Teacher Blogs

A Level Film

IB Film

Film Library

Codes & Conventions

Legacy Resources

Useful Materials

À Bout de Souffle (Breathless)

James Clarke | Thursday September 10, 2015

Categories: A Level, OCR A Level, Analysis, Film Analysis, Films & Case Studies, Directors, Jean-Luc Godard, World Cinema, Un Bout de Souffle, Genres & Case Studies, French New Wave

À Bout de Souffle (Breathless) (1960)

Jean-Luc Godard, the director of À Bout de Souffle, always sought to encourage the audience to rethink what film could be in terms of both subject matter and the treatment of that subject matter. Godard once commented that ‘To me style is just the outside of content and content the inside of style; like the outside and inside of the human body both go together, they cannot be separated.’ [5]. It’s surely one of the most useful definitions that we can hold in our minds when we are studying film.

click on image to enlarge

A key stylistic device of À Bout de Souffle is its use of jump cuts. The jump cuts are quite different to the usually transparent style of editing used in so much cinema. Godard wants us to notice that film is a construction. Furthermore this jump cut style breaks the conventions of the organization of movie narratives. Importantly, the film does not use artificial lighting to enhance its visual style.

The film plays with the illusion of time: we sometimes see the beginning and end of a piece of action but not the middle of it. There isn’t quite the clarity of communication we tend to expect of mass media. Godard, then, is playing with our expectation of continuity editing and the accepted sense of how a film will function and what the jump cuts do is represent the wayin which our own thoughts and feelings jump about from moment to moment. Of this challenge to the accepted norm, film scholar David Bordwell explains that art cinema (which the French New Wave could be classified as an example of) does very particular things, notably: ‘the art film’s thematic of [the human condition], its attempt to pronounce judgements on ‘modern life’ as a whole, proceeds from its formal needs: had the characters a goal, life would no longer seem so meaningless…’ [6]

The characters of À Bout de Souffle (Breathless) are contemporary young people who are steeped in American popular culture, its...


Please subscribe or log in to access the rest of this resource (including associated media).

This website offers a wealth of enriched content to help you help your students with GCSE & A Level Film. Please subscribe or log in to access this content.

The content of this site has been produced by teachers and examiners. Edusites have similar support sites for English and Media called Edusites English and Edusites Media.

If you would like more information about Edusites Film, get in touch using the contact details below.

Kind regards, Richard Gent
Edusites Ltd

[email] admin@edusites.co.uk
[telephone] 01604 847689
[fax] 01604 843220