“Contempt” is the first part of Godard’s religious trilogy, followed by “Hail, Mary” (1985) and “Woe Is Me” (1993). While “Contempt” examines the psychological mechanism of relations between humans and gods of pagan “design” – the human humans (people with the psychology of god-worshippers) and the human gods (people with the psychology of unconscious identification with gods), “Hail, Mary” analyzes the psychological roots of the Christian cult of Saint Mary, and “Woe is Me” – the return of the pagan gods into post-Christian modernity in a form of technological constructions, tools and toys dominating people’s life in the Western democracies.

In his analysis of religious psychology Godard separates the people from religious (in a narrow sense) practices and metaphorizes these practices by personal and social relations between people in order to make their religious essence more articulate and vivid for the perception of the viewers. Religious psychology does not necessarily create loyalty to despotic dogmas (many atheists are very religious by psychology). In “Contempt” Godard shows how religious feelings show itself in private relations between Paul (Michel Piccoli), a modest writer of detective stories but educated person with an exceptional existentially spiritual taste, and his wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot), a monumental beauty, and in social relations between Paul (identifying with Homer and Odysseus) and the mighty Hollywood producer Jeremiah Prokosch (the new incarnation of Poseidon/Neptune), played by Jack Polance in the only intellectually serious performance of his whole career. The both “gods” – Camille and Prokosch are depicted with tender and subtle caricaturishness, while Paul’s destiny Godard generalizes as that of all of us, the humanity‘s.

Godard deconstructs the relations between humans and gods as known in history – as sociomorphic relations between human beings as such (personified by Paul) and the human gods (personified by Camille and Prokosch). On the level of the plot the film describes the disagreements between Paul (the author of the screenplay), Fritz Lang (the director) who plays himself, and Prokosch (the producer) – all trying together to make a film based on Homer’s “Odyssey”. But Godard’s scholarly intentions in the film are not limited to symbolizing a certain type of relations between human beings into relations between humans (human humans) and gods (human gods).

The second important scientific contribution of Godard in “Contempt” is his classification of the types of bonds human beings are inclined to establish between themselves and our historical past, and themselves and any work of art they perceive and react on. Here Prokosch personifies the type of perception of a past which is based on our projection into the historical past of our self-aggrandizement (our megalomaniacal need). For him Ancient Greece is a kind of Olympus in comparison with today’s life. This is, essentially, a conservative position based on authoritarian/totalitarian behavioral habits including our proneness for religious or secular cult of ancestors.

The second position is represented by Fritz Lang who tends to “objectively” study the human past without the need for any identification with it. This position is that of the many liberal scholars – it’s the accumulation of a kind of an archival knowledge about the past without any worshipful or critical emotions.

The third position is represented by Paul who sees in people of the previous epochs our existential brothers. He learns from the past and from the arts and understood that people who lived before us made their own attempts to resolve their problems with gods as idealized models (theologized, from the Olympus, or living on the Olympus of the tops of the social hierarchy), as we today trying to with the human gods of our own times. Existential identification with our ancient ancestors is simultaneously brotherly and critical.

The same three positions – projection of our self-aggrandizement (or its negative version), “objective” position of “neutral/truthful” representation, and existential identification Godard discerns in our relations with works of art.

“Contempt” occupies not only a unique place in the history of cinema and Western culture in general, but a distinguished place of an exemplary work of art.

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Godard explains the gesture of Poseidon/Neptune that separating the beloveds

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Paul and Camille are still emotionally connected but already distant by the intervention of God/Prokosch

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Paul and Camille feel themselves ripped apart by the psychological abyss

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Paul and Camille/Mermaid are separated by the psychological abyss in Camille’s soul

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The humorous poster of, as if, both films – Godard’s “Contempt” and Lang’s “Odysseus” inside Godard’s film. Lang in agreement with his concept of Odysseus is shown to be in scrupulous rapport with the viewers. Godard is shown as occupied with two projects at once, as the director of “Contempt” and as the assistant of the cameraman in, as if, Lang’s film. And Paul (Michel Piccoli) and Prokosch look at the distance – at Camille’s split destiny, both with the hope of being the one she’ll choose.

Posted on April 27, 2013 –   Jean-Luc Godard’s “Contempt/Le mepris” (1964) – Psychology Of Human Obsession With Super-human by Acting-Out Politics

Posted on 11/7/’17 –   An Odd Ode to The Human Goddess Camille (Who, It Seems, Needs A Camel for A Husband) – From Jean-Luc Godard’s “Contempt/Le mepris” (1964) by Acting-Out Politics