Thursday, November 6, 2008


Godard's Alphaville is an exquisitely oblique take on two genres, science fiction and film noir. It was brought up in class that perhaps the film is prophetic, in that it was about the future of our world. But is the film actually about the future? It seems to me that he uses and skews these two genres to create a new world. He uses Lemmy Caution to create a legend. It is what Vonbaun says upon meeting with Caution, "You'll become a legend Lemmy Caution," which adds to the fiction of the world we view, we see myth in the making. The world contains many disjointed and parodic gestures. This parodic aspect can be viewed in several ways. For one, it can be quite unsettling for the viewer, and at the same time it carries a comic element that draws us into the world, but at the same time keeps us from identifying with the characters. We relate to the forces of this cinematic world, but the characters are so abstrusely designed that we are unaffected by them, or do not know precisely how to feel about them. This parodic element also has an element of reflexivity in response to the world, and to ideology. Godard essentially, as abovementioned, creates his own universe in order for the viewer to juxtapose it with our own. This ultimately entrenches us in a new world, with new gestures, new modes of experience, as it is explored through the world of hyper-logic. But this new world allows us to distance ourselves from our own reality, our truth. From this film we can take this distance and look back on our own gestures, and see that they too can appear to be artificial; or that our sense of logic and religion can appear to be quite comic if we see what ritualistic habits they maintain. We get a sense that our own world is perhaps as artificial as Alphaville. The people of Alphaville do not see this in their world, they take reality for truth, "logic" as absolute. It is not until the system collapses that the artificiality is revealed. By then the people become baseless, their hyper-logic grounding collapses, and a crisis emerges. The people are empty, they become tactile, their sensory perception is new to them, it is no longer a trained instrument of action. Lemmy the legend understood this, his otherworldliness allowed him to see, like the viewers, that this is a strange place. Henry on the other hand was carried away by the world of Alphaville. He tried hard to maintain his otherworldliness (his "Outlandness") by looking for love, etc., but ended up forgetting himself, for instance, wondering what the word "why" meant (for it was not in the Alphaville bible). At any rate, Alphaville's relative proximity to our own world allows us to draw intimate connections between it and our own world. As it was mentioned in class, the buildings, the cars, the clothing, etc. are all very similar to our own. It is particularly the idea of Alphaville that takes us out of our worldly element. We see that the characters' behaviors are starkly different from our own. The freeway becomes an interstellar pathway between galaxies. The Alpha 60 computer, this "truth machine", heads the technocracy. The people become as affectless as their "ruler", the computer. Godard uses and construes our everyday objects and spaces to build false truths into this new world, Alphaville. It is precisely this making false of everything that reveals the "idea" of Alphaville. Godard exposes the nihilism of Alphavillean ideology, and Vonbaun's will-to-dominate, as opposed to will-to-power. It is nothing of the will-to-power. Instead, it prohibits creative potential, and adheres to the strict circulation of "logical" rhetoric. And affects or forces become numbed and/or exploited for Alphaville's own negative means.

It is what Nietzsche called the stages of nihilism, the spirit of revenge in various shapes. Behind the truthful man, who judges life from the perspective of supposedly higher values, there is the sick man, 'the man sick with himself,' who judges life from the perspective of his sickness, his degeneration and his exhaustion.
pp. 141 Cinema 2

By raising the false to power, life freed itself of appearances as well as truth. . .
pp. 145 Cinema 2

1 comment:

Andre Seewood said...

Interesting take on Lemmy Caution as legend. Those citations from Deleuze are fantastic- Damn it, I've got to finish reading those books!