Alphaville

Dir: Jean-Luc Godard, 1965. Starring: Anna Karina, Eddie Constantine. French. Foreign/Science-Fiction.
Alphaville

This is one science fiction film unlike any other. Jean-Luc Godard’s unique French New Wave sensibilities have combined science fiction with film noir, creating a multi-layered, French Surrealist work.

The premise is philosophical and metaphysical, where the main character, Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine), is a trench-coat wearing agent from the “Outlands.” He is in search of a missing agent, Henry Dickson, and is also looking to kill Professor Von Braun, the creator of Alphaville. Then he is set to destroy Alphaville or the controlling computer, Alpha 60, a sentient computer that outlaws love, poetry, and emotion. One of Alpha 60’s rules is that instead of people asking “why," they should only say "because," and therefore those who show any signs of emotion are interrogated and executed. Caution seeks the assistance of Natasha Von Braun (Anna Karina), the professor’s daughter, who claims she does not know the meaning of “conscience” or “love.” He ends up falling in love with her, his quest of destroying the computer-mentality to replace the human race by Alpha 60 more evident than ever. The unpredictability of his emotions stems a whole new adventure and ultimate discovery for both him and Natasha in his fight for free thought and individuality.

While the plot and serious nature of the film can seem either strange or trying, the story works. Godard knows exactly what he is doing. On a narrative level, what is interesting is that the Alphaville mentality is similar to Nazism or Communism, masked in this story as a science fiction. The film also contains several references to 1960s pop art and pulp fiction. Lemmy Caution is the hard-boiled detective character that can allude to Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings. Another level is Godard’s profound love for French Surrealism. There is a mention of Capitale de la Douleur or “The Capital of Pain,” a book of poetry written by Paul Eluard, one of the founders of the French Surrealist movement. The film works as a combination of all these levels, and proves to be Godard’s strength, creating a unique film of extra dimensions.

Posted by:
Tiffany Huang
Jul 30, 2009 1:56pm
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