This process is unimaginable without Godard's enthusiasm for 3D and digital technology, practices that transform even the most recognizable markers of his style. The famous primary-color title cards now function in 3D as palimpsests, vibrating with plural meanings. This visual excess enhances a phenomenon that was already there in Godard's title cards of the 1960's: the ability of words to become pictures. And now even pictures become something else, tactile and distended through space. Godard quotes Proust (although he misattributes it to Monet) in what seems to be a maxim for his cinematic practice: "Paint so that you don't see." The image is something that modulates across sensorial registers, a practice that culminates over an empty black frame with a woman asking "What do you see?" The implication is everything is potentially meaningful in some sense, whether it be the perceived abyss of the animal's gaze, or the emptiness of the black frame.
What Godard values in the digital image is its mutability, a quality expounded upon when a man and a woman discuss the German mathematician Bernhard Riemann: "Riemann arrived at a landscape in which each point becomes music. A line of zeros along the sea." In this seeming allusion to digital encoding, the natural world is already information, ready to be extended and developed through technology. It is for this reason that Godard invokes music and mathematics as a potential "language of nature." Instead of the opposition between language and nothingness, we find an issue of translation between registers: the affective and the intellectual, the visual and the semantic, the human and the non-human. If a privileged site for the human remains in the film, it is perhaps only as a translator between languages, and this translation always assumes an underlying translatability in the natural world. The film's conclusion, in which we hear the cries of babies and barking of dogs over the credits, is a euphoric consummation of this practice, disparate languages communicating nothing other than their mutual intelligibility.
Godard wagers that what might appear to be non-sense, excess, noise—the excluded qualities of the "natural world"—may be the very essence of language and communication itself. In a statement repeated twice in the film, he turns to his childhood to imagine a form of non-exclusionary world-making, harmonizing with the sociality already in things: "When I was a kid, we played Indians. My favorite were the Apaches. Their word for the world is: forest." In this complicity of word and world, Godard disappears into the Swiss forest the same way he disappears into books and films. This disappearance is his most pointed attempt to communicate, a "goodbye" that merely signals a different way to speak.
Essay by McNeil Taylor
Guest Curator, Filmatique
(1) Jacques Derrida, "The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)," trans. by David Wills, Critical Inquiry, 28.2 (2002), 369–418, 416.
(2) Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature, trans. by Ann Smock (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982), 257.