Within a relationship, what signifies intimacy? Perhaps passionate conversations are red. Troubling considerations are blue. What symbolizes and explains the failure of intimacy? Jean-Luc Godard deconstructs intimacy within a marriage while indirectly explaining the husbands involvement, and silently exposing the wife’s, in Contempt.
Very early in Contempt, he films a scene, between husband and wife Paul and Camille Laval, in erotic-red tones. This represents a passionate moment between Paul and Camille. However, this scene does not mark the beginning of their relationships failure. Later on we see that he has doubts about her truthfulness prior to where the story begins (as he questions her mother to confirm if a lunch date actually take place). This is a brilliant understatement, by Godard, of the stories middle being placed at the beginning of the film. They are in the bed. She lays nude, questioning husband Paul’s content with her body: part by part. This conversation continues as the color tones change into a standard-color scheme. Physical aspects of their relationship dominate the subject of their conversation, thus displaying shallowness. Immediately after this, the subject matter shifts in color and content.
The film continues this conversation in melancholic-blue tones. Here, Camille and Paul discuss their love for each other. Paul confesses that he lovers her “totally, tenderly, and tragically” (Godard). However, Camille responds by saying, “Me too Paul” (Godard). His response is full of emotion, while hers is short and lacking emotion. Therefore, the disproportionate display of emotion is melancholic. Paul’s way of displaying his affection toward Camille is peculiar.
Paul’s display of affection is his ability and willingness to trust Camille with Jeremy Prokosch, a man who obviously has sexual interest in her. He sends her off with ignorant-arrogant-American film producer: Jeremy, a producer who ironically wants “more than sex” in his film. Camille appears confused by this but later shows anger. So Jeremy speeds off with Camille in a red-hot convertible and Paul walks to find them, not knowing the address. The intimacy continues to unravel. It is practically nonexistent by the next scene.
The apartment scene is the major scene in which Godard completely deconstructs the intimacy between Paul and Camille. This scene is the longest in Contempt and the most intense. It embodies a lengthy series of shots in which Paul and Camille walk in and out frames. When they are in frames together, this is very seldom, one or the other walks out of the shot. They also talk through walls. Door sporadically close between them as well. Pan shots follow whoever walks in or out of the shot. During the climax of the scene, Paul smacks Camille. At one point, she is in a red towel on a red couch nude. Although a passionate color surrounds her, passion does not exist within her for him. By the end of the scene, they sit appropriately on blue chairs, in a sad place in which their relationship lies. They sit with pan shots and a lamp between them. The apartment represents their relationship. The way they move and react to each other within it represents the breakdown of their intimacy—its deconstruction. Paul’s involvement in the deconstruction appears as he explains the plausibility of his script for Odyssey.
Godard indirectly explains Paul’s reasoning and chosen actions toward his marriage in Paul’s dialogue about his new script for Odyssey. The deconstruction of there relationship continues as Paul creates parallels between his marriage, and the marriage of Ulysses and Penelope. Paul’s first develops this parallel when he states. “…maybe Ulysses was fed up with Penelope, so he went off to the Trojan war, and since he did not feel like going home he kept traveling as long as he could” (Godard). Odyssey does not implicate this. Paul creates this theme while working on a screenplay for Jeremy. In Odyssey, the suitors that cause havoc annoy Penelope. She also desires Ulysses to come home. At the end of Odyssey, Ulysses and Penelope unite happily. Paul also continues to justify his interpretation of Odyssey by explaining, “Penelope despises Ulysses for telling her to be hospitable to the suitors while he is away” (Godard). In Greek culture, as is relates to social norms defined by Greek mythology, the act of being hospitable relates to guest within the home in general. Being hospitable does not include adultery. In addition, a suitor’s goal is to convince a woman that she should be with him. Dismantling an existing marriage by committing adultery does not apply. This is Paul incorporating his personal experience into his writing. It is not and accurate portrayal of Odyssey when considering the culture from which it emerges. Camille’s silence, regarding select matters within her relationship with Paul, initiates her marriage’s demise.
Godard silently exposes Camille’s involvement with the destruction of her marriage—her refusal of contributing to intimacy. She claims that she loves Paul, but this is not true. The truth is that she despises him for his love toward her, that he is willing to place the relationship on the line in order for her to be happy. For instance, Camille claims she does not want to leave with Jeremy, especially alone in the car, but she does. She resents Paul for insisting that she go. However, the truth remains that if she did not really want to go she would not have. She is livid because she does not feel the same and he calls her on it. Every display of his affection only intensifies her anger. She despises the amount of trust Paul has in her because she does not trust herself. Paul’s actions force her to confront the lack of feelings and devotion she has for him. However, she does not thoroughly express this in dialogue. Instead, she is passive about this topic. She is borderline violent if Paul confront her with this topic. His choice is setting her up on a blind date causes the problems in their relationship to surface.
What man in his right mind releases his wife to a sex-hungry rich man? What initially appears as a rude gesture by Paul is not: it is his tragic love for Camille. He is willing to let her go even if he inevitably loses her. He is concerned for her happiness. She again despises him for having such immense love as well as being accurate in predicting her behavior flaws. Although he does not want to accept that, she does not love him. He is painfully correct. She is brutally wrong. Not because she loses her feelings for him, because of the way she lets the relationship linger. Camille knows she is not worthy of such amounts of love, therefore, she is in contempt by disrespecting her marriage. Paul indirectly expresses his relationship through his writing. Camille seldom speaks with substance. An apartment inanimately deconstructs intimacy within a marriage, and Jean-Luc Godard constructs it all.
Contempt. Dir. Jean-Luc Godard. Perfs. Michel Piccoli, Brigitte Bardot. Fritz Lang, Jack Palance. 1963. DVD. Studio Canal Image. The Criterion Collection. 2002.