Colourful yet bleak, violent yet funny, politically critical yet excessively absurd – there are many ways to describe Week End/Weekend, Godard’s scathing critique of the bourgeoisie and social class portrayed through a lens that switches between ludicrous images of cannibalism and obscene amounts of automobile accidents to long monologues of political policies, Marx, and Neo-colonialism. Godard transcends convention to create a strange and fervent piece of cinema that is equal parts appalling and brilliant.
The absurd images are not inane, but act as indirect exposition of Godard’s passionate and firm hatred for the bourgeoisie and high society. One of the first sequences of Weekend is the shadowy figures of Corinne (Mireille Darc) and Roland Durand (Jean Yanne) as Corinne describes an uncomfortably long and detailed orgy she took part in that became so preposterous (involving a cat’s bowl of milk) she couldn’t discern whether it was dreamt or not – much like the rest of the film. The two lovers then embark on an idyllic drive through the countryside to visit Corinne’s dying father, of whom the two have been slowly poisoning in the hope of obtaining an inheritance, in order to secure their place in his will. Along the way they encounter multiple obstacles, crimes, and the overall collapse of society as we know it, before they are eventually captured by a group of forest-dwelling cannibal hippies that season their victims by inserting fish into their genitals.
Godard truly makes the blackest of black comedy whilst still understanding the horror of the acts, particularly juxtaposed in use of blood in human and animal. Despite the multiple dead bodies littered throughout the film, their blood is light, thin and watery; splattered almost everywhere yet weak in consistency. However, when the head of a bird is hacked off or the neck of a pig ripped open, the blood is thick and dark and very very real. Godard draws attention to the fact that he has created this scenario, this downfall of society, and the audience winces at the animal’s death but chuckle at Corinne digging in to her husband’s meaty bone with hunger. Here we realise the absurdity of the crimes and rapes and murders committed and our light reactions to it, grounding our understanding of the obscenity of the higher class getting away with their excessive consumption.
This film has purposefully detached itself of all convention, dissecting its subjects in a hostile and humorous way. The start of Corinne and Roland’s journey finds them stuck in a traffic jam, which they try and slowly edge past in the next lane in a ten minute long tracking shot filled with car horns and people yelling; a scene that will make your ears ring as everything turns to white noise. The bizarre components of the traffic jam include cars, monkeys sitting atop a cage containing a passive llama, multiple dead bodies at different points that passerbys, such as groups of rowdy children, walk around and over with indifference. Suffering in this film is non-existent; death is stripped of significance due to its excess, similar to how the excessive nature of the bourgeoisie becomes devoid of meaning because of their superfluous overindulgence.
Godard draws comparisons between his absurd images and the subjects of his critiques, both blunt and ambiguous, but often it was the more indirect scenes that made more sense and got his point across stronger than the starker ones. It was like the visual elements worked better than the dialogue; the long monologues were obvious, whereas the abstract and almost photographic shots and sequences allows the audience to piece together the point that Godard is making – and it’s not a difficult point to make. The plot of Weekend, despite the odd long descriptions of orgies and ten minute traffic jams in the first act, starts out comprehensible. It is then slowly and madly disassembled by its own characters and by Godard’s firm hand, but the very deconstruction of the plot references the narrative’s own deconstruction of social class and the on-going punishment of the vapid bourgeois decadence and consumer society. Visual scenes of Corinne tucking in to the meat of her husband, cooked by the cannibal in the tribe of hippies that cull the bourgeoisie, get the point across more than hefty monologues – it feels like the ambiguity and absurdity doesn’t mesh with the harsher and blunter elements.
Weekend is a great black comedy. It is revolting, appalling, and dissects what’s wrong with current life. It’s poignant, if excessively vitriolic, and combines Godard’s expressed ideological corrosion within the realms of caricatured society. He lets loose, using all sorts of different camera techniques and editing choices, such as the 360° tracking shot that goes around a farmyard twice as a pianist plays Mozart, labourers looking on, or the field of abandoned and wrecked cars that become a herd of sheep, or the infamous ten-minute traffic jam shot. There are too many things to analyse in this film, and that is arguably a detriment to the message Godard wanted to provide; possibly, these elements become a distraction. On the other hand, the artistic excess parallels the class excess, and Godard’s harsh beliefs that he essentially shoves in our faces balance out the absurd images. Or do they? The combination of absurd and direct is almost too jarring, but that is just a matter of personal opinion – and Weekend is just Godard’s (very abrasive) personal opinion of politics and class.