During the Algerian war for independence from France, a young Frenchman living in Geneva who belongs to a right-wing terrorist group and a young woman who belongs to a left-wing terrorist ... See full summary »
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During the Algerian war for independence from France, a young Frenchman living in Geneva who belongs to a right-wing terrorist group and a young woman who belongs to a left-wing terrorist group meet and fall in love. Complications ensue when the man is suspected by the members of his terrorist group of being a double agent. Written by
In the past couple of weeks, I've been on a Godard kick where I've seen "Alphaville", "My Life to Live" and "Breathless", along with "Le Petit Soldat." I don't think that it reflects all that badly on the latter movie to say that it's not really in a league with the first three, all of which are near-masterpieces at the very least.
This was Godard's first feature film made after "Breathless", and you can see him straining to give "Le Petit Soldat" a different feel - something where the stakes are a little higher, something more engaged with the political realities and real ethics of the world. One might conclude that this concrete engagement with politics isn't really Jean-Luc's cup of tea. It's telling that the best scene, Bruno's long closing monologue at the end of the film, is as involved with art and abstraction as it is with the milieu of the Algerian conflict around which the film centers itself.
The camera-work isn't as radical as some of Godard's other films, and his locations in Geneva and Zurich don't provide him with as much eye candy as his native Paris. Even more so than other early Godard films, it has the feel of a documentary. In this case, the documentary is a combination between a piece of political agitation and a seminar on individual freedom with respect to modern politics.
While the typical doomed Godardian hero spends most of his or her time in desperate circumstances, they frequently continue living in blithe ignorance of the fate that awaits them, spending their time in bed with one another or in pseudo-philosophical conversation. Bruno, the protagonist of "Le Petit Soldat", is different. The sense of desperation within him is palpable; Bruno is increasingly hemmed in by competing French and Algerian ideologies that make no sense to him, but nevertheless exercise more and more control over his freedom as the movie progresses.
The much-discussed torture scene is surprisingly long and effective. Torture, while no less in vogue now than it was in the early '60s, doesn't get much screen time these days. What Godard does so well is show the banality of the torturers, who go about their work with half-hearted second-hand assertions about what is necessary in times like these.
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