De l’origine du XXIe siècle (2000)
“I have tried to cover the memories of the atrocious explosions and crimes with children´s faces and the tears and smiles of women”. The attempt was of course bound to fail, as there is no cure against all the horrors of the last century in this retrospective. Godard scans the 20th Century in reverse; its major trends include armies and refugees, cannon shots and prisoners, freight trains and mountains of corpses, conquests and occupation, humiliations and torture. And when a scene starts a quest for a lost Century, the aim is not to find again the sweetness of remembrance, but an era lost because it was devastated by violence and wars.
That quote from a short write-up about the film through art-action.org. As my first example of post-war cinema, though it was completed well after the post-war era, this film exhibits everything short films of the 1940s and 1950s aimed to do. It is a montage rather than a narrative, with scenes originating from news reels and some Hollywood films like The Shining. Using this found footage, Godard moves us backwards through the twentieth century. He seeks to connect people through events, and the events we seem to all share are usually wars, tragedies, and deaths. Viewing a hundred-year period this way, only through images, makes it feel like humanity keeps repeating history, as if we keep trudging through the same events with the same outcomes. The images of corpses and fallen soldiers sharply contrast with the more innocent images of children and lovers, pitting our breakable bodies against equally breakable souls. Godard’s work focuses on the state as the opposite of love, in this film and others. An analysis of this film compared to a few of his others can be found on another blog, Only the Cinema. I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from the film.
“Society makes the body something more than it is, and the soul something less.”