Having only seen Breathless and Pierrot Le Fou so far, Jean-Luc Godard’s Hail Mary was a departure. The film is somewhat infamous for its sacreligious content, re-depicting the pre-Nativity story from the perspective of a modern-day virgin Mary. Pope John Paul II famously said something like, “The film deeply offends the religious sentiments of believers.” It seemed to me fairer to say that it probably offends the religious sentimentality of some Roman Catholics. Many “believers” have no problem thinking of the biblical Mary in very human terms, as Godard depicted her. Certainly the film’s prologue implicitly denies the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary, as her parents split up and she visits her father on weekends. Godard said earlier in his career that if he ever did a film about the life of Christ, he would film the parts that the Gospel narratives never recorded; the more mundane aspects of Jesus’ existence. He essentially did this with Mary, omitting the actual birth scene.
The film has some beautiful shots and a good use of darkness to illustrate Mary’s solitude and confusion. Following the birth, there seems to be more light, but perhaps this is incidental. Notes: Mary drawn to apples and eggs, particularly slicing/breaking them. Discusses triangles to some length with her father, and triangular images appear later in the film – trinitarian imagery? Chopin & Mahler music dominates first half of film, Bach & Dvorak second half. Repetition of “At that time” – biblical language. Fascinating contrast of Mary with other female student – one pure, the other not. Differentiation of body/soul discussions – teacher is theoretical and hypocritical, Mary is experiential and sincere. Lots of rippling water – waves appear toward film’s end along with birth. Uncle Gabriel the divine messenger with an edge. Chastity: “To know every possibility without straying.” Lots of nature imagery. “I am a soul imprisoned by a body.”