Le Petit Soldat
(The Little Soldier)

Godard ran into controversy with the very second film he made. Le Petit Soldat got banned for graphic depiction of torture of its protagonist by both parties involved in the war against colonialism. Though very mellow and even fantastic when viewed today, it would most definitely have raised a few eyebrows especially because of the cinéma vérité style the scenes adopt. And as an interesting point, for Godard, is that he surprisingly does not take a stand at all. His focus remains his central character whose freedom and happiness have become functions of factors beyond his control.

The Little Soldier (1959)

The Little Soldier (1960)

Though a typical Godard character, I felt like watching a Truffaut written one at times. A chap full of ironies. He says that he won’t describe his torture and follows it up by exactly that. He says he will not commit a murder and flips to the other side in no time. Michel Subor’s quirky portrayal goes down as another underrated performance in the director driven New Wave. The narrative’s fluidity and emphasis on the mundane stays intact and Godard seems to assert his control over the medium with ease as he happily weaves his ideologies in the form of daring monologues.

Le Petit Soldat remains Godard first and most superficially personal statement made on film. It is not incidental that Godard himself had a childhood that was divided between Switzerland and France like the little soldier. But the film is, more importantly, of interest for its romantic significance that would define Godard’s first phase of filmmaking. Godard employs Anna Karina in the lead role for the first time and Coutard’s camera seems like Godard’s own eyes, never once stepping off her in the photo-shoot scene. According to fellow technicians, there was clearly a chemistry developing between them from the first few days of shoot. Godard’s least talked about film of his early years retains its power to charm.