Goodbye to Language will not satisfy viewers in a classic, cinematic sense (there’s no grand, dramatic payoff here), but it will open their eyes to certain existential truisms that resonate long after the credits roll.
Though frustratingly abstract at times, Jean-Luc Godard’s 39th feature has something to say for those willing to listen. One of two winners of the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, the film takes an experimental approach to 3D technology, proving that special effects aren’t only for summer blockbusters and action flicks. The 83-year-old director’s latest drama examines the limitations that language places on man, and the freedom that comes from living without language. At just over an hour in length, Goodbye to Language does not present itself as a traditional narrative, nor do scenes occur within a linear timeline. Instead, Godard dissect aspects of modern existence through snippets of political discourse, and philosophical conversations between two lovers.
At the center of this existential mashup, a married woman (Héloise Godet) and her lover (Kamel Abdeli) mull over the human condition during various stages of their relationship. Godard strips the two 30-somethings down to their basest qualities, both literally and figuratively; more often than not, both appear completely nude in each vignette, often undressing at the beginning of the scene, as if shedding any superficial layers that may hinder their open discussions. Interspersed among these dialogue-centric scenes, Godard shows us the world through the eyes of the couple’s dog as it silently roams through a forest, rolls in fresh snow, and sleeps peacefully on their couch. At times these peaceful images of nature take a sharp turn when the dog encounters a train, the jarring screech of its wheels showing a stark juxtaposition of nature against the man made world. Perhaps more than any other filmmaker before him, Godard captures the innocence of an animal and its pure way of living against the comparatively corrupt human lifestyle.
Goodbye to Language is being screened at the 52nd Annual New York Film Festival. You can see it on Oct. 1 at the Walter Reade Theater.