Together, Jean-Luc Godard blends his contempt for consumer-driven, bourgeois civilisation with an apocalyptic tidal wave that breaks five minutes before the end of the film. Weekend is incredibly difficult viewing; the murder and revival of cinema perhaps, or Godard’s plummet into his own anguished being. This is a portrayal of all kinds of suffering, placed in contrast with the shocking human indifference towards it. This has been done since, in different forms. Apocalypse Now seems to have embodied its very essence – the difference being that there is no war in Weekend, it all comes from the chaos caused by the actions and the attitudes that we all know too well.
The film opens in violence, from the brutality caused over a dented car, to Corinne Durand’s deeply strange and uncomfortably evocative portrayal of her sexual encounter with “Paul”. It moves forward mysteriously and establishes itself (the first half, anyway) around halfway through Godard’s eight-minute traffic-jam sequence: a scene so brilliantly envisioned, skilfully captured and unbearable to watch that it may take a day or two to truly come to terms with what the filmmaker manages to accomplish – as Corinne and Roland pass each car, the viewer’s realisation of the unsympathetic, self-involved nature of humankind, combined with the nightmarish noises and the brilliant colours, stirs something indescribable within.
The protagonists do not come to terms with the nightmare that slowly engulfs Godard’s vision. They might be most effectively described as the embodiment of evil; of all that is wrong with the world. They are married to each other, they plot to kill each other, but they first wish to swipe Corinne’s family inheritance from her mother. As they embark on their journey, they witness death, chaos and destruction and do not hesitate in getting involved. When they crash their car, Corinne laments the passing of her “Hermes” handbag; when a passer-by casually rapes Corinne in the presence of Roland, he does nothing, he indifferently smokes his cigarette.
Weekend is filled with Godard’s politics. He is firm and unwavering in his stance, and while the first half — perhaps the first two-thirds — proves to be a triumph of half-hidden meanings and messages, his anger (Godard wasn’t a happy man during the film’s production) becomes too clearly a vehicle in which he loads his disdain towards modern-day inhumanity and detracting from the pure, cinematic beauty found in layers. In one scene, two political commentaries are simply read out to the viewer as the thoughts of two rubbish-collectors – while both men stare into the camera. It’s easy to find yourself distracted by the striking faces of both characters, diverting your attention from the speeches.
Many of the sequences in Weekend are sublime, but Godard is most apparent as a filmmaker in just a few scenes that display the unfiltered genius of his art, presenting the viewer with moments of confusion, pain and immeasurable joy. Placing the unquestionable brilliance of the traffic-jam scene aside, one reflects on the grand piano in the barnyard. As the pianist plays Mozart, Godard rotates the camera right the way around, turning it full-circle from the centre of the barnyard, displaying numerous figures (including the camera crew!) In another scene, Corinne and Roland come across a man singing, at the top of his lungs, in a telephone box.