Sunday, November 18, 2007

"The possible contradictions of the war photograph now become apparent... the most extreme examples... show moments of agony in order to extort the maximum concern. Such moments... are discontinuous with all other moments. They exist by themselves. But the reader who has been arrested by the photograph may tend to feel this discontinuity as his own personal moral inadequacy... the issue of the war which has caused that moment is effectively depoliticised. The picture becomes evidence of the general human condition. It accuses nobody and everybody."
--John Berger*

"In [Goya's The Third of May, 1808], the soldiers faces are hidden from view[...] Godard chooses to take the camera inside the painting here, shooting the soldiers "face on" in a slow tracking shot along the barrels of their guns, while a voice-over states 'You do nothing to change yourselves'. This intrusion into the painting's "life" is not just a simple aesthetic trick[...] "Take concentration camps, for instance. The only real film to be made about them -- which has never been made because it would be intolerable -- would be if a camp were filmed from the point of view of the torturers and their daily routine . . . The really horrible thing about such scenes would not be their horror but their very ordinary everydayness." (Godard on Godard, 198) [...] instead of letting the viewer empathise with the holocaust victims in the face of anonymous oppression, he would give faces to these oppressors, which is exactly what he does with the Goya sequence in Passion. Godard gives an analysis of a similar "painting" to that of Goya's in Six Fois deux, this time of a photograph depicting Nazis in the foreground (shot from behind) torturing someone in the background (shot so the viewer can see his face). A voice-over says: "They always photograph the ones who are doing the torturing from the back and their victims face on." Again, this seems to be the preferred relationship of "objective" photographs between oppressor and oppressed, so the viewer can empathise with the victim. By breaking the plane of Goya's work, Godard challenges this commodified, archetypal aspect of mise-en-scene."
--Glen Norton**

* from About Looking. New York: Pantheon, 1980. Quoted in Tina Darragh's "Numb to Dumb," in Crayon no.4. Milwaukee, 2004

** from Godard's Passion

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