Upon viewing, it's not hard to see why Le Petit Soldat was banned in France for over three years. What I didn't expect though was that it would resonate in such a way today. Like many Godard films the plot seems relatively simple, but there is a ton going on under the surface. It's an antiwar movie. It's a love story. It espouses on some of Godard's favorite authors. It references Godard's cinematograpgher Raoul Coutard's growing fame.
But mainly it comes down to this, Bruno is on the side of the French. He is ordered to kill an Arab sympathizer in Geneva. Veronica (played beautifully by Anna Karina) is on the side of the Algerian's. They have ideals. The French had an ideal against the German's, but they don't here she says, and that's why they will lose the war. Of course, Bruno and Veronica meet. And of course Bruno falls in love, or at least a Godard type version of love with Veronica. In one scene they are together in an apartment for about 20 minutes, and it brings to mind the playful scene in Breathless which was the only feature film Godard had made before this.
Neither side is shown to be right or blameless in this story, even with Veronica criticizing the French lack of ideals. Bruno is tortured by the Arabs, and we watch. Soon after we don't watch (thankfully) as Veronica is also tortured. The film isn't propoganda for one side ir the other, instead it shows the awful nature of torture, and the confused nature of some of the combatants. You get the feeling that Bruno and Veronica wanted to believe in something and just happened to pick different sides in a battle where neither side had much inspiring to offer. At least in the context of the film.
I can't imagine what it would have been like to see this after it was banned for three years, and finally see what the fuss was about. But, seeing it today is still an experience. Not because it's Godard's best film, it isn't even close. But because these problems are still with us, in one form or another. Torture definitely is in the news lately. Seeing your nation at war when you are unsure the war is really just, yep, that's happening today, too. While I don't think I will view it repeatedly liek other Godard films, in part due to the heaviness of the subject matter, it is an intriguing and important film to see even forty plus years later.