By José Sarmiento Hinojosa
“In a sense, fear is the daughter of God, redeemed on Good Friday. She is not beautiful, mocked, cursed or disowned by all. But don’t be mistaken, she watches over all mortal agony, she intercedes for mankind; for there is a rule and an exception. Culture is the rule, and art is the exception. Everybody speaks the rule; cigarette, computer, t-shirt, television, tourism, war. Nobody speaks the exception. It isn’t spoken, it is written; Flaubert, Dostoyevsky. It is composed; Gershwin, Mozart. It is painted; Cézanne, Vermeer. It is filmed; Antonioni, Vigo. Or it is lived, then it is the art of living; Srebrenica, Mostar, Sarajevo. The rule is to want the death of the exception. So the rule for cultural Europe is to organize the death of the art of living, which still flourishes.
When it’s time to close the book, I have no regrets. I’ve seen so many people live so badly, and so many die so well.”
-JLG / Je Vous Salue, Sarajevo
Je Vous Salue, Sarajevo is a heartfelt lament on the history of mankind, war, and the art of living. Never had Godard been so poetic; never had his poetry been so tragic, as if sadness permeated everything about what’s human. It is about Sarajevo, the Bosnian war, the Srebrenica massacre, at the time. But it is about war, about the true nature of mankind. A tragic truth that is present among us.
A static photograph is revisited once and again. It’s grainy, rough. We see two soldiers in the middle of a road, weapons in one hand, cigarette in the other. They are walking among the dead, civilians, and the victims of war. A soldier points his rifle at a woman’s head, and is about to kick her, getting ready for the final blow.
We’re all witnesses of the complex mosaic that is this Godard short, of which the horrible story is unveiled at the end. There’s no narrative line, no change of scenery, just a fixated image decomposed into a series of fragments that together depict a terrible truth. Avro Pärt’s Silouans Song (the exact title is Silouans Song: My soul yearns after the Lord) plays as the score, and adds an extra dimension to the human drama, an intensity and sorrow difficult to overcome.
I never found something labeled as “experimental cinema” (for where the limits of experimental and conventional start and begin, I do not know) to be so touching, terrible and humane. Je Vous Salue, Sarajevo is the artist’s lament for the future of man, two minutes and fifteen seconds that forces us to rethink history more than any epic war drama has ever done. In that, the master has excelled. In the subject matter, which is central in this film, it seems that we all, mankind, have failed. And the final image we see as closure is a depiction of that.