Another adaptation from a popular novel, in which Godard fragments the narrative fiction in order to raise questions which throw the romantic aspirations of the protagonists into perspective. The debt to Hollywood is evident in the use of the gangster film convention of the couple in retreat from a hostile society, but the film uses various formal strategies to question that notion. Its protagonists are doomed, by the conflict between their inner desires and the violence and corruption of society, to destruction. Godard uses CinemaScope and colour to emphasise the seductive nature of their dream of an idyllic paradise. Social reality constantly interrupts the idyll, however, and the protagonists are driven back into society, which finally kills them. In spite of Godard’s evident ambiguity towards politics at this stage, the film looks forward to the explicitly political concerns of later work.
The film’s central theme is that of the escape of the young couple away from civilisation. The film also illustrates Godard’s strategy of fragmenting the narrative, juxtaposing written texts with film image. Godard has often been accused of a puritanical distrust of the seductive potential of the cinematic image: here, Scope and colour emphasise the lush beauty of the fantasy island, while written texts constantly intrude to ‘jog’ the spectator out of the fiction in the direction of politics.
The film’s basic romanticism is conservative in many respects: for example, in the representations of Marianne as instinctual and Ferdinand as ‘the thinker’, and in the anarchism of Ferdinand’s final gesture of self-destruction: the only alternative, it would seem, to utopianism. (The Cinema Book, edited by Pam Cook & Mieke Bernink)
My interpretation is markedly different. This one seems, at least to me, not only superficial but blinkered: it misses the very nature of the work itself. Like writing about Joyce’s Ulysses but unaware that its form is its main character – most of the meaning is in the language.