MIFF Review: Goodbye to Language

Blogged by: Reviewed by Filmme Fatales contributor Dani Rossi. 03 Aug 2014 View comments
There is nothing to prepare you for the sensory assault you are about to experience when you sit down to watch iconic French director Jean-Luc Godard’s 39th feature film, ‘Goodbye to Language’. Godard's style has evolved to its highest point, proving the auteur can still be unpredictable in his visual styling, and forever philosophical in content.



From the beginning, 'Goodbye to Language' is commanding, flitting between clips shot on multiple formats – digital and film footage are chopped up and whacked together. Moments captured in HD focus on one of the film's main female characters in her quieter moments, continuing Godard's obsession with the female form. Home video footage follows her pet dog to the water, where we quietly contemplate the truth of human reality compared to that of an animal, always asking questions about what is real and what matters. Try and follow a linear storyline and your brain will explode; the film seems to jump out at you from all kinds of angles, when you expect to be startled by an explosion, the impact is softened by a lack of sound, until it jumps in seconds later and everyone does a shy little jump in their seats.
 
The first of this two-part film focuses on conversations captured between people interacting at a pier. We meet a couple, who we return to sporadically, discussing their interest in Africa and recreating historical scenes between Byron and Mary Shelley. The second part focuses on a married woman and her secret lover. They philosophise about love, but parts of the conversations are always missing; we never hear everything that it is said, questions go unanswered, asking us all to contemplate each character's concerns. The title of the film is seemingly a comment of the absurdity of speech and our constant miscommunication; we have so many words but to string them together in a meaningful way is something we all struggle to do.
 


‘Goodbye to Language’ is VERY French. Philosophical, abstract and vague, the film is the definition of art house, and polarising because of it. At times it is difficult to watch as Godard’s experimentation with the 3D format means layering 3D images, one over the other, creating a jarring blur can be confusing. It’s interesting the first time it happens, until it just gets a bit irritating and your eyeballs scream for some sense. The 3D aspect of the film is probably its biggest selling point as it truly is approached like never before. Don't expect punches coming at you from the screen; Godard definitely lets his 3D experimentation shine in its simpler moments. ‘Goodbye to Language’ is cynical but a seriously unique cinematic experience. Perhaps just prepare yourself for some slight discomfort along the way.
 

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