Le Mépris

Le Mépris [Contempt] as seen by Jean-Luc Godard

“I have stuck to the main theme, simply altering a few details, on the principle that something filmed is automatically different from something written, and therefore original. There was no need to try to make it different, to adapt it to the screen. All I had to do was film it as it is: just film what was written, apart from a few details, for if cinema were not first and foremost film, it wouldn’t exist. (…)

The point of Le Mépris is that these are people who look at each other and judge each other, and then are in turn looked at and judged by the cinema—represented by Fritz Lang, who plays himself, or in effect the conscience of the film, its honesty. (I filmed the scenes of The Odyssey which he was supposed to be directing in Le Mépris, but as I play the role of his assistant, Lang will say that these are scenes made by his second unit.)

When I think about it, Le Mépris seems to me, beyond its psychological study of a woman who despises her husband, the story of castaways of the Western world, survivors of the shipwreck of modernity who, like the heroes of Verne and Stevenson, one day reach a mysterious deserted island, whose mystery is the inexorable lack of mystery, of truth that is to say. Whereas the Odyssey of Ulysses was a physical phenomenon, I filmed a spiritual odyssey: the eye of the camera watching these characters in search of Homer replaces that of the gods watching over Ulysses and his companions.

A simple film without mystery, an Aristotelian film, stripped of appear¬ances, Le Mépris proves in 149 shots that in cinema as in life there is no secret, nothing to elucidate, merely the need to live – and to make films.”

Excerpt from an interview in Cahiers du Cinéma, n°146, August 1963.
English translation taken from Godard on Godard, eds. Jean Narboni and Tom Milne, Secker and Warburg, 1972.

Technical sheet

France, Italia / 1963 / Color / 103’

Original version : French.
Script : Jean-Luc Godard.
Photography : Raoul Coutard.
Editing : Agnès Guillemot, Lila Lakshmanan.
Music : Georges Delerue.
Sound : William Sivel.
Casting : Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli.
Production : Carlo Ponti, Georges de Beauregard.
Distribution : Carlotta Films.