As Paul in the film says, Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt is a story about “total, tender and tragic love”. Through the use of mise-en-scene and cinematography, Godard directs a beautiful masterpiece of the French new wave era.
A scene that really caught my eye was when Paul and Camille spent time at their apartment. The whole scene took mise-en-scene to another level. In terms of the setting, the apartment is incomplete in that there are mirrors that need to be put up on the walls and doors that seem to have no glass to the extent that people can walk right through them. This can be seen to symbolize that the couple’s “total love” is actually incomplete. A color that stands out through out the scene is red. As the climax of the film shows, the color could have foreshadowed the deadly car crash in Jerry’s red sports car. The scene’s movement and acting are very casual as well; they need to be because of the scene’s natural mood (they’re just a couple in their apartment).
Throughout the aforementioned scene, in terms of cinematography, Godard does a brilliant job with focal length, depth of field, and motion. Using the walls and their frames, the director adds tremendous depth and length to many of the shots. My favorite shot was when Camille is on the phone with her mother. The audience sees Camille from the viewpoint of another room, which exemplifies masterful framing as Godard uses the walls and the frames of two different rooms to add depth to the shot. The motion of the camera throughout the scene is also very natural as it goes back and fourth between Paul and Camille as they seem to never be in the same place. In a way, it helps show the distance between them.
Another observation I made of the film was the use of its dramatic music in the most normal and ordinary of times. The constant pause and starting of the same music added more tension and awkwardness to the film as it conveyed a sense that Paul and Camille’s love was slowly dying.
Essentially, each aspect of mise-en-scene and cinematography plays with and against each other to deliver an amazing film. Contempt is truly an artistic film experience.