I am always fascinated by how foreign film titles are translated. In this case, Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie’s English title is My Life to Live. This title seems to command an exclamation point at the end and someone pumping their fist and standing on a soapbox to convey a sense of ownership. For Godard, this version of the title reflects more his filmmaking philosophy rather than the content of the film that it should be MY FILM TO FILM!. He choose unconventional shots such as shooting the back of people’s heads and panning back and forth when people are having a conversation instead of the conventional shot/reverse shot method. Each scene has a different style ranging from an instructional video style as Nana learns how to be a prostitute to using text and voiceovers in the last scene as a young man reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Oval Portrait” to Nana.
However, a literal English translation of the title, To Live Her Life, reflects more of the content of the film. That title does not pass judgment on Nana like My Life to Live which initially makes me think that she will somehow be a bratty prostitute. Instead, the literal translation elicits my empathy for her. I am simply observing a young woman drifting into prostitution to make ends meet. We may not always have an audience with a philosopher but we do agonize about our words whether we are texting, blogging, speaking, or writing. And we also could die at any moment no matter if we have sex with strangers for money or philosophize on the purpose of language. I could be her and she could be me.