In this modern retelling of the Virgin birth, Mary is a student who plays basketball and works at her father’s petrol station; Joseph is an earnest dropout who drives a cab. The angel Gabriel must school Joseph to accept Mary’s pregnancy, while Mary comes to terms with God’s plan through meditations that are sometimes angry and usually punctuated by elemental images of the sun, moon, clouds, flowers, and water. Godard intercuts a brief parallel story of Eva and her nameless lover; their adulterous affair, rife with philosophical discussions, leads nowhere.
Hail Mary (French: Je vous salue, Marie) is a 1985 French film written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard. The film is a modern retelling of the story of a virgin birth. It was entered into the 35th Berlin International Film Festival. All screenings of the film in its initial theatrical distribution were accompanied by the short film The Book of Mary (French: Le livre de Marie) by Godard’s longtime companion and collaborator Anne-Marie Miéville.
About the Story
Marie, a student, works at her father’s Swiss gas station and plays basketball for a local team; she claims to be a virgin and maintains a chaste relationship with her boyfriend Joseph, a taxi cab driver and college dropout. Joseph remains loyal to Marie even though she will not sleep with him, and another girl, Juliette, entreats him to be with her.
When a passing stranger named Uncle Gabriel (who arrives by jet plane and is accompanied by a small girl who acts as his secretary) informs Marie that she will become pregnant despite remaining chaste, she is at first shocked and confused. For his part, Joseph cannot believe that Marie can be pregnant and a virgin, so he accuses her of sleeping around. Gabriel aggressively schools Joseph to accept Marie’s pregnancy, while Marie comes to terms with God’s plan through meditations that are sometimes angry and usually punctuated by elemental images of the sun, moon, clouds, flowers, and water.
In a parallel narrative, Eva, a college student, gets involved with her professor, who theorizes that life on earth arose from a guided extraterrestrial intelligence. Unlike Marie, who does not allow Joseph to touch her sexually, Eva has an affair with her professor, who ultimately leaves her to go back east to his family, leaving her distraught.
With Gabriel’s help, Marie teaches Joseph to “touch” her without touching her. Joseph pledges to act as Marie’s shadow, to which she responds, “But isn’t that what all men are, the shadow of God?” Alone, Marie wrestles with and then gives herself over to the divine process of her pregnancy. Joseph and Marie are wed and she gives birth to a son. Together they raise the boy, who eventually leaves his family to pursue “his father’s business.” In the end, Marie explores her sexuality, seeking to link her body and spirit.
Hail Mary – Je Vous Salue, Marie (1985)
Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Myriem Roussel, Thierry Rode, Juliette Binoche, Philippe Lacoste, Manon Andersen, Malachi Jara Kohan, Johan Leysen
Screenplay by: Jean-Luc Godard
Production Management: Philippe Malignon, François Pellissier
Cinematography by: Jacques Firmann, Jean-Bernard Menoud
Film Editing by: Anne-Marie Miéville
Music: Johann Sebastian Bach
Distributed by: Sara Films
Release Date: January 23, 1985