by CHRISTOPH HESSE
To take a picture at the very moment when the conditions of society are hopefully changing, this is what fascinates Godard about Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925). Such a powerful picture could not have been made elsewhere at any other time. Mistaken for a re-enactment of the events of the year 1905, it would probably merely look like an historical costume drama pretending to represent what has passed aforetime. Regarded as a document of its own time, however, it bears witness to what substantially mattered in the Soviet Union up to the mid-1920s, a provisional state having been established under the auspices of war, still deeming itself the harbinger of an expectably worldwide socialist revolution. Vakulichuk’s outcry ‘Brothers!’ as well as the red flag on top of the battleship sought to momentarily address both the workers and intellectuals across the world. Already in October (1927), Eisenstein’s next film, this faithful expectation has perceptibly waned. While Eisenstein now displayed a tricky concept of intellectual montage for which he was forthwith reprimanded by Party officials, the political rhetoric of the film was already shaped by the nascent mythology of the Great October Revolution. Contre cœur, its commissioned anniversary picture artfully testified to the transformation of genuine hope into false wisdom.
Decades after the dire decline of the promising revolutionary cinema in the Soviet Union, Jean-Luc Godard made another attempt under significantly different terms. ‘Real socialism’, as being represented by the Post-Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe, had fallen into suspicion also among many left-wing intellectuals, at least since the Prague Spring of 1968 had been stamped down by Soviet forces. By the late 1960s, revolutionary esperance was being centred mainly on the so-called Third World, on liberation movements struggling for a distinct social development independent of colonial or post-colonial dictation. It is not by chance that the political protest movements emerging in Europe and the United States at that time symbolically aligned with the guerrilla warfare taking place in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Godard, unlike his former mates of the Nouvelle Vague, enthusiastically embraced the upcoming revolt also in cinematic regards. Impressed rather by the angry New Waves surging elsewhere—particularly Glauber Rocha and the Brazilian Cinema Novo—than by the tasteful European art cinema being served by François Truffaut and the likes, Godard called for a disruptive transformation of cinema into an instrument of political study. Presenting his film La Chinoise at the Avignon Festival in August 1967, he released a press book including an anticipatory handwritten introduction which soon gained prominence as the Manifesto of the shortly established Dziga Vertov Group:
Fifty years after the October Revolution, American cinema dominates world cinema. There’s not much to add to this state of affairs. Only that at our own modest level, we must also create two or three Vietnams at the heart of the immense empire, Hollywood-Cinecittà-Mosfilm-Pinewood, etc, as much economic as aesthetic, that’s to say struggling on two fronts, to create national cinemas, free, brotherly, comrades and friends.
His next film, Week-end, was to be released in December that year. With this picture, his biographer Colin MacCabe reckons, ‘Godard demonstrated that he was ready for revolution. He even told his crew he had worked with for almost a decade that they should seek other employment.’ While in itself still being part of the now suspected ‘world cinema’ – recorded on 35mm Eastmancolor, the film was supposed to be shown in theatres across the globe – Week-end exhibited a highly intellectualised, yet just as harsh and cheerful devastation of narrative cinema. The final title card states: ‘Fin de conte, fin de cinéma’ (‘End of the story, end of the cinema’). Certainly, the endeavour to reclaim cinema as a means of perceiving the world, not to contribute to the dutifully arranged illusionist spectacle it had long since become, was not entirely new to Godard then. With hindsight it becomes evident that earlier works such as Les Carabiniers (1963) or Masculin féminin (1965) had already paved this way. The conclusion Godard eventually arrived at, could thus be considered the termination of his previous cinematic career. With Week-end he exhausted, at least provisionally, the possibilities of narrative cinema by dismantling its concept from within, by dint of its very own means, as it were. Henceforth he would be going to abandon the institution of cinema itself. Consequently, he decided to quit the position of a well-reputed professional filmmaker to become a comparatively poorly equipped amateur instead, or rather – allowing for the double meaning of the French word – un amateur de la révolution which he believed would shortly take its course across the world. In contrast to Che Guevara, though, the former doctor who in his Cuban Diary proudly reported that during the guerrilla war in the Sierra Maestra he had swapped his medical drugs for munitions, Godard did not dismiss his proper profession straightaway. Perhaps more meticulously than ever, he was still concerned with shooting films. Cinema, he declared, ought to be destroyed by its own means in order to deliver it from its ideological burden. Adopting Dziga Vertov’s flaunting contempt for bourgeois fairy-tales, Godard now went about taking pictures and noises of a world which he thought defied a faithful cinematic recording on conventional terms. As he sought to demonstrate in Le Gai savoir (1968), the very matter of cinema itself, i.e. the relationship of sounds and images, of words and pictures, of signs and references, was yet to be explored. But the sort of science he proposed turned out to be in fact less gay than Émile Rousseau and Patricia Lumumba, the two protagonists of the film, had expected. The production of several ciné-tracts and short filmic essays recorded on 16mm stock involved many, not only financial, imponderabilities, and even more so did the reception. Some of the films he made along with Jean-Pierre Gorin and the Dziga Vertov Group were being watched by some two hundred people, and among these two hundred people, Godard suspects, there were perhaps twenty or thirty who really watched them. Some of these films had been commissioned by European television stations which eventually refused to broadcast them for political reasons. Indeed, most of Godard’s contributions to the revolution of the cinema remained widely invisible then, and only a very few people have seen them as yet. Retrospectively, one might grasp this malheur with a Godardian sense of humour, recalling what he lately said about his cinematic education in the 1950s: Cinema, that’s what we called the films we had never seen. 
Having decided to become a fellow-traveller of the revolution, or more modestly speaking, a man with a movie camera tracking the political and cultural shifts many countries underwent at that time, Godard left his Paris home for locations abroad. From 1968 onward, he travelled to the United States, to Britain, Czechoslovakia, Italy – and Jordan. Already in La Chinoise, a premature vision of Parisian Pop-Art-Maoism, it had been playfully surmised that a proletarian revolution would hardly get off the ground in an advanced capitalist country like France. There is a telling scene in this film in which Anne Wiazemsky, playing a young Maoist student, ingenuously explains why French revolutionaries nowadays have to centre their hopes on a foreign place three thousand miles away. Ironically, Godard himself, after all, was willing to mistake that heretical joke for a serious advice, even though he did not sail for China but for the Middle East – the only cinematic ‘Vietnam’ he actually sought to create elsewhere.
In 1970, Godard and his associate Jean-Pierre Gorin, meanwhile forming the hard core of the Dziga Vertov Group, agreed to a request from the Arab League to shoot a documentary on the Palestinian revolution, as it was called, and they spent considerable time in Jordan in early 1970. But their efforts were in the first instance ‘hampered by the fact that neither Godard nor Gorin spoke Arabic’, as MacCabe remarks. ‘They found themselves time and time again listening to a long and complicated speech, only for the interpreter to translate it in five words: “We will struggle until victory.” Eventually, Jusqu’à la victoire became the title of the film…’ Or rather the title of the idea of a film that never got materialised; the footage covered roughly two third of what they had scheduled. The money they had got from the Arab League ran out, and Godard’s and Gorin’s attempt to raise some fresh dollars by whipping up a new film in the United States did not succeed. Vladimir et Rosa (1971), the film they made in Chicago in a trice (commissioned by a German television station), proved to be a ‘hastily assembled mess’ while the fragments of Jusqu’à la victoire grew old in the meantime. Their picture of the Palestinian revolution had become obsolete before it got finished. The political circumstances Godard and Gorin had witnessed suddenly changed. Most of the young Fedayeen they had filmed a couple of months before were dead by now. In September 1970, the Jordan army, in order to reassert their authority over the Palestinians being suspected of terrorism, marched into Amman and killed thousands of them, several refugee camps were torn down.
‘The film is in pieces, just like Amman’, Godard said to Chris Marker who occasionally dropped into his editing room. For the time being, the remaining footage was shelved and a new large-scale project (Tout va bien, 1972) being started instead. Shortly afterwards, in 1972, the Dziga Vertov Group split up. Yet it took another two years until Godard, now along with his new associate Anne-Marie Miéville, harked back to the footage of Jusqu’à la victoire in order to put these pieces together. Ici et ailleurs (Here and Elsewhere), the product of this reconstruction process, was accomplished in 1974, released only in 1976.
When Godard and Miéville reviewed the abandoned fragments, they apparently felt somewhat uncomfortable; found themselves remote from what they heard and saw, geographically as well as historically, politically as well as aesthetically. ‘Et puis on est revenu en France’, Godard comments, et de ça on n’en revient pas encore.’ That is to say, the maker of the film about the (eventually defeated) Palestinian revolution had not yet recovered from his return back home. Therefore Godard and Miéville now attempted to integrate their distant view from ‘here’ (France) into the film. Estimating the truth of the images of struggle from the Middle East, they took into account also the prospective spectators and their familiar surroundings. So they added, or rather contrasted, an ici part to the footage from ailleurs, thereby using video for the first time. The French family home in the film, by the way, was the home of cinematographer William Lubtchansky in Paris. Curiously enough, Lubtchansky had photographed Claude Lanzmann’s documentary essay Pourquoi Israël (1973) just a couple of years before.
What is represented here—ici—is a staged domestic scene of a middle-class French family, juxtaposed to the images of Palestinian warriors. It has been said above that the political situation had drastically changed since their recordings in Jordan had been interrupted earlier in 1970. The vivid picture of struggle had meanwhile turned into an obituary, as it were, and the idea of a Palestinian revolution Godard and Gorin once sought to portray, was to be called into question by now. Moreover, Godard and Miéville now detected several serious shortcomings concerning the cinematic document itself, the sound in particular. ‘If the Dziga Vertov group had used conversations, they were didactic’, McCabe notes, ‘one voice was given a necessary prominence and the sound was harsh and strident. In Ici et ailleurs, the voices are soft. Rather than dictating to us what the images mean, they attempt to discover what meaning they might have.’ Godard retreated from pictures of struggle to a verbal discourse, as if he had become distrustful of the sounds and images he had previously recorded. With this film, more explicit than in Le Gai savoir six years before, he rendered an instance of cinema as an instrument of thinking (‘instrument de pensée’). Rather than presenting a final product of work, he exhibited the process of reflection and reconstruction itself, and invited the spectator to get involved in it.
Wheeler Winston Dixon provides a succinct summary of what this change of perspective—from Jordan (1970) to France (1974)—actually meant: ‘Ici et ailleurs acknowledges that although the 1970 footage in the film is “real”, the editorial decisions involved in constructing the final film are equally “real,” and they shape, distort, reconstruct, and otherwise transform the flickering images of dead Palestinians into a work which is a meditation on the creation of history, and the images that record (and transmute) that history into the fabric of our lives. On the soundtrack, Miéville offers telling criticisms of Godard’s use of actors and editorial strategies within the film. Although Ici et ailleurs uses, for the most part, recycled imagery, and is a work which speaks to Godard’s filmic past rather than his future, it marked the beginning of his new period of work, in which the filmmaker questioned not only his “bourgeois” films, but also the works of his Dziga Vertov period.’
Ici et ailleurs certainly remains the most interesting leftover of the Dziga Vertov Group, in itself both an epilogue to that short period of militant filmmaking between 1968 and 1972 and at the same time a trial run of a forthcoming series of video works terminating in the voluminous Histoire(s) du Cinéma (1988–1998). Already in Ici et ailleurs, Godard began to slightly shift his view on history. He thereby also gained a different, more melancholic conception of film as a record of history. Douglas Morrey suggests that history, as being represented in Ici et ailleurs, would strike the viewer as a pile-up of catastrophes, according to Walter Benjamin’s boding formulation from the ninth thesis on the philosophy of history. Though it might be doubted if Godard exactly in Ici et ailleurs has done justice to that fundamentally critical notion. ‘At the end’, MacCabe summarises, more cautiously, ‘Godard discovered a new and hesistant faith in the image, though this faith would involve a very much more profound recognition of death than had been available to the creator of Michel Poiccard.’ Although hesitant and tentative, Ici et ailleurs in some essential aspects remains nonetheless faithful to the original idea of the film from which it emerged.
Indeed, the armed struggle of the Palestinians against Israel, which Godard had observed during his sojourn in Jordan, lingered as a major political concern throughout his work since then. One can easily imagine that Jusqu’à la victoire, as it had initially been designed, would have become a somewhat unsavoury picture, fraught with populist slogans. The preserved footage is bearing witness to what Godard and Gorin had in mind at the ouset. And also the more intellectualised reflections being eventually presented in Ici et ailleurs do by no means conceal those ambitions. Considering the Islamist counterrevolution that has taken place in Palestine over the past two decades, it ought to be underscored that the numerous female warriors being portrayed in Ici et ailleurs are apparently not willing to hide their expressive countenance behind a Niqab. All the same, the political message reads quite simple: Palestinians, invariably imagined as the good people defending their inherited ground, are being violently oppressed by Zionist intruders. In this respect at least, Godard remained fully aligned with the Weltanschauung of self-proclaimed anti-imperialist claqueurs. Militant movements from a remotely romanticised Third World, regardless of their own political ambitions, could thus be received as a sort of substitute for revolutionary action proving unfeasible under the conditions of fully equipped late capitalist societies. The Palestinians in particular, in spite—or exactly because—of their fervent enmity toward Israel, have since then been fancied as the most glittering of those white hopes. It ought to be recalled, however, that, basically before the Six-Day War in June 1967, there had been genuine sympathies for the Jewish refugee home in Palestine also on the part of the Left. In Godard’s Pierrot le fou (1965), for example, Marianne (Anna Karina) asks why a woman, just because she is wearing a skirt and tights, should not be able to take arms in order to defend herself, as in Cuba, Vietnam—or Israel. Such a peculiar reference would hardly be imaginable in subsequent Godard films. By 1967, since having maintained its statehood against those reputedly oppressed nations that had taken measures to wipe it off the map by force, the Jewish state of Israel suddenly dropped off the agenda in favour of the indigenous people of Palestine. It was henceforth compared not to Cuba or Vietnam, but to Nazi Germany. This was exactly the case also in Ici et ailleurs.
Yet irrespective of those monstruous clichés, according to which the miserable fate of the Palestinians, allegedly caused first and foremost by ‘Zionist occupation’ (not by authoritarian politics in the Arab world, for instance), is summarily being equated with the systematic destruction of the Jews under Nazi rule in Europe, Ici et ailleurs holds some enlightening political statements as well. Contrary to the ominous concept of some innately righteous people struggling for the Good of Humanity, Godard and Miéville en passant suggest that Hitler too has inaugurated a popular revolution; a finding which ultimately challenges the comfortable misunderstanding of Fascism, and National Socialism in particular, as merely a dictatorial rule of the most reactionary factions of industrial and financial capital.
While working on his Histoire(s) du cinéma, Godard suggested that the history of cinema has drawn to a close already in the early 1940s. Six million Jews were being murdered, he states, but the cinema was not there. One might doubt, of course, if a cinematic account of what has happened in Auschwitz would be any good to convey critical insights into the catastrophe and its consequences. Yet apparently Godard has now caught a glimpse of the abyss that seperates the history before from the one thereafter. With the hindsight of the Histoire(s) du cinéma, most of the films of the Dziga Vertov Group, at least in political regards, look like playful mishaps. The form of these films, as Eisenstein would have it, proves to be more revolutionary than their palpable contenct. Ici et ailleurs, the most valuable heirloom of that period, might thus be considered the result of an intellectual advancement and at the same time the product of a defeat. The most overwhelming historical defeat, however, had long since taken place when the original film project got started under the heady title Jusqu’à la victoire.
 See Jean-Luc Godard, Introduction à une veritable histoire du cinéma (Paris: Éditions Albatros, 1980), 5ème voyage.
 ‘Cinquante ans après de la Révolution d’Octobre, le cinéma américain règne sur le cinéma mondial. Il n’y a pas grand-chose à ajouter à cet état de fait. Sauf qu’à notre échelon modeste, nous devons nous aussi créer deux ou trois Vietnams au sein de l’immense empire Hollywood-Cinecittà-Mosfilms-Pinewood-etc. et tant économiquement qu’esthétiquement, c’est-à-dire en luttant sur deux fronts, créer des cinémas nationaux, libres, frères, camarades et amis.’ (Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard, ed. Alain Bergala, Paris: Éditions de l’Étoile, 1985, p. 303). English translation quoted from Colin MacCabe, Godard. A Portait of the Artist at Seventy (New York: Faber and Faber, 2005), p. 182.
 MacCabe, Godard, p. 200.
 See Godard, ‘Warum ich hier spreche…‘, Filmkritik, No. 225 (1975). p. 423.
 See Godard, Introduction à une veritable histoire du cinéma, 4ème voyage.
 See Godard, Das Das Gesagte kommt vom Gesehenen. Drei Gespräche 2000/01 (Bern/Berlin: Gachnang & Springer, 2002), p. 15.
 See MacCabe, Godard, pp. 230–231.
 MacCabe, Godard, p. 231.
 See Godard, ‘Le cinéma n’a pas su remplir son rôle’, Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard, Tome 2: 1984–1998, ed. Alain Bergala (Paris: Cahiers du Cinéma, 1998), p. 335.
 Wheeler Winston Dixon, The Films of Jean-Luc Godard (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), p. 133.
 See Douglas Morrey, Jean-Luc Godard (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2005), p. 112–113. Also Walter Benjamin, ‘Thesen über den Begriff der Geschichte’ (1940), Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Hermann Schweppenhäuser and Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1972–1989), Vol. I, p. 697–698.
 See MacCabe, Godard, p. 243.
 See Godard, ‘Le cinéma n’a pas su remplir son rôle’, p. 336.