Jean-Luc Godard's Hail Mary: Women and the Sacred in Film

Jean-Luc Godard's Hail Mary: Women and the Sacred in Film

Jean-Luc Godard's Hail Mary: Women and the Sacred in Film

Jean-Luc Godard's Hail Mary: Women and the Sacred in Film


Maryel Locke and Charles Warren present twelve original essays by film critics, filmmakers, theologians, and philosophers that examine the 1985 film Hail Mary, directed by Jean-Luc Godard, and its companion film, The Book of Mary, directed by Anne-Marie Miéville. (The films are collectively released under the title Hail Mary.) The interpretative essays offer a rich spectrum of analysis and opinion representing many divergent points of view about critical theory, the status of women, and the value of film as a medium. Locke and Warren also include two important interviews with Godard, brief biographies and complete filmographies of Godard and Miéville, a short breakdown of the two films including the English subtitles, and the script of the French dialogue to complete a remarkably comprehensive treatment of this important film.

The only film based on the biblical story of the Virgin Mary, Godard's Hail Mary is a contemporary Swiss/French representation of Mary's virgin pregnancy, the birth of her son, and her relationship with Joseph and her young child. Miéville's companion film is about a young girl named Mary whose parents get a divorce. While neither film is overtly religious, the initial release of Hail Mary brought public protests, court cases, a physical attack on Godard, and condemnation by the Pope.


This book began at a two-day conference put together by Vlada Petric, curator of the Harvard Film Archive, and held at Harvard University's Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts in April 1987. The conference was an attempt to explore and understand the reason why Jean-Luc Godard's film Hail Mary had caught the attention and emotions of so many people on its release in 1985. Godard had made history by creating a film that outraged the Vatican, and protests and defenses of the right to show the film had greeted its exhibition in Europe and the United States. But Hail Mary and the film that always accompanies it, The Book of Mary, by Godard's colleague Anne-Marie Miéville, are works of art, and the conference was designed also to examine them as such.

We decided to put a book together on Hail Mary since Godard is an important figure in cinema whose late work has not been written about much outside France. Several participants in the conference agreed to write formal essays, and we asked a number of other people to contribute. Godard's own point of view is represented by two interviews he gave in 1985. In addition, to facilitate study and provide a record, we present a complete shot breakdown of both films with the English subtitles and the French dialogue.

We believe this book contains a rich spectrum of analysis and opinions. It is interesting to see what people in film studies (some of them filmmakers), philosophy, religious studies, and literary studies have to say about Hail Mary and The Book of Mary. Issues are raised about the nature of scandal, about women in film, about the nature of film itself, about the significance of the Virgin Mary in the modern world, and about the career and the thinking of Jean-Luc Godard as well as those of Anne-Marie Miéville.

Readers of this book will hear a variety of voices and see a variety of approaches. Some of our contributors sharply disagree with one another about interpretation and even about the value of the films. The areas of agreement are remarkable too, appearing as they do in the work of writers with such different perspectives. We hope readers, especially students of film, will regard this book as a case study, showing the diversity and the range of possibility that can come to life if we set out to think seriously about a film and its place in our world.

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