“Le Mepris”, otherwise known as “Contempt”, is Godard’s seventh solo feature film, shot in Rome and Capri, Italy in technicolor. Like most films, there are so many ways to approach discussing this work, whether centering in on concept, structuring, overall meaning and morals behind the story, etc. For this description, I’m going to focus in on Paul and Camille’s seemingly perfect, though flawed from scene-one, marriage. We’ve all experienced failed relationships, whether romantic, friendly, or familial; however, no one walks into these human-to-human relationships knowing that they will not, or could never, work out. And yet, they so often do.
The drama begins when Paul tells Camille to go for a drive with his producer, Jeremy, while he goes on a walk with Francesca — to discuss business. Camille assumes that Paul is cheating on her, which deeply affects her and leads to a complete emotional drop off. For a while, Paul remains completely unaware of the problem as Camille, meanwhile, wrestles with how she feels about things, why she no longer loves him and, as it turns out, can never love him again (which is made vey clear throughout the duration of the film).
This is a curious, and oddly common, problem,: falling “out love love” and not being able to clarify why. This inability to describe your emotions while you’re sorting through your thoughts, trying to figure out when/why this happened, if the connection (or lack thereof) can be reversed, etc. leaves your partner lacking closure, feeling confused, deeply upset, and maybe angry. These are all sensations Paul is experiencing while he is continuously rejected by Camille, thinking that this is something that can be solved, fixed, reversed — something only she is experiencing, and not him.
Through writing the film adaption of “The Odyssey”, analyzing Odysseus and Penelope’s relationship, and discussing their fictional difficulties with other crew members, Paul discovers that he and Camille’s relationship is actually very similar to his screenplay’s subjects. Like Odysseus and Penelope, their love was lost long before the war (aka, the film) begins… He had fallen out of love with her as well, he just took too long to notice it.
While watching “Contempt”, you will discover the details that explain their lost connection and, believe me, it is very frustrating at first because, yes, it does seem out of nowhere — sharp, sudden, and melodramatic (like the ending of most relationships out there). However; it eventually builds into a full showcase of the mystery, confusion, and epiphany that comes with a relationships demise.