Dissertation Braun), Akim Tamiroff ( Henri Dickson), Howard Vernon




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the City to the Sea

Architecture of Jean Luc Godard






In “The Elements of Space,” Rudolf Arnheim writes that “The architect does not build space but creates it just
the same”. Using this definition, Jean Luc Godard is just as
much an architect as he is a filmmaker for the ways that he creates visual,
filmic, and narrative space. Considering this, I would like to examine Godard’s
use of architecture in his films, from the room, to the street, to the city, to
the sea. Godard’s unique attitude to space and place will be a primary concern
to uncover the interaction of architecture and cinema,  and some of their shared concepts : art,
philosophy , reality, space, time, representation, symbol, continuity,
movement, matter, dimension , depth, framing, perspective, experience, light
and sound.






I  intend to think spatially  about Godard’s practice, to consider/survey the places and spaces
in which he has made his films, to analyse specifically how his work is engaged
with forms of urban design and domestic architecture and to what effect.


















Jean Luc Godard

Company: Chaumiane Productions, Filmstudio.

André Michelin

Jean luc Godard

Raoul Coutard

Agnés Guillemot

Rene Levert

Actors : Eddie Constantine (Lemmy Caution), Anna Karina (Natascha Von                                             Braun),
Akim Tamiroff ( Henri Dickson), Howard Vernon (Professor Leonard
Nosferatu/Professor Von Braun)




























minutes past midnight,Oceanic time; having driven all night through intersidereal
space, secret agent Lemmy Caution .003 arrives by white Ford Galaxie in the
suburbs of Alphaville, computer-dominated 
city of the future. Armed with only his Zippo lighter, a revolver in the
glove compartment, and a volume of Eluard poems, he must capture or kill
Professor Von Braun (once professor Nosferatu) and destroy Alpha 60, the
computer that through remorseless logic determines every facet of its citizens
lives, outlawing such illogical trivia as love and poetry.
Disguised as Ivan Johnson, reporter
for the Figaro- Pravda, Caution tours the city and there finds all feeling and
spontaneity forbidden by the cold dictates of an ahistorical logic. He meets
and (of course) falls in love with Natasha Von Braun, the scientists daughter,
and carries her off with him after teaching her to speak the word ‘love.’ Alpha
60 is destroyed when Caution gives metaphorical answers to its strictly logical
questions, its circuits overloaded by the unmanageable data. Caution kills
Professor Von Braun and guides Natasha through the computers labyrinth,
stumbling over the bodies of citizens left directionless by Alpha 60’s demise.
They escape in Caution’s intergalactic Ford with Natasha awakening from her
sleep recalling how to say ‘ I love you’.









The Architecture
of Light






Caution’s light sabre







called Alphaville ‘ a film about light. Lemmy is a character who brings
light to people who no longer know what that is.’ (Godard, cited in
Brody, 2008,p229). The first image we are shown is that of a bright flashing
light.It opens the film with a hypnotic flicker, its intensity unsettling. It
reappears as a car’s headlight, then becomes the car’s indicator signalling a left
turn. Later on it’s a light bulb swaying back and forth, the flash of Caution’s
instamatic camera, the flicker of fluorescent ceiling lights, the suggestion of
neon lights. The flashing light is characteristic of modernity and appropriate
to Alphaville, but it’s also crucial in itself (without interpretation)
as a filmic image.


the flashing lights we see a train cross a bridge in the darkness, its
illuminated windows loom blankly. Close up of a traffic sign, ALPHAVILLE.
SILENCE. LOGIC. SAFETY. PRUDENCE. Lemmy’s car leaves the busy boulevard and
pulls up at the entrance to an anonymous hotel.The  camera tracks close behind him as he passes
through the multiple glass doors and reflections  to cross the reception.In the lift he puts a
cigarette to his lips, but deep in thought, doesn’t light it. The lift boy
holds out his hand for a tip. Instead of giving one, Lemmy lights his cigarette
and snaps shut his lighter.

       These first moments of Alphaville are
captivating, yet nothing formal unfolds, Godard’s  images of light speak for themselves . In one
sequence the material of Alphaville reveals itself completely. The
architecture of shimmering light is the film.From A Bout de Souffle
onwards, Godard was committed to filming in natural light and to the method of
location shooting as opposed to the artificial light of the film studio .To
realise his idea of making the present look like the dystopian future, Godard
created an atmosphere of high contrast without using any additional lights, regardless
of low light conditions. Suzanne Schiffman recalled:


sensitive film stock gives the image a lunar aspect,’ Godard explained. ‘ It
was very important to me. I wanted an expressionistic style. In filming things
that we see every day, I wanted them to arouse fear. Without cheating. The
things are there. One looks at them. And suddenly, one discovers that they are
not at all as one had thought.'(Godard, cited in Brody, 2008,p229) It is not
only the technical innovations of its cinematography and lightning that makes Alphaville
so rich ,but also because light is both the substance and theme of the
film, treated on so many different levels. Pushed to extremes of luminosity and
shadow, the film seeks as quoted above, the haunted light of German
expressionism and film noir. Paris is transformed into Alphaville, City
of Night and Capital of Pain. The voluntary prisoners of Alphaville depend on
light and electricity to survive, but, as Kaja Silverman has observed, ‘They
have forgotten the sacred origins of light. With his cigarette lighter, Lemmy
seeks to reignite their memories. He is Prometheus once again carrying fire
from the gods to humanity.’ (Silverman, 1998, p60).

      The most powerful weapon in Lemmy’s
armoury of light is given to him by Henry Dickson, a former spy. With his dying
breath Harry instructs Lemmy to destroy Alpha 60 and indicates a book hidden
beneath his pillow. It is a book of poetry: Capital de la douleur
(City of pain) by Paul
Eluard. In Alphaville , poetry will be the pathway to conscience, to love – and
to freedom. Armed with this ‘codebook’ Lemmy becomes the agent of lyric
illumination, the Guardian of all the forbidden words – ‘love’,’consciousness’,’tenderness’
– to which the voluntary prisoners of Alphaville have had removed from memory.





A Brief History


of Alphaville is derivative of other 
dystopian futures, the obvious reference is George Orwell’s 1984.However
it is difficult to think of any parallel work which so successfully shows the
future in the present, and which can sustain viewings to the present day. 500


of Paris


new wave aesthetic of shooting in the street reaches a high point in
Alphaville.Godard filmed in some of the newest modern structures in Paris,
including Maison de l’ORTF, the headquarters of French National radio and
television, which was constructed in 1956 and 1963 and took the form of a
circular ring sheathed in glistening metal surrounding a central tower. Other
locations included the Esso building in La Defense, the new business district
on the western edge of the city that, built between1958 and 1969, endowed Paris
with the monolithic corporate skyline of a 20th-century world city. In
addition, we are given a glimpse of the high-rise housing blocks of the grand
ensembles known as HLMs ( ‘ Habitiations a Loyer Moderes’,or social
housing), sardonically recast by Godard also as Hopitaux de la Longe Maladie'(‘Hospitals for Long Illnesses’ HLM),housing the voluntary prisoners of Alphaville.




in film is never just itself’,says Peter Woolen, and this is true of Alphaville.
Drawing  on the work of the French
ethnographer Marc Auge, Woolen considers how his idea of space in the

world as dividing into ‘place’ and ‘non place’ might be applied to cinema .
(Woolen,2002,p199). According to
Auge, the non-place is the transitional space we experience in airports,
service stations, supermarkets and hotels etc.. These are spaces devoid of
ancestral features, historical associations and private meanings – all the
things that combine to give ‘ space’ a sense of ‘place’.Non – place is all
signs, instructions, advertising, and images. Non-place is the future of what
Auge calls ‘super modernity’.


is almost entirely made up of architectural non-places: the city is a network
of transitional zones – corridors, staircases, offices, hotels rooms all with
their typical signage – arrows, symbols, numbers, neon. The narrative space
that Godard constructs from the city is a labyrinth.








R. (2008) Everything Is Cinema. London:Faber and Faber.

Silverman,K(1998) Speaking about Godard. New York. NYU Press.

(1995) Non places-Introduction to an Anthropology of

Woolen, P (2002) Architecture and Film : Places and
Non-Places,New York. Verso









Jean luc godard arguable the worst film maker in
history, while also being on the of the greatest directors the medium has ever
seen.the paradox is that godard is not a filmaker, he has never made films, he
has unmade them. and in so doing he gave cinema new form a new content with new
direction.unlike say Griffith,eisenstien,or welles who were devoted to
constructing stories, Godard focused on how stories are constructed.plot and
human behaviour did not interest him anywhere near as much as films vocabulary
and syntax .instead of building dramatic tension he broke film grammar.he took
the most basic element of cinema the wide shot, close up or tracking shot and
shattered its ability to function.by inventing the jump -cut he disected what
film records, time and space, and then having taken apart time and space he cut
again, this time splitting the sound from the image so you neither heard what
you were seeing nor saw what you were hearing.in that way godard exposed a films construction unmade cinema and remade
the meduioum.


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