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Is Jean Luc Godard the greatest filmmaker of all time?
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Breaking the fourth wall aids the objective viewing of Marxist Structures

Godard’s cinema, much like Brecht’s Epic theatre, breaks the fourth wall. It creates a platform for the viewers to recognize, comprehend and analyze the Marxist structures around them, stripped of its illusions.

The Argument

“Godard has been the liberator of weirdness”, said New Yorker film critic Richard Brody[1], and truly he ushered in a new sense of creative freedom with the ‘La Nouvelle Vauge’ or the New Wave, a French art film movement on the rise during the 1950s and 60s. He shared the view, similar to that of his contemporaries, that films should not just represent the glamour of high society; but should be created to allow the audience to contemplate over the hidden socio-political subtext that reflects its true state. Often said to have been greatly influenced by Bertolt Brecht in more ways than one, Godard took to heart Brecht’s belief that the audience can/should “no longer have the illusion of being the unseen spectator at an event which is really taking place.” Thus, breaking the fourth wall--a technique often used by Brecht--was Godard’s go-to move to not just reel the audience into the narrative, but to also make them feel slightly voyeuristic for peeping into the lives of the characters on the screen and being caught doing so. Capitalizing on the discomfort of the audience, Godard further introduced Brecht’s alienation effect into his films, which was to “make the familiar different”. Using techniques like jump cuts, shadow lighting and unfamiliar sounds, he effectively forced the audience to get immersed into the unfolding scene and to analyze it using their conscious mind, rather than their sub-conscious. This was because, like Brecht, Godard felt a great disdain for the established bourgeoisie media, be it theatre or film and covertly propagated a Marxist ideology.

Counter arguments

Brecht’s influence over Godard is indisputable. They share the same values and intent of transforming their audience into self-thinking individuals with the ability to objectively analyze the portrayal of reality through different mediums. However, the path chosen by them differs. Brecht rallied against the Aristotlean plays staged for the sole benefit of the aristocrats and the bourgeoisie that advocated for catharsis, or a purging of emotions. Catharsis ensured that the audience would leave the theatre with a lighter heart, without giving a second thought to the socio-political subtext of the play, defeating its real purpose. He invented the Epic Theatre that bore no illusions for placating the audience. Instead, it forced them to focus on the themes and underlying subject matter of the drama by putting a distance between the play and the audience. Using the alienation effect, he ensured that the viewers would objectively see the bourgeois for what they were: Exploiters. Godard, on the other hand, wanted his audience to be immersed in the narrative of his film, while consciously contemplating it. He experimented with various new techniques, like the use of 3D projections. This bridged the gap between modern sciences and artistic endeavors bringing them all together for a complex and layered experience which allowed for multiple interpretations. While the aim of both Brecht and Godard may have been to make the audience more reflective, their ideas to bring about that change were in stark contrast with one another.



[P1] Goddard broke the fourth wall to include the audience in his narrative.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Brecht broke the fourth wall to distance his audience from the drama on stage.


This page was last edited on Sunday, 21 Jun 2020 at 21:33 UTC

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