To Become Immortal, Then to Die

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by btrachtenberg100 on 03-05-2010

I always find it amusing to learn the background and philosophy of a filmmaker. I find it has a similar function to understanding the life of a poet; for once you are put into the context of their work, their work becomes more profound in that you can enter into their mind through the manifested mental construct of poesy. Jean-Luc Godard is an interesting case. He started out as a critic of cinema, and this seems to be directly linked to his style of filmmaking that is clearly reflexive and deconstructs the conventions of Hollywood cinema. Breaking the 180 degree rule, eye line confusion, jump cuts, looking at the camera, ellipses in the action, and lack of clear causality mark his film “Breathless”. Despite these sometimes confusing aspects, the film contains some very complex existential ideas that are reflected in the unconventionality of the narrative.
When Patricia is attending the interview, the subject, a famous author, says that his greatest ambition is to become immortal and then to die. This idea resonates throughout the film and interacts directly with the issues of love and fidelity. The relationship between Michel and Patricia seems a bit muddled and unconventional, but this leaves room for topics such as love to be discussed in a more objective and philosophical manner. I assert that the reason that Michel sticks around is for love, for he asserts that life isn’t worth living without love. At the end of the film, his death leaves this idea unresolved, as love seemed to make Michel immortal in his actions and attitudes yet he dies, but not without a smile on his face. The questions that remain unsolved are posed to us and make us rethink about the roles we play in our own lives.
This breaking down of the fundamental principles of cinema connects really well with “La Jet’ee”; a film that is composed of still images. I find this film fascinating in that it is essentially a series of jump cuts, but each still presupposes a shot that doesn’t actually exist. This feeds into the themes the film explores regarding mortality and the assertion of a future that doesn’t yet exist, yet still exists. The films style is reminds me of the deliberate breaking of conventions used in “Breathless”, in that it directly violates the element that makes a film, film; motion. The series of pictures makes me feel as though I am actually sifting through someone’s memories, almost as though I were flipping through a photo album. Jean-Luc Godard said in the article that “Whoever one films will grow older and die. So one is filming a moment of death at work”. Being that the nature of the film “La Jet’ee” revolves around the circular logic of the inevitability of fate, the still pictures indicate to me a sort of purgatory that is created out of memories and the linking of dreams to reality. The still quality of the film also juxtaposes the ideas of immortality and the ephemeral nature of life. The protagonist in “La Jet’ee” actually achieves this level of immortality by transcending time but ultimately dies through the act of trying to preserve his love, ultimately fulfilling his fate by preserving the memory of his own death in his younger self. Pictures provide a sense of immortality in the film and plays with the idea of being immortal even with the subconscious knowledge of ones own death.

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1 Comment So Far

nrose100 on 9 May, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

I thought your post was very insightful, and the famous author’s statement, “to become immortal, and then to die”, was truly poignant because it stayed with me after the film. Often, people are chasing something they may never reach, such as eternal youth, extreme wealth, fame and immortality. As a result, they sacrifice what they have in order to get it. Although Michel loved Patricia, he was willing to sacrifice her happiness in a country she strived to come to for his own so that he can have riches. In the end, I feel that he came to the realization that what he had in front of him was enough, but he realized this too late.

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