Jean-Luc Godard, God and religion


We are in February 1985. In Nantes, demonstrations by traditionalist Catholics disrupt the screenings of a film which has just been released and clashes take place with defenders of freedom of expression. In Tours, a cinema is set on fire. In Bordeaux, the launch of a tear gas canister disrupts the launch of the same film in the dark rooms of the Marivaux cinema. The feature film will also be banned at Versailles at the request of Catholic associations, as well as in several rooms in Reunion. I salute you marieby Jean-Luc Godard, is perhaps the most “religious” work of the director, who died on Monday, September 12, at the age of 91.

The film retraces the story of a contemporary young virgin woman, the daughter of a gas station attendant, playing basketball, and announcing to her boyfriend, Joseph, a taxi driver, that she has mysteriously fallen pregnant. “In this film, Godard “secularizes” Marie”, summarizes the historian Antoine de Baecque in his biography of the director (Godard, 2011, coll. Plural). Above all, the camera controlled by Jean-Luc Godard gives the body of the young virgin an almost obsessive importance. She is filmed from all angles, often naked. A blasphemy.

A return of the religious in art

However, many Catholics also supported the film. At its output, The cross devotes to it, for example, two pages and an editorial to talk about a “great Christian film”. “There is no doubt that Jean-Luc Godard […] attempted to approach the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ", we also read in Christian testimony, February 4, 1985. " I salute you marie is a psalm film”, continues Panorama.

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"The film is in line with those of Pasolini or, later, that of Scorsese on the Passion of Christ"analyzes for his part Jean-Luc Maroy, theologian and author of The screen and the mirror. Theology and cinema: the sources of dialogue (Lessius, 2020). " There was a desire among these directors to renew, or rather to exploit the Gospel stories by asking fundamental questions about our time. Traditional Christian narratives enter into dialogue with our times, with new attention paid to cinematic choices to make this dialogue impactful”, he continues.

I salute you marie draws its inspiration directly from the Gospels and reveals the possibility of an unexplained mystery. Many in the Catholic press hailed this "return of the religious" in art. Echoing the discourse of the Church, the film criticizes modern science, through the voice of this physics professor with an incomprehensible discourse on the origin of the world and of life. It shows a couple trying to build themselves by overcoming carnal passions. It questions the role of the father and the family, two years after the birth of Amandine, the first French baby born by in vitro fertilization (1982). In addition, "Mary is stunningly beautiful there and it's a first miracle, as the filmmaker keeps saying in his film: believing in love, believing in beauty is the first sign of spirituality in this world"completes Antoine de Baecque.

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