The Image Book
The Image Book is a meditative response to the current political climate in the Middle East by filmmaker and veteran of French New Wave Jean-Luc Godard. A highly conceptual and abstract Arthouse project, the latest offering from the acclaimed director is equally as fascinating as it is subversive; however, this cinematic think piece often tests viewers’ patience as much as it presents them with challenging questions.
Constructed in five chapters in a symbolic representation of the human hand – each section focusing on areas surrounding war, philosophy and travel – the feature is comprised of a variety of archive film and news footage, artworks, photographs and collections of Godard’s writings accompanied by various voiceovers, including that of the auteur himself. The film juxtaposes image with sound, darkness and silence, distorting the very images themselves, and as such it’s in many ways a collage of pure cinema that provokes the senses and conjures meaning in only the way this art form can.
Being an art project and installation piece, however, the abstract nature of the picture will no doubt be more appealing to some audiences more than others. Yet the purposeful lack of narrative cohesion combined with the repetitive nature of the film’s presentation and prolonged silences will likely test the patience of even the most adventurous viewer, in spite of the relatively short runtime of 84 minutes.
The main issue with the feature, however, lies with its choice not to subtitle or translate most of the dialogue and text that appears onscreen. With the majority of the movie being in French (there’s some English and German in there, too), a large part of what’s being said is lost to all viewers not fluent in the language. Choosing to translate only a few key phrases is akin to highlighting a handful of lines in a novel and getting someone to read only those parts: you can get a general grasp of the overall message, but it feels out of place without the rest of the text.
As an art project, The Image Book is a provocative and fascinating piece of cinema that sits proudly amongst the works of Godard. Sitting through the entirety of the film, however, is a different story, and makes for tedious viewing.
The Image Book is released nationwide on 16th November 2018.
Watch the trailer for The Image Book here: