Godard’s anarchic work of gleeful nihilism is not just a challenging treatise on the corruption and destruction of bourgeois values, but one of his most essential films about the end of civility and civilisation.
Dir. Jean-Luc Godard
1967 | France | Drama | 104 mins | 1.66:1 | French
M18 (passed clean) for some mature content
Cast: Mireille Darc, Jean Yanne, Jean-Pierre Kalfon
Plot: An unhappily married bourgeois couple, each with a plan to murder the other, sets out on a weekend road trip, only to have it interrupted by the apocalypse.
Awards: Nom. for Golden Bear (Berlinale)
Subject Matter: Slightly Disturbing – End of Civility
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
Any fan of Jean-Luc Godard will do well not to miss Weekend, one of the most essential films of his prolific ‘60s period.
As the end credits proclaim, this is “the end of cinema” as we know it as Godard’s radical work here was arguably the last of his more accessible films before he dived deep into experimental political cinema that very well alienated many of his most devoted cinephiles.
More than anything else, Weekend is about the end of human civilisation. And no, we aren’t destroyed by gigantic asteroids, huge tsunamis, unstoppable viruses or nuclear annihilation; instead, the idea of civility is destroyed through the corruption and destruction of bourgeois values.
Let’s crash and burn together, bit by bit, as an untold number of overturned cars, and dead, bloody bodies strewn across the tarmac would attest. Fuck, let’s burn Emily Bronte, gun everybody down, and practice cannibalism as well, for it is the only natural way out of Godard’s rabbit (hell)hole.
“It’s rotten of us, isn’t it? We’ve no right to burn even a philosopher.”
“Can’t you see they’re only imaginary characters?”
“Why is she crying, then?”
There is no narrative or plot, and any semblance of it—a couple with murderous intentions drive to a destination they never reach—is discarded within the first 30 or so minutes, as we are treated to a series of famous long takes of a miles-long traffic jam, surreal imagery and anarchic (or one might say, revolutionary) characters. There’s a scene with a drummer in the forest that might just be a conceptual antecedent to something like Birdman (2014).
It is a challenging and disturbing film that mostly works because of its gleeful nihilism, though it might feel excruciatingly long for some (I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t completely engaged, though it’s certainly more compelling than 1965’s Pierrot le fou, which seems like its precursor that I maybe ought to see again).
I read somewhere that Weekend is to Godard what Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) was to Pasolini. In some ways it’s true, but Godard’s work is more radical—he reinvented how a ‘sociopolitical commentary’ film can be with biting disdain for the conventions of the medium.