Film Socialisme.

Noetica, that eloquent and erudite Hatter, was kind enough to endow me with a DVD of one of the few Godard movies I was lacking, Film Socialisme, and of course I gobbled it up. I’m here to report that any Godard fan should see it, but it’s probably caviar to the general — unless you’re pretty familiar with his habits and tropes, it will seem scattered and largely incomprehensible. However, it has (unsurprisingly) various elements of Hattic interest worth posting about, a task made immeasurably easier by the existence online of a complete screenplay with English translation (that used in the subtitles), which was a joy to discover, let me tell you.

Where to start? Well, there are lots of languages spoken by characters: French, German, English, Italian, Russian (and there’s a whole chunk of Chekhov’s Three Sisters onscreen at one point), Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, and some West African language or other (see below). Of course I perked up when I saw an intertitle ABII NE VIDEREM (Latin for ‘I went away so as not to see’); I assumed it was a quote from some classic text, but it turns out to be the title of a piece for viola, piano and string orchestra by the Georgian composer Giya Kancheli (which Godard has used in more than one movie) — other than that, I have found it only as an example sentence in Benjamin Hall Kennedy’s Revised Latin Primer (1919), p. 182. At one point one of the characters, Flo, issues a mandate not to use the verb ‘to be’ (“N’employez pas le verbe être, s’il vous plait”). There are charming callbacks to earlier Godard movies, like the exchange “Et alors?” “Mystère” (the word mystère shows up in a remarkable number of his films), the foregrounding of gender in the mother’s “Et alors, dans LA présidence, il n’y a pas LE,” and the assonanceJe veux, mon neveu” ‘(informal) absolutely! totally!’ There is the inevitable farrago of quotations; two that I happened to look up are the end of Jean Tardieu’s poem «Monsieur interroge Monsieur» (from “Monsieur à travers tout” to “et l’espace se meurt”) and Husserl’s “In allen neuen Gestalten, „die“ Geometrie” (which can be seen in its original context here, on p. 390 under “Beilage III, zu § 9 a¹).” The subtitle renders Frieda’s “Husserl souligne le LA : LA géométrie” as “Husserl capitalizes Geometry,” which of course makes no sense, especially since all nouns are capitalized in German, but I really don’t know how it might better have been done.

Speaking of questionable subtitles, I think “Hellas” is wrong at the point where we see the intertitle ΕΛΛΑΣ and a woman’s voice is heard saying /elas/; surely Hellas is pronounced /ɛlas/ in French, and /elas/ can only be hélas (a typical Godardian pun), so the subtitle should read “Alas.” And I’m confused about Flo’s line:

Je raconte, 1789, nuit du 4 août…
Avec les corps sont abolis tous les droits particuliers, il
n’y aura plus qu’un droit commun…

The subtitle reads:

I’ll tell… 1789, the night of Aug. 4…
With the corps all privileges were abolished, only
common law would remain.

But what is this “corps” that was abolished? The French word has a wide variety of meanings, and I’m not familiar enough with l’histoire de la Révolution to know what’s going on.

Finally, a couple of African-language queries. There’s a photojournalist who is apparently from West Africa, and at one point she says something the screenplay renders “Programme bimbolo ?” The translation below it is “******* ???,” so I presume nobody could figure it out, and I myself can’t even hear it clearly enough to know if “bimbolo” is a correct rendering. And at another point she says a line rendered as “Emili koseve mu nayibe ke liké kasoro ibasso,” with no translation at all; I found a forum discussion about it, in which “Lapirogue” replies:

bonjour j’ai essayer pour avancer le chilibliqk mais bien entendu il te faudra attendre l’interpretation DU specialiste. cette deuxième phrase est en effet plus bambana.

I miri kocébé mouna i be kélé ké ka sorô i ba soró

pourquoi tu réfléchi beaucoup, je suis pareil (peut etre) né ka soro I ba soro mais je ne sait pas le sens.

Any thoughts are (ça va sans dire) welcome.


  1. Kári Tulinius says

    If I remember correctly, the privileges of corporations, along with a bunch of other privileges, were abolished on August the fourth 1789. This was the corporation by royal charter type, not the modern kind.

  2. Ah, thank you! I guess that would come under Wiktionary’s 18 “(Sens figuré) Société, union de plusieurs personnes qui vivent sous les mêmes lois, les mêmes coutumes, les mêmes règles.”

  3. David Marjanović says

    n’y aura plus qu’un droit commun…

    “Common law” of course means something else in English. Why not “there will only be one law, common to all”, for example?

  4. Good point.

    The quote about 1789 appears to come from the Dictionnaire critique de la Révolution française by François Furet and ‎Mona Ozouf, but Google Books says “No preview.” Bah.

  5. PlasticPaddy says

    Assuming bimbolo and bambana should be bambara, how about following:
    Emili koseve mu nayibe keli ké kasoro ibasso [last 3 “words” possibly ne ka so iba so]

    miirili   n. pensée; thoughts, thinking
    kosɛbɛ-kosɛbɛ   adv. très bien; very well.
    munna   adv. pourquoi; why.
    i ba = you (emphatic) or your (emphatic)
    kele   adj. jaloux; jealous, envious.
    ne ka = my (emphatic)
    so = house

    ” thinking very well why you jealous- my house (is) your house”
    This “interpretation” was a lot of fun but is probably pointless…

  6. Fun is never pointless!

  7. We should have fun no matter the circumstances.

  8. Exactly!

  9. I’m pleased that the video pleases you, Hat. From excerpts I have seen on YouBeaut* it appears to divide opinions in suitably anarchistic fashion.

    ABII NE VIDEREM (Latin for ‘I went away so as not to see’)

    An odd choice of title. Like you I would have suspected an ancient source. We do find “ne viderem”, in this for example:

    Cur enim non fuit uterus matris meæ sepulcrum, ne viderem afflictionem Jacob et laborem generis Israel?
    (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, citing 2 Esdras 5:35)

    That’s “… Why didn’t I die before I was born? Then I wouldn’t have seen the sufferings and troubles of the people of Israel.”
    Among equivalent constructions are “ut non viderem”, “pro ne viderem”, and “ut ne viderem”, it seems. Kancheli chose the bare “ne” form, though no metrical or general song-setting reasons constrain the choice in his purely instrumental piece. A snappier title.

    * YouTube, but Austrocised.

  10. Bare ne is the standard construction in Classical Latin, it’s what you learn at school, you need no special metrical or musical constraint:

    In Finalsätzen kann statt ne verstärkt ut ne “damit (daß) ja nicht” stehen. […] Nie findet sich ut ne nach den Verben des Hinderns, Verweigerns und Fürchtens.
    (Menge, Repetitorium der lateinischen Syntax und Stilistik, §343)

    pro ne seems odd; pro is a preposition, not a conjunction.

  11. Yes, ulr: I was mistaken about “pro ne” through incautious perusal of Christian Latin sources. Still, “ut non” and “ut ne” are seen – associated with somewhat different contexts and meanings than plain “ne”.

  12. Utne is apparently unrelated:

    The publication takes its name from founder Eric Utne. “Utne” rhymes with the English word “chutney”. Eric Utne’s surname is ultimately derived from the Norwegian village of Utne, which loosely translates as “far out”.

    Far out!

  13. Adrian Bailey says

    I just remember that Mark Kermode hated it

  14. Lots of people hated it — it was that kind of movie. But your link doesn’t seem to include it; did you mean to link to another of his videos?

  15. Trond Engen says

    Loosely indeed. The name isn’t well explained. The standard source of Norwegian rural toponyms, Oluf Rygh’s Norske gaardnavne (1897-1924) says:

    108. Utne. Udt. ú`ttne. ― a Wtne DN. I 472, 1417 Audna
    i Hardanger DN. II 553 1438? [jfr. Ulvik GN. 65]. Vdim NRJ. III
    147. Wtnne 1567. Vtne (Parten Graff) NRJ. IV 471. Wtne 1614.
    Vttne 1667. Utne 1723.

    Er efter Formen Dat. Ent., af et ellers ukjendt Ord *Utn eller *Útn
    (m. eller n.) af uvis Betydning. S. B. har gjettet paa en opr. Form *Út-tún,
    d. e. Ud-Tunet, den ude i Fjorden (i Modsætning til Kinservik eller Ullens-
    vang) liggende Gaard (tún n., Indl. S. 82). Den stærke Sammendragning har
    maaske et Sidestykke i Ønavnet Kvolmen, se Manger GN. 27. ― Hvis Formen
    fra 1438 gjælder denne Gaard, synes den ikke at kunne være rigtig.

    My translation: “Judging by the form dat. sg. of an otherwise unknown word *Utn or *Útn (m. or n.) of uncertain meaning. S. B. has guessed at an original form *Út-tún, i.e. “the farmyard out in the fjord (seen from Kinsarvik or Ullensvang”. The heavy contraction may have a parallel in the island name Kvolmen — If the form from 1438 applies to this farm, it seems improbable that it’s correct.”

    If I should venture a guess myself (and I will whether I should or not), I’d say that *Utn/*Útn is formed from út “out” with the same -n suffix as e.g. Kvikne < kvikr “alive, lively”, Sjetne < seti “seat, throne” (of a plateau?), but unfortunately that suffix takes feminine gender. However, fjords are traditionally masculine, and I think the name may first have applied to the section of the fjord that today is called Utnefjorden. Seen from the inner fjords (Sørfjorden, *Nordfjorden) this fjord breaks through the mountains and leads out. The Utne farm got its name for being the first and largest settlement on its shores. So, er, “the outwards one”.

  16. I was hoping you’d weigh in on that!

  17. David Marjanović says

    Utne, which loosely translates as “far out”.

    Would be precisely cognate with außen “on the outside”… though the original meaning is “from outside”, which fits a settlement much less well.

  18. Trond Engen says

    ON útan “from outside; outside; without, except: unless”, Nyn. utan, Bm. uten, dial uta- in compound prepositions and adverbs. That’s where I started, but I didn’t like losing the -a- in this conservative dialect, and a bare preposition or positional/directional adverb as a toponym would be extremely unusual in Old Norse (or older). Still. I like “from outside” better than “outwards” as naming element, and suggesting an irregular loss of -a- may be no worse than my gender swap.

  19. PlasticPaddy says

    Finnish utuinen = utu “fog” + -inen “adjectival suffix”. Is Utne too far South (or West) for an old Kven placename?

  20. PlasticPaddy says

    Jårvik and Bekkjarvik are also South and West, but I cannot find a source saying the “jArvik” part could be from a Finnic word meaning lake…

  21. Trond Engen says

    Much too far south for Kven, too far west for Forest Finns.

    There are many Norwegian placenames ending in -arvik. They have nothing whatsoever to do with Finnish. They are compound names with a final element vik “bay” and a first element that may be less transparent. -(a)r is often the ancient masculine singular genitive. Bekkjarvik is easy, meaning creek’s bay < bekk “creek”. Jårvik is not. Rygh lists late medieval forms with r- and explains that loss of initial r before j was common in that region. So what’s *Rjå-? Rygh assumes < *réa (j-breaking), which could be an old river name *Ré, known from elsewhere as well.

  22. David Marjanović says

    Erik Jarvik with bonus Beowulf.

  23. Trond Engen says

    Erik Jarvik does indeed look like a Norwegian with a common first name and a toponymic surname. I could give a decent etymology of his surname without blinking. But there’s no such toponym at and no such surname at I guess it could be a newish respelling of Jårvik, but traditional *Jaarvik would be expected.

  24. Wikipedia says Jarvik is a Swede from Västergötland.

  25. Trond Engen says

    Ah. Toponymic surnames like that are much rarer in Sweden.

  26. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    “Visst har du norsk påbrå?”

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