Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Alphaville (1965)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Alphaville (1965, Fr./It.) (aka Alphaville, Une Etrange Aventure De Lemmy Caution)

In French New Wave director Jean Luc-Godard's post-apocalyptic, science-fiction film (with gangster and expressionistic film noir characteristics) - a recreation of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, and also George Orwell's novel 1984, with themes of dehumanization, political and totalitarian repression and artificial intelligence, and a precursor to Logan's Run (1976) and Blade Runner (1982):

  • the plot: American, chisel-faced trench-coated gumshoe detective and secret agent Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) traveled inter-galactically from the Outlands (in his white Ford Galaxie - actually a Ford Mustang) to the automated city of Alphaville - the capital of a dystopic, totalitarian state on the futuristic inter-galactic planet; Caution posed as journalist Ivan Johnson from the Figaro-Pravda newspaper
  • the sign on the suburban outskirts of Alphaville as Caution drove in: "Silence. Logic. Security. Prudence"
  • Alphaville was led by an almost-human supercomputer called Alpha-60 (with a synthetic droning voice provided by director Godard with a dry, slow, gutteral or raspy sound); it was described as such by fellow Agent X21 Henry Dickson (Akim Tamirof) under a bare light bulb: "A giant computer, like they used to have in big business...Alpha-60 is one hundred and fifty light years more powerful"; the computer had a devastating effect on the dehumanized, tattoo-identified inhabitants - they were completely complacent and apathetic, due to mind-altering drugs and the outlawing of emotions, love, crying, and conscience; "Their ideal here, in Alphaville is a technocracy, like that of termites and ants...Probably one hundred and fifty light years ago... two hundred. There were artists in the ant society. Artists, novelists, musicians, painters. Today, no more"
  • Lemmy Caution's mission: to bring back and/or assassinate evil scientist Professor Von Braun (Howard Vernon) (aka Leonard Nosferatu) who was responsible for creating the fascist Alpha-60 computer that ruled the state-run technocracy
  • the often-flashing image of two equations: E = mc² and E = hf - symbols of the absolute science that served as the foundation of Alphaville, and the ever-recurring circular imagery (i.e., the staircase, Caution's hotel suite, the city of Paris itself, and Alpha-60's own quote: "Time is like a circle which turns endlessly")
  • the absurdist execution sequence - a capital punishment ceremony (designed as a sporting event) to eliminate condemned individuals because "they behaved illogically"; for the crime of expressing grief ("He wept when his wife died"), a male prisoner was executed when shot on a diving board above a large pool; afterwards, four predatory female models with knives jumped in or swam toward the body to stab it, while some performed synchronized-swimming acrobatics
The Interrogation Sequence
  • the interview sequence, when newcomer Lemmy was interrogated by Alpha-60, with rotating microphones around his head (and views of a blinking light and a rotating fan behind a metal grating); during the harsh questioning when the computer heard Lemmy respond: "In my opinion, in love there is no mystery," it accused him of lying: "You are not telling the truth...You are hiding certain things, but I do not know yet what they are"
  • the lethal female seductress (prostitute) characters, one of whom (Valérie Boisgel) introduced herself as: "I'm a seductress, third class"; when he looked behind her hair on her neck, he discovered a tattoo marking
  • the confrontation between Lemmy and the Alpha-60 computer, when he asked it to find the answer to his riddle: "Something which never changes, day or night. The past represents its future, it advances in a straight line, yet it ends by coming full circle" - the computer answered: "Several of my circuits... ...are looking for the solution to your riddle. I will find it"; Caution then responded: "If you find it, you will destroy yourself simultaneously, because you will become my kin, my brother"; he was able to destroy the computer with his poetic question
  • the use of reverse negatives in the climax of the film (symbolizing the life-changing transformation or reversal from the oppressive conditions of Alphaville)
  • the sequence of the escape of Caution and lover Natacha Von Braun (Anna Karina) from Alphaville; in the ending sequence, Lemmy and Natacha drove away to escape to freedom from Alphaville: (Lemmy's voice-over) "Not all the inhabitants died, but all were stricken. Those not asphyxiated by the absence of light circled crazily, like ants. It was 23:15, Oceanic Time when Natacha and I left Alphaville by the peripheral roads. A night drive across inter-sidereal space, and we'd be home"; he cautioned her to not look or go back (similar to the Biblical story of Lot and his wife); and he suggested that the inhabitants of Alphaville might recover and eventually "be happy"

  • Escape From Alphaville - The Film's Ending Words: "I love you"

  • Natacha's pleadings: "You're looking at me with an odd face...You're waiting for me to say something...I don't know what to say. They're words I don't know. I wasn't taught them. Help me"; he responded that she must find the words on her own: "Impossible, Princess. You must get there yourself. Then you'll be saved. If you don't, you're as lost as the dead of Alphaville"
  • the film closed with Natacha's halting, unfamiliar three saving words expressed to Lemmy: "I... you... love. I love you" - and a smile came over her face

Alphaville Sign

Lemmy Caution as Journalist Ivan Johnson

Description of Technocracy

Two Equations

Circular Imagery

Execution Sequence at Swimming Pool

Metal Grating

Blinking Light

Seductress - Marked with Tattoo On Back of Neck

Use of Reverse Negatives


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