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"The Little Soldier" Jean Luc Godard (1960/1963)

The 1960s was a time when filmmakers around the world started to become experimental. One of the first experimental filmmakers, Jean-Luc Godard, made several films in the early 1960s that were completely different from traditional cinema worldwide. For example, Eastern European films were beginning to break the rules of propaganda, as Western European films were leaning away from telling a concrete story to simply showing the story through actions where dialogue was not the only way to tell the story.

 

As this is his second film, there was still more controversy because the story and plot were against the production code of France, and Godard was threatened with being banned from continuing to make films, and this film was unable to be shown in France for many years. As this was an experimental film, the quality and effort put into it seemed poor because Godard seemed to want to rush production, and he even started thinking about the production of this film before he completed his previous film, “Breathless.” Some examples of poor quality included jerky camera movements, dubbed sound, no ambient sounds, and no simple sound effects such as a car engine or car door closing. Believe it or not, the only sound that was appropriately used in this film was a snap of a cigarette lighter, and that’s because Godard likely loved to smoke; other future films he directed, like “Bande a Part,” featured a lot of smoking, specifically in the restaurant scene.

 

In terms of historical content, France was recovering from the Algerian war, which prompted Godard to build his story around how the soldiers tortured prisoners and how it affected advocates in Europe for peace between the nations, so he created a story about an assassination plot but left out the gun violence and complicated backstories. In this case, a twenty-six-year-old French man planned to assassinate a radio commentator because he had support for Algerian independence. At the same time, that plot shifted away into a typical Godard-style film, a love story with lots of driving around in the streets in France. Although this did not cover torture based on the war, other forms of extreme torture were shown, such as one of the characters being dunked into a bathtub of water over and over, and that was likely done to show anger or frustration instead of using dialogue. Torture was also used when that same character was connected to an electrical generator, and as a result, that actor had bruises and injuries from that stunt.

 

As a result of all this harsh content, it took three years till it was able to be released, in 1963, when the Algerian War ended all because the French government refused to allow Godard to release this harsh film until after the war. The reason why this film was delayed was that it uncovered darkness, whereas his first film covered impulsivity and deliberating breaking societal norms. Another darkness of this film was that there were many dark scenes, which used a lack of sound effects and were filmed at night and alerting the viewers that this film was one of Godard’s darkest and one of his less successful films.

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