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aka - Soldiers, The
France 1963
Directed by
Jean-Luc Godard
80 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Carabiniers, Les

Godard’s follow-up to his hit debut feature Breathless (1960) bombed critically and commercially, being quickly withdrawn after its initial release. With repugnantly boorish characters and an unrelentingly drab setting, audiences failed to appreciate the blackly ironic, Brechtian humour of this allegorical anti-war film. However relative to the director’s more strictly political works, at least in hindsight, it is one of his most accessible, in which his typically alienating techniques come together felicitously in what is a witheringly iconoclastic ridiculing of ideological manipulation and militarism that is at the times imbued with absurdist humour.

Raoul Coutard’s photography perfectly serves the dystopian fable and Godard’s choice of non-professional actors also helps to create the sense of  time out of joint – part future, part past that matches superbly with the use of stock footage and written text to amplify the frame of reference (apparently the letters were from actual correspondence between soldiers and their loved ones during WWII) in a story of two poor farmers who are enlisted by unscrupulous recruiters with promises of the booty they will garner for themselves.

Les Carabiniers is undeservedly overlooked film, both within Godard’s own body of work and in the catalogue of fine anti-war films.

FYI: Roberto Rossellini, one of Godard's heroes, whose Rome, Open City, 1945 and Germany Year Zero, 1948 are classic anti-war films, worked on the script).




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