Jean-Luc Godard’s self-proclaimed “fin de cinema” is probably a very good stopping point. The self-involved obscurity of Godard’s Nouvelle Vague communication reaches its absolute height. I think any film beyond this would become utter nonsense. Without at least a sense of Godard’s previous works, Weekend seems utter nonsense.
Weekend is a parody, a dogma for social change and a critique of art and society rolled into one. At no point is the film regular or ordinary in its style. Even a conversation filmed in a conventional way is often blocked out by music, allowing only certain words to fall through, “buttocks”, “milk”, “breasts”. Not the conversation one expects from these bourgeois characters. This oblique filmmaking does not become easier to understand. An immense investment of concentration and persistence is required to make it through the first half hour of this film. For my part I felt that, after watching ten minutes of a traffic jam with symphonies of car horns, I had invested too much to turn back. I was glad I continued.
As the film progresses it becomes clear that everything has been a vitriolic criticism of the bourgeoisie. The traffic jam is only an annoyance to the viewer because the audience, like the characters has refused to see the joy in a journey or even the horror of a car accident. Normally such a thing would be written off as an annoyance, both in life and in art. Godard forces us to confront it. We realise the empty pointlessness of those travelling with a dinghy on a trailer, the cruel indifference of the family setting up a picnic just metres away from a fatal accident. These characters are careless, desensitised consumers and the film forces them to re-engage with the world. They even admit to being no better than characters in a film, finally demanding of every passer-by if they are in a movie or in real life. Here the “movie” seems to be the bourgeois society, ignoring and abetting our protagonists. The reality, even though it is savage, disgusting almost, and definitely terrifying, is more human than anything else in the film. The very fact that we find their connection with nature, animals and traditional hunting so shocking is Godard’s point. Society is far too disconnected to accept humanity.
What sets this film apart is the assault-like style. Godard does not allow the audience to rest because otherwise it would stop thinking. This short 90 minute film contains more ideas than many directors confront in a lifetime. The film cuts from scene to scene with little or no explanation, each scene seeming to be an unconnected set piece. Yet each is part of a sustained attack on society as Godard sees it. Materialism, leisure, prudishness, nothing is safe from Godard’s scorn. While watching this you will probably be frustrated, offended and even bored. But even if you disagree with every point Godard makes, you cannot help but admire the way they are made, almost like a film full of bullet points for us to make of what we will.