"How much is Olga's death a repetition of Nana's death?" - J.L. Godard, "Our Music"

Furuya  Toshihiro(Translation ChatGPT)


The accumulation of time does not in itself become history. For example, the thickness of culture, even though it is an accumulation of time, is not history. Rather, history is engraved when culture, which is a natural soil (continuity), undergoes transformation or destruction (i.e., when it is cut off). For example, Claude Simon and Jonas Mekas. Their images, which are fundamentally agrarian and based on the foundation of soil = cultural continuity, take on a tragic aspect because soil = culture has come into contact with history and transformed, and their images of happiness and radiance are inseparable from that tragedy.


History is represented as a accumulation of events resulting from the meeting of one soil = environment and another soil = environment (often with one overwhelmingly "strong"), which causes irreversible change.


Godard lands in Sarajevo after such "change" has already taken place. What is there are traces of what was once there and the present form that it has already lost, with the history = events in between missing. As an outsider who has arrived late from "elsewhere," Godard has no right to speak about the culture = continuity of this land and its destruction. Therefore, Godard is not trying to talk about history here.


Godard's gaze is focused on finding traces of what was once there from the present form of Sarajevo. And such a backward-looking gaze tries to find a line connecting hope to the future. (For example, the project to rebuild an old bridge that has been destroyed is being discussed in a classroom where children learn, and shots of the bridge being rebuilt are montaged with an extremely rare shot of children singing carefreely, as seen by Godard.)


Here, the past traces (realization of coexistence of multiple cultures and ethnic groups) are not utopically reviewed. Instead, a "gaze" that looks at the traces of what has been lost from the present is searching for a new possibility for the future that is different from what has been before (this is probably what Godard calls "reversal"). This film tries to create a small fictional space of hope, with the overlapping of a backward-looking gaze towards the past and a gaze turned back towards the future from that starting point of the current landscape in Sarajevo.


The library, marked with bullet holes, the people gathering at the market, and the tram running through the market as if robbing it - these are the scenes of the real Sarajevo that, for a brief moment, transform into a space of dialogue and coexistence where the disappeared ghosts of Native Americans may roam if the dialogue between Israel and Palestine is achieved. Godard overlays the potentiality of this place as a space of hope onto the destroyed reality of Sarajevo. However, this potentiality remains fleeting and disappears like a momentary illusion, conveyed only through highly compressed fragments and briefly sketched images.


Another "cutaway" that Godard shows in this film is even less forgiving than the previous one. It is the asymmetrical "cutaway" between Olga, who is looking at Godard, and Godard, who cannot see Olga.


Godard, playing himself, gives a lecture to the students, urging them to "look hard" and "imagine hard." The former is about keeping your eyes open, while the latter is about closing your eyes and imagining.


In the shot that cuts back to the students in response, only Olga is actually shown closing her eyes. In other words, Olga is the only one who truly takes Godard's words to heart and "imagines" the potentiality that could exist. However, in the subsequent shot that shows Godard himself, he is alone and isolated in the backlight darkness, unable to see the effect of his words on Olga (the gaze is one-way).


Many people who evaluate Our Music talk about Godard's perspective on contemporary Europe. However, what is more important for Godard is the asymmetry between himself and Olga, rather than the asymmetry between "fictional Jewish people" and "documentary Palestinian people." This missed encounter is the key point.


This reminds us of Nana from Two or Three Things I Know About Her. Nana sheds tears when she sees Jeanne crying in Dreyer's film The Passion of Joan of Arc, but Jeanne does not see Nana. This emotional cutaway that transcends time, in which their gazes never meet, brings something decisive to Nana.


In other words, in both Olga and Nana's cases, they receive something decisive not through dialogue, but in their loneliness. Something asymmetrical is transmitted from one lonely person to another. That "something" pushes her over the line and drives her to her death. However, Godard is not aware of such a thing. On the one hand, while showing the potentiality of an open dialogue space, this film also reveals such "continuity=discontinuity".