A film director has an inspirational crisis while working on the production, Passion, and struggles with the nature of work and art.A film director has an inspirational crisis while working on the production, Passion, and struggles with the nature of work and art.A film director has an inspirational crisis while working on the production, Passion, and struggles with the nature of work and art.
Jean-Luc Godard would say (and has said, more or less) that all art forms have an interrelationship and interchangeability. With this philosophy in mind he used his work to try to break down film from its conceptual boundaries of the narrative. In a sense this is a beautiful gesture, and I'm not denying this, but this manifesto-based approach to art- making leads to a lot more of explaining yourself than creating original work. The Godard film I want to put in question is called Passion (1982). It scandalizes the film vernacular of that postmodern trope, the film within the film. It goes behind the scenes of film-making, but the mock-film, which is also titled Passion, has no plot. It simply recreates a few painting "masterpieces" on film with real characters, on a real scale. The seminal painting- reenactment is Eugene Delacroix's The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople.
Delacroix truly wanted to revolutionize narrative painting of the Romantic period in France. He was fed up with the conservatism introduced by painters like David. So rather than painting simple, yet psychological moments in a narrative like The Death of Marat, he tried to expand the modes of depicting narrative. The result of this effort is evident in The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople, completed in 1838, at the height of his career. His mode for this painting is somewhere between narrative registers and a theatrical moment (such as the moment Géricault chose for Raft of the Medusa). Elements of story are scattered around the chaos of the historical event: a woman kneels over her fallen friend, an old man tries to protect a young woman from the crusaders on horseback, another man fights a soldier on the steps of a temple, etc. At face value, it looks a bit like an epic painting, but it isn't. Epic paintings always have a shining moment; in Delacroix's, every moment shines in its own way. So while Delacroix's practice wasn't necessarily interdisciplinary, it most certainly zigzagged across painting genres. This aspect of the work is probably one of the Godard's interests in Delacroix, being that Godard was a seminal figure in the development of the shiftiest art movement to date, postmodernism.
The understanding that there are separate shining moments in both Godard's Passion and Delacroix's The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople is very important to the interpretation of these works. As Jerzy, the director of Godard's film within the film said, "An image is not beautiful because it is brutal and eerie it is because the solidarity between ideas is distant and just." This line is incredibly profound, because it lays out the truth of art and life in general before the work; that truth is that all ideas are conceived disparate from one another because ideas come out of experience, which coincidentally is a paraphrasing of another one of Jerzy's lines. This idea becomes more important as the movie progresses. The other painting-reenactments, which appear closer to the beginning of the movie, are simply still images transferred to three dimensions and then recorded on film; but when he gets to the Delacroix scene (which was the most modern of the paintings and also stretched the concept of narrative the most), he is true to his philosophy. The characters begin the scene by reenacting the sacking of Constantinople, so as to have the experience, each one on an individual level, to be able to depict it. The action, which was being filmed, didn't even seem important to the filmmakers, in fact some of the production assistants were yelling at the actors (especially the women who were pretending rather convincingly to be raped and harassed) to get back into their places, as if they were supposed to be standing still. The action became a way for the still image to fall into place on a more real level than could be composed (a testament to Godard's philosophies).
So there you have it, another piece of writing about ambitious men who wanted to make their mark on civilization (and if you pay attention to the gender relations in this movie, this is appropriate to mention). There's a lot of pressure out their for the ambitious man, and he is extremely sensitive. It's a tiring job for people who are more interested in theory than something more tangible (medium over message). And so they deal in epics and ambiguity. Godard, intent on advancing the medium of film is torn between writing stories and making abstractions that somehow incorporate characters. His answer, make a film about a filmmaker, making a film with master paintings in it. In the end, he creates a crypt filled so much with briefly explored theories (which may be too much to really comprehend) that it essentially becomes meaningless. Let's face it, Godard's Passion is a puzzle, and Delacroix's The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople is a puzzle with historical information behind it. I'd have to say that watching Godard's Passion was like being spoon-fed personal beliefs; not a work, but his philosophy. But, I liked it. As an artist, it is liberating to think of what Godard proposed with his reenactment of the invasion of Constantinople. Maybe if I get into the right groove, my work will somehow form out of a rehashing of my experiences, and I can make my experiences as exciting as a reenactment of The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople.
- Dec 25, 2009