Sunday, December 14, 2008


Like Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player, Godard uses Alphaville to mess with film noir conventions. Although more faithful to high contrast look of film noir, Godard mixes it with science fiction to explore the ephemeral nature of language. The “present” can represent the “future” as shown by the “modern” buildings as the setting for this “futuristic” tale. “Love” may or may not have meaning, for it depends upon the person speaking saying the word to give meaning. After all, there are a variety of ways to love someone, as a fellow human being or as a romantic liaison. Even mathematical equations explore uncertainty of things with the reference to Heisenberg principle: “the values of certain pairs of conjugate variables (position and momentum, for instance) cannot both be known with arbitrary precision. That is, the more precisely one variable is known, the less precisely the other is known. This is not a statement about the limitations of a researcher's ability to measure particular quantities of a system, but rather about the nature of the system itself” (Wikipedia)However, Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence equation pops up periodically along with another equation that I cannot identify. The Einstein equation allows for the conservation of mass and the conservation of energy, so I guess its presence in this film shows that certain factors have to take place in order to conserve language. One of those factors is accessibility of words. If a word is banned and someone says the word, it leads to miscommunication. Eventually, they might find a way to communicate that would satisfy both parties thus creating a new language. Thus the concept of language is conserved relative to the two parties.

Just as Truffaut include some exercises in cinematic techniques in Shoot the Piano Player, Godard also includes scenes shot in X-ray vision to show what lies beneath the surface suggesting that we should explore what lies beneath our words or our concept of film noir. I honestly do not know what I am supposed to make of the drawings other than Godard saying, “Look what else you can put into a film noir/science fiction context.” Perhaps art has its own language begging for deconstruction. Art has meaning to the person who gives it meaning. As I mentioned earlier, mathematical equations appear as electric signs as well as the words nord (north) and sud (south), words that give us a sense of direction. But what is the point of direction if you do not know what the direction means? In the end, Natacha is unaware that she is being directed toward freedom even as she utters “I love you”. Alphaville is directing us in Godard’s exploration of language.

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