I was nervous then getting ready to watch, Notre Musique. The last Godard film I watched, In Praise of Love may have been the most visually beautiful film I have seen of his, but parts of it just did not click for me. I have such high expectations for Godard that I wish to love every film of his. I am happy to say that I found Notre Musique much more to my liking as a whole. In fact afterwards, I felt as if I'd been hit by a train.
Later Godard films don't seem to be about plot, they seem to be more about ideas or just a vessel for Godard to talk about film, quote literature, and discuss the world. In fact even in the 60's half of his films were that way, but the dramitic swing for him may have come with Weekend. Notre Musique is told in three parts; Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Godard calls these three parts Kingdoms.
The first is Hell. Hell goes on for ten minutes and is footage of war with a piano soundtack. The editing is remarkable. Some of it is real war footage, some of it is film footage, but no distinction is made. Ther are sparse moments of narration over this. But mostly we are just watching war footage. It very effectively gets across the idea of hell.
The next Kingdom is purgatory and here we have the bulk of the film and the bulk of the ideas. Here we also have Godard playing himself. At one point he holds up a photo and asks where and when the photo was taken to a gathered crowd at a conference. They guess Sarajevo, where most of the film is taking place. But it is a photo of a charred building in Richmond, Virginia in 1855. He's telling those in sarajevo that teh war is nothing new. It's been going on forever. We are given the usual Godard quotations and moments of dialogue. Questions like, "Is it okay for one to invade another over inferior poetry?" Or, "Why aren't revolutions started by the most humane people." We witness an Israeli and a Palestinian journalist go into dialogue. We have the Palestinian mention how they are fortunate to have Israel as their enemy, because everyone cares about Israel. An Israeli journalist visits Sarajevo because she wants to see a place where change is possible. Throughout the Purgatory section, people just contemplate their place in a world that is constantly at war. By themselves the questions look trite, vague, and maybe pretentious. Throughout the film they come together to create a much greater and emotionally resonant whole.
Last is paradise, paradise is only the last 10 minutes of the film, like Hell was the first 10 minutes. In Paradise we see a woman who we met in Purgatory. Though the voice over of that is of a woman whom we believed to be dead. Paradise though is a strange place. We see a woman walking arou walking around a densely vegitated forest. We see it's fenced off. Some people are playing games. One person shares an apple with Olga under a tree looking at the river. Two kids sit by a fence with guns. It's a strange and confusing ending to the film, but yet one that somehow fits. The whole movie is about war, and our relation to it, and in paradise we see kids with guns at the fence. And afterwards, and especially with the world as it is now I couldn't help but wonder, will it ever end?