to him in chorus. This is a direct homage to the “Dry Bones” scene in Dennis Potter‘s The Singing Detective. James Cole is a notable Christ figure in film. The film is significant in the genre of science-fiction film noir, and it alludes to various “canonical noir” films.
After the release of The Zero Theorem in 2013, claims were made that Gilliam had meant it as part of a trilogy. A 2013 review for The Guardian newspaper said, “Calling it [The Zero Theorem] the third part of a trilogy formed by earlier dystopian satires Brazil and Twelve Monkeys [sic]”; but in an interview with Alex Suskind for Indiewire in late 2014, Gilliam said, “Well, it’s funny, this trilogy was never something I ever said, but it’s been repeated so often it’s clearly true [laughs]. I don’t know who started it but once it started it never stopped”(wiki)