The alphabet of Anna Karina’s many faces, according
to Jean-luc Godard’s Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live).
This feature also includes a summary of the twelves scenes in the film, noting the film’s many references, allusions and key details. A study of the film through this rundown emphasizes that — first and foremost — this film is about a face, that of Anna Karina’s, and this is Godard’s masterpiece which he did not only dedicate to her, but is utterly devoted to her. Vivre sa vie is Godard shouting out to his audience, “Ecce homo!” Except it is a woman, and he loves this woman.
In this article, Roland-François Lack points out: “First, Godard’s voice reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Oval Portrait” and tells Karina that it is their story, “an artist painting the portrait of his wife”. The artist loves his wife, but his art kills her.”
It is important to remember that years will pass after this film’s release, when art did imitate life after all: Anna Karina divorced Jean-luc Godard in 1967. Speculations claim that it is out of her frustration at being merely Godard’s muse and the object of his camera. If this is truly so, then “Ecce homo!” indeed is the best way to describe Godard’s betrayal of Anna Karina, and how his portrayal of her through his films were a death sentence of their love. It was as if his falling in love with her through the eyes of his “camera-pen” condemned her love for him to die. (The question is, who is the martyr? Who has suffered the most out of this ordeal? The filmmaker or the woman?)
Still, no other film has captured the way a man filmed a woman the way Godard did with Anna Karina in Vivre sa vie.
As a lover of both Godard’s body of work and of Anna Karina herself, I believe in the purity of Godard’s intentions and Anna Karina’s portrayal in Vivre sa vie, more than in any other Karina-Godard film. In Vivre sa vie, she is more of Godard’s other half, an extension of his vision and soul on the same equal footing and the same plane, than a mere object. The medium has given her the freedom to fall in love, react, laugh, dance, cry and tragically die for and alongside Godard, capturing every move, every spoken word, and every glance on his camera lens. There’s even a scene that films a discussion with philosopher Brice Parain, that gives Anna Karina the freedom to digress profoundly on the nature of language and semantic traps. It is an intelligent scene but it is also quite melancholy.
If you have not seen this film yet, fix it.