This impression of the look being “renewed” through the radical potential of video to sharpen one’s perception is vital to the core philosophy at the centre of Here and Elsewhere, with the implication being that Godard and Gorin’s original error of judgement when conceiving of their feature about Palestinian resistance was so severe that Godard now recognised that it was necessary to pursue entirely new modes of perception.
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In 1970, Jean-Luc Godard and filmmaking partner Jean-Pierre Gorin embarked on an ambitious project about the Palestinian liberation movement, which was to be titled Until Victory. Utilising lightweight, easily mobile 16mm cameras, the filmmakers followed the activities of the Palestinian revolutionary group Al Fatah as they prepared to recapture land seized by the Israeli forces during the Six-Day War. Shooting over several months in Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon, the pair gathered hours of footage to be edited into a feature. As the title implies, the film was initially conceived to showcase a successful act of armed resistance against occupation; when screened in France, the project was intended to target what Godard and Gorin considered to be a deeply complacent Left, still languishing in a state of resignation following the failure of the May “68 protests, and shake them out of their apathy. The production ended in tragedy, however: while in France, Godard and Gorin received the news that King Hussein’s counterrevolutionary forces massacred thousands of civilians and revolutionaries in Amman – including many of the subjects of Until Victory.
Godard and Gorin felt so traumatised by this horrific turn of events, and so stunned by their own inability to foresee this outcome, that they were unable to complete the project, and the footage was shelved indefinitely. It would not be until four years later, after his partnership with Gorin – and his association with the Groupe Dziga Vertov – had dissolved, that Godard would revisit the material. Now collaborating with a new filmmaking partner, the Swiss photographer and editor Anne-Marie Miéville, and working with video technology rather than photochemical film, Godard used the abandoned footage as the foundation for an altogether different project. Instead of crafting a straightforward narrative of revolutionary struggle leading to a successful conclusion, Godard and Miéville reworked the footage into Here and Elsewhere (1976), a piercing, intellectually rigorous essay film that scrutinises the shortcomings of Godard and Gorin’s original approach. In doing so, the film raises wider questions about the ethics of political filmmaking, the issues inherent in European filmmakers attempting to “speak” for the Third World, and the limitations of revolutionary discourse rooted in cultural myopia. As implied in Here and Elsewhere, Godard and Gorin were so consumed by their own romanticised vision of anti-imperialist resistance that they failed to truly engage with the Palestinian people, and, in turn, they failed to recognise the true extent of the threat facing the revolutionaries. As Godard explained in an interview for the Moroccan publication El-Moudjahid, “All we want to say about Palestine, four years later, is that we didn’t look at these shots. We didn’t listen to them” (Godard quoted in Brody, 2008: 375-376).
Here and Elsewhere was one of the first projects produced by Godard and Miéville’s newly formed production company Sonimage. Attracted to the high level of autonomy that video technology could grant them over the production process and excited by the prospect of pursuing radical montage techniques through videographic editing, the pair envisioned Sonimage as a production laboratory modelled on a television studio. They had at their disposal several video cameras, television monitors, electronic editing tables, and telecine machines (which could be used to convert still photographs and photochemical reels to videotape). Because these devices were easy and cost-effective to acquire, Godard and Miéville could fund the establishment of the studio largely through their own personal savings – along with some extra backing provided by independent producer Jean-Pierre Rassam and the small production company Gaumont. Because they received only a small amount of financial backing from outside sources, they experienced little pressure to make a profit from their projects. In the formation of Sonimage, Godard and Miéville moved their practice from the cultural centre of Paris to Grenoble, a small city in southeastern France (which was to be followed in 1977 to a further move to Rolle, a village in Vaud, Switzerland). As Michael Witt notes, “[d]ecentralisation is a central defining premise of the Sonimage practice,” not only in regard to geographical relocation but also in the sense that the pair worked with near-full autonomy and utilised video technology that was, at the time, more closely associated with broadcast television and amateur image-making practices than professional film production (Witt, 2018 ). The period was a highly productive one for the two filmmakers: between 1975 and 1979, they produced over 19 hours of material, which was then edited into the three features Here and Elsewhere, Numéro Deux (1975), and Comment ça va? (1976), as well as the two episodic series Six fois deux/Sur et sous la communication/Sur et sous la communication (1976) and France/tour/détour/deux/enfants (1978).
The 1970s marked a transformative era in the evolution of video technology, witnessing the development and accessibility of portable video cameras, the introduction of the video cassette recorder (VCR), and the emergence of video mixers and editing systems. These advancements democratized filmmaking by making equipment more affordable and portable, freeing filmmakers from the constraints of traditional studios. Simultaneously, the VCR facilitated recording and playback, while video mixers allowed for sophisticated post-production work, enabling artists to experiment with manipulation and integration of various video sources. For Godard and Miéville, the development of video technology represented an opportunity to revitalize cinematic montage and expand the possibilities for conducting audiovisual research in two major ways: by offering an expanded archive of filmed material and by renewing the methods of montage through the strategies of the video mixer. The video mixer allowed for the filmmakers to materially experiment with and examine images (both newly recorded images and images extracted from other sources) by applying techniques such as manipulating temporality, placing images from disparate sources side-by-side within the same screen, superimposition, keying, adding electronic text, and magnifying certain aspects of the composition.
With Sonimage, Godard and Miéville sought to explore the aesthetic and analytical potential of video technology that had been suppressed by the standardised formal language of broadcast television. In a landscape increasingly permeated by the disposable electronic images, Godard and Miéville responded by reappropriating video technology to form distinctly electronic montage strategies that were fragmentary, reflexive, inquisitive, and formally audacious – in stark contrast to televisual conventions. Simultaneously, these works explicitly pontificate on the ontological nature of video, its difference from photochemical film, and its capacity to create alternative modes of thinking through and about images. As Philippe Dubois observes, the work of Sonimage is infused with a sense of excitement regarding the capability of video, a sense that the “the gaze [is] being renewed” (Dubois, 1992: 177). This impression of the look being “renewed” through the radical potential of video to sharpen one’s perception is vital to the core philosophy at the centre of Here and Elsewhere, with the implication being that Godard and Gorin’s original error of judgement when conceiving of their feature about Palestinian resistance was so severe that Godard now recognised that it was necessary to pursue entirely new modes of perception.
Indeed, the project foregrounds the role of the video mixer in Godard and Miéville’s essayistic journey. Much of the film takes place within the editing suite, as the two filmmakers sift through the footage recorded for use in Until Victory, which has been converted from 16mm to video; the footage is slowed down, sped up, paused, fragmented, and placed into dialogue with other videographic images extracted from various sources. On the audio track, Godard and Miéville’s voices are heard, critically deconstructing the footage and discussing the failure of the original project. At one point, the two filmmakers revisit a sequence in which a young Palestinian girl reads a poem by Mahmoud Darwish within the ruins of the city of Karameh. As the scene plays out, Miéville chastises Godard for his staging of this scene; she accuses the sequence of being framed in the style of a drama of the French revolution, implying that Godard has projected his Eurocentric cultural perspective and his romanticised vision of historical resistance – which he himself has garnered from historical artefacts – onto a culture that is alien to him. What’s more, Miéville criticises Godard for the artificiality of the sequence, pointing to the girl’s disinterested expression and lack of affect as a sign that she has been forced by Godard and Gorin to read a text of their choosing without truly feeling the words.
Another sequence shows an ironic contrast between the revolutionary activities practiced by the Palestinians – one of solidarity and collective action – and the perceived myopia of the post-1968 leftist movements in France. First, we see an image of a young French revolutionary reading a garish book of pulp fiction titled SAS: Kill Henry Kissinger!, whose cover displays a fetishistic image of an attractive, scantily clad woman holding a gun. An electronic frame-within-the-frame then appears from the top right of the screen, depicting the top half of Kissinger’s face. It grows until it fills the top right quarter of the image, and is then replaced with an image of a Palestinian man and child. The image has been cropped so that only the top portions of their faces are visible, thereby rendering the context of the full image obscure. The implication of this sequence is clear, however: the young French faux-revolutionary has allowed himself to lapse into narcissistic fantasy, consuming romantic fantasies about revolution – whether it be the superficial story of political assassination in his novel or the images of the armed struggle taking place in Palestine – rather than engaging in direct action.
Throughout Godard’s videographic period, the unique qualities of video are highlighted in order to emphasize its differentiation from photochemical film. To comprehend how Godard achieves this, it is useful to look at Gilles Deleuze’s theory that Godard’s montage operates through a logic of “AND” or “BETWEEN.” Drawing on Dziga Vertov’s model of intellectual montage as a succession of intervals in between shots that give rise to mental linkages between audiovisual phenomena, Deleuze argues that Godard’s strategies of montage are based on the principle of “BETWEEN.” Focusing on the cinematic essay Here and Elsewhere, Deleuze writes that Godard’s “use of BETWEEN” conjures meaning not through the “law” of “false continuity,” but through the multiplication of elements from which cinematic discourse is derived (Deleuze 2013 , 179-180). The defining logic of Godard’s method of linking together images is not an “operation of association,” but of “differentiation,” as intellectual theory is articulated through a process of multiplying connections and juxtapositions between varied imagistic elements: “Given one image, another image has to be chosen which will induce an interstice between the two,” and this “allows resemblances to be graded” (Ibid.). Deleuze does not address the role of technology in Godard’s work, instead locating the logic of “Between” in themes such as “Here” (France) and elsewhere (the Middle East) and the present (the time of editing) and the past (the time of shooting). But if we apply Deleuze’s analysis of Godard’s methods of montage to a consideration of technological conditions, we may surmise that the director’s videographic techniques draw attention to the relational interplay between various media. This is articulated through material qualities (the physical grain of film and the electronic noise of video), temporality (film being associated with the past and video with the present), social contexts (film being associated with the cinema industry and video with television and domestic environments).
As Godard and Mièville physically transform electronic images to reach perceptual discoveries, the spectator is virtually placed in the editing suite alongside them, allowing the viewer to witness the operations through which the filmmakers arrive at perceptual discoveries regarding the images in question as they are making these discoveries. As such, the filmmakers do not simply present a pedagogical lecture on their own findings; they visualise the act of conducting videographic research, encouraging the spectator to virtually enter a shared dialogical space in which they play an active role in the determination of meaning and are encouraged to realize the power of video to advance their own understanding of media culture. As Rick Warner observes of Godard’s essayistic practice, the filmmaker’s method of communication does not so much “teach through the transmission of arguments at the level of content” as it does model a “form of thinking” that “tries to gain the viewer’s co-involvement in a tireless process of investigation” (Warner 2012, 21). If the main issue with Until Victory, as originally planned, was that it was the product of two French filmmakers producing images of the Palestinian resistance for the consumption of a French audience, in the process flattening real people into pawns in a preconceived narrative of revolution, then Here and Elsewhere takes as its central issue the politics of representation itself. Godard and Mièville do not attempt to “speak” for the Palestinians, nor do they try to efface the fundamental cultural and geographical gulf between them. Instead, Here and Elsewhere becomes a rigorous deconstruction of the images that mediate the relationship between Europe (“here”) and the Middle East (“elsewhere”), emphasising the need to approach all images of overseas conflict with a sceptical and inquisitive eye, to understand how media representations distort the truth so that the spectator may break out of their habitual ways of viewing and develop a more informed and critical understanding of international events.
And at the centre of Godard and Mièville’s media critique is broadcast television. Throughout Here and Elsewhere, the television is framed as a homogenising device, which levels all images onto the same plane in a continuous stream of disposable images, and therefore risks dulling the citizen’s perceptual capabilities. It is a conception of television that is aligned with Raymond Williams’s critique of the format as a “planned flow”: a continuous flow of electronic imagery in which miscellaneous units are “programmed” into a one-way form of communication. As Williams writes, the “experience” of watching broadcast television is that of being subjected to an “always accessible” stream, in which every image is “unified into a single dimension” (Williams 1990, 96). The prevalence of television monitors within the diegesis of Here and Elsewhere is reflective of the incessant glut of electronic imagery that was coming to define the mediascape of France in the 1970s, with images of oppression, hardship, and violence constantly transmitted into living rooms as a perverse form of entertainment.
This is emphasised through repeated images of a suburban French family consuming news broadcasts reporting about conflict in the Middle East, interspersed with advertisements for consumer products and clips from American sitcoms. As the voice-over narration informs us, the patriarch of this nuclear family perceives himself as a revolutionary and spends much of his days at political meetings, but the film only shows him passively watching the revolutionary struggle from the comfort of his plush living room. Instead of meaningfully engaging with the anti-imperialist conflict taking place abroad, or planning meaningful direct action on his home turf, the father merely engages in what Emmelhainz terms “revolutionary tourism” (2009); that is to say, he watches footage of Middle Eastern conflict that has been consciously manufactured for the consumption of Western audiences. These images, Here and Elsewhere suggests, function to make the conflict occurring in Palestine appear “unreal” and fundamentally distant to the lives of those who consume these news reports. As the family’s only encounter with Palestine is mediated through the language of broadcast television, it appears to them as no more “real” than the soap operas and comedies that make up the rest of the schedule. This instils in the French public the impression that conflicts occurring overseas are something to be disregarded as irrelevant to their everyday lives (as in the case of the aforementioned French family). Alternatively, the presentation of the conflict in this light allows for Westerners to project their own narratives onto these images, as, it is suggested as part of the feature’s unflinching auto-critique, was the case when Godard and Gorin originally set out to make a film about a group of Palestinian revolutionaries’ heroic struggle against oppression without fully grasping the magnitude of the forces that were working against them.
If the television, with its one-way methods of communication and easily consumable mode of address, is positioned as an ideological tool that cements the hegemony of the French state and dulls the perceptual capabilities of viewers, then the video mixer is positioned as a tool of resistance against the tyranny of mainstream broadcasting. The video mixer offers a means to sharpen the filmmaker’s – and, by extension, the spectator’s – critical abilities by allowing for the continuous stream of imagery to be halted and for the image to be subjected to intense scrutiny and perceptual reframing. As Godard once said, in relation to his post-’68 work, “[o]ur task now, as revolutionaries in the field of anti-imperialist media, is to resist with all our power in this field, and to liberate ourselves from the chain of images imposed on us by imperialist ideology through its various apparatuses: newspapers – broadcast, cinema, books, etc.” (quoted in Habashneh, 117). The homogenising streams of electronic images perpetuated by mainstream media are, therefore, disrupted by the displacement of images from their conventional contexts and re-placement into new, experimental relational linkages.
Godard and Miéville experiment with strategies of linking together images beyond combining them through the video mixer. In one sequence, for example, four television monitors are lined up spatially within the same composition in a grid-like arrangement, each one transmitting a different stream of imagery: on the top left, a static logo of a television station called #3; on the top right, alternating images of a newsreader giving an address (the clip is muted) and a still map of Israel; on the bottom left a football match; and on the bottom right brief flashes of imagery of causalities of the Palestinian resistance movement. The multiplication of television monitors in this sequence, combined with the disharmonious cacophony of noise, creates a discomforting, cacophonous effect, far removed from the smooth and easily consumable stream of imagery that characterises broadcast television. As Jihoon Kim argues, in an era of rapidly expanding telecommunication, it became “more crucial in the practice of montage to seize the continuous stream of images and penetrate their vertical parameters (the synchronicity of images or image and sound) than […] to create a horizontal coupling of two images” (Kim 2008, 5). In this sequence (which is captured in a single shot that runs for a full two minutes), then, Godard and Miéville mimic the relentless glut of electronic imagery that threatens to dull the spectator’s senses to the enormity of the atrocities being committed overseas – a condition that, the project suggests, is an intrinsic part of a video-dominated visual culture and a tool to manipulate the populace into complacency – while simultaneously destabilising their natural viewing habits, calling on them to perform active perceptual labour to locate points of linkage and contrast between the incessant streams of electronic imagery.
By combining videographic montage, an interrogation of the media apparatus, and a self-reflexive exploration of their own authorial position within the broader audiovisual landscape, Godard and Miéville pursue a line of formal criticism that is open to cinematic innovation and envision how cinema may retain its power and vitality as it undergoes technological transformation. The dual treatment of the electronic screen in Here and Elsewhere reflects the shifting cultural status of video technology in the mid-1970s. While broadcast television is treated as a one-way content delivery device that lulls viewers into passivity, the monitor of the interactive video mixer is treated as a canvas on which varied audiovisual material (original footage, television broadcasts, fragments from classical films converted to the format of video) is sifted through, compared, and juxtaposed for the purpose of study.
Brody, R. (2008). Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard. Faber & Faber.
Deleuze, G. (2013) . Cinema II: The Time-Image. Bloomsbury Academic.
Dubois, P. (1992). “Video Thinks What Cinema Creates: Notes on Jean-Luc Godard’s Work in Video and Television.” In Jean-Luc Godard: Son + Image 1974–1991. Edited by Bellour, R. and Bandy, M. L. Museum of Modern Art. pp.168–85.
Emmelhainz, I. (2009). “From Third Worldism to Empire: Jean-Luc Godard and the Palestinian Question.” Third Text 23(5), 649–656.
Habashneh, K. (2023). Knights of Cinema: The Story of the Palestine Film Unit. Translated by Fattaleh, N. Palgrave Macmillan.
Kim, J. (2018). “Video, the Cinematic, and the Post-Cinematic: On Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinéma.” Journal of Film and Video 70(2), 3-20.
Warner, R. “The Cinematic Essay as Adaptive Process.” Adaptation 6(1), 1-24.
Williams, R. (1990). Television: Technology and Cultural Form London. Routledge.
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