'Liberte' is shot in monochrome, a consciously artificial act in the context of 1983, allowing for the artificiality of talk, movement and composition throughout the film. Unlike most contemporary films that use black and white, for its shadowy Expressionist/film noir effect, Garrel privileges gleaming white over murky black. This, together with its concern with dream, memory and the past, connects 'Liberte' to another elegiac film about an aging revolutionary living past his moment, Resnais' 'La Guerre est finie' - the gleaming white contributes to the dreamlike effect Garrel gives his static, mostly empty exteriors; near the end, there is an astonishingly beautiful silhouette of a pier and buoys in shadow against a sea that looks like it was lit from underneath. 'Liberte' can't help recall that other famous, and famously banned, French classic about the Algerian War, Godard's 'Le Petit Soldat', another black and white, dialogue-driven film in which political violence mingles with personal dilemmas.
The film is called 'Liberte, la nuit', and frames two types of liberty, the struggle for political freedom, and the more personal freedom within relationships (and in the conflict with one's aging, one's reputation) against the central scene of Mouche's assassination. This pattern sees Mouche gravitating unwillingly towards political action, and Jean in the opposite direction. It's never quite clear what Jean's precise political activities are - when we first see him he is talking to a friend, their children in the back seat, about a retired film director. When they meet a group of Algerians, Jean could as easily be a drug dealer as a revolutionary - he speaks in a language which is not translated, emphasising the presumed audience's outsider status and Jean's sense of belonging or negotiating between two groups. However, this sense of being two seems to make him less of a man - throughout are interspersed sketchy, incomplete pictures that provide a kind of commentary.
This crosscutting of Mouche and Jean, is also figured in the move from interiors or cramped exteriors to wider vistas, mountains, lakes etc. But there is another movement that suggests Garrel's true interest: a gendered one. His film features two realms, a male and female one. The male one is one of action and history, one that speaks, analyses and moves with ease between realms. the female one, by contrast, is marked by immobility and silence, their inner selves signalled by the music that plays over their activities. If they do speak it is to mouth their husband's lines (the puppeteer's wife), or to react to their husband's decisions.
Mouche's movement into the male world of action results in her death. Jean's move into the female world of reaction, where he longs to be consumed by apathy, results in his. In a marvellous closing shot, literally so. Jean finally tracked down and executed, his death signals the film's end, freezing the rippling water and breeze, confirming that it was a film or world made in his image, which would die with him. that there can be no real connection between these realms is suggested in tense compositions that imprison characters in frames at the mercy of their unseen interlocutors.