Sunday, 24 December 2017

Contempt (1963): Socionics Analysis of a Case Study of Conflict and Duality

Contempt (Le Mépris) is a 1963 French film directed and written by Jean-Luc Godard (IEI), the most "conventional" and most expensive of his films, with the script following closely the general plot of the novel Il disprezzo by Alberto Moravia. Godard was reportedly unhappy with the whole experience of making a conventional movie with his freedom limited by the producers; he also thought little of the novel. Be that as it may (or maybe because of it), I have found that the insights of the film and the points it seems to make, although not immediately explicit and often confusing for audiences, are made clear by socionics analysis.

The basic story is simple (spoilers follow): the French couple Paul and Camille Javal (played by Michel Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot) live in Rome.  Paul, whose goal is to establish himself as a serious playwright, still needs to make a living by writing crime novels and as a screenwriter-for-hire for the Italian film industry, having written a script for the commercially successful "Toto against Hercules". That leads to an invitation by Hollywood producer Jeremy Prokosch (played by Jack Palance) for Paul to re-write the script of the film he is currently shooting in Italy, a version of the Odyssey, directed by the master of German expressionism, Fritz Lang (played by Lang himself). Prokosch fears that Lang is making it too "artsy" and not commercial enough. Paul accepts the job, with Lang not objecting, because his fees will allow him to pay off the apartment in Rome where he and Camille live. Several encounters between Paul, Camille, Lang and Prokosch (and his assistant/interpreter, Francesca) take place in Rome and finally in Capri, where the Odyssey is being shot. The relationship between Camille and Paul is shown as very loving at first, but gradually cooling off each time they encounter the other characters, culminating in Camille clearly telling Paul in Capri that she no longer loves him; on the contrary, now she only feels contempt for him, and it is suggested that she may be starting a relationship with Prokosch.

The script itself does not make it easy for the audiences to understand exactly why Camille's feelings towards Paul shifted from love to contempt in just a couple of days. A large part of the dialogue is of the increasingly exasperated Paul asking her precisely that, with Camille initially either denying it or giving vague answers, until making it brutally clear in the final sequences in Capri that she indeed now detested him but refusing to explain why: that I will never tell you, until I die. Brief lines of dialogue suggest that Paul does suspect her true reasons and they are hinted at throughout the film, but still not in a very explicit way or explaining precisely why Camille's attitude towards her husband would change so drastically.

A fully consistent explanation is given by looking at the socionics types of the characters. Camille is a very clear and consistent IEI (which is Godard's own type and perhaps also Bardot's); Jeremy Prokosch is an equally clear and consistent SLE, although one whose need to brag about himself points to a clumsy use of E6 not unlike Donald Trump's (also a SLE). Paul is less consistently portrayed but he can be typed as a LSE.  That is, Camille and Paul's relationship was one of LSE-IEI Conflict, and the inherent issues with that relationship were brought to the surface in the presence of Camille's Dual, the SLE Prokosch.

Camille and Paul, although married, did not really understand each other's motivations. Paul was utterly captivated by Camille's beauty and her apparently solid love for him, which he assumed was a "fixed" thing: that is a manifestation of R5, a difficulty with understanding the status of others' relationships to oneself and how stable they are. From her side, Camille admired in Paul what she saw as his artistic integrity and independence, as well as his efforts to provide for her and thus protect her - appreciation of apparent L in others as well as a sign of her F5, the appreciation of others using assertiveness and power on her behalf.

That started to collapse with the entrance of Jeremy Prokosch. First, Paul decided to "sell out" to a vulgar Hollywood producer for the sake of the money he would have to finish paying off their apartment - a "mercenary" P motivation which however may be seen as corrupt by an IEI putting idealistic integrity (higher focus on L) first. Second, Paul, a LSE with very strong but devalued F8, clearly was not intimidated or impressed by Prokosch's overbearing use of F1, essentially not taking him seriously. That however caused precisely the wrong impression on Camille when, on two occasions, Prokosch (not very appropriately) offered Camille rides on his car and later boat, without her husband, with Paul not objecting and even encouraging her to accept, despite her expecting him to object and so "protect" her. But Paul was not taking Prokosch seriously as far as a threat to his relationship with his wife was concerned, due to his dismissive attitude to Prokosch's F and his obliviousness to risks to his R status with Camille - probably also aggravated by LSEs's difficulties in perceiving trends due to their T4. Also, from a practical P perspective, Paul saw no reason to object to her accepting rides from Prokosch.

From a F perspective though - the one that would be natural for the SLE-IEI Dual pair of Camille and Prokosch - what was going on was a high F man making clear his dominance of those around him, extending that to another man's wife. Paul's reaction was perceived not as obliviousness or not taking it seriously, but as submission to Prokosch's F, even to the point of letting his wife exposed to it as well. Paul's "corruption of his artistic integrity" - giving priority to P concerns over L principles - was not enough to make Camille despise him; but his apparent refusal to exercise F on her behalf was too much for her F5. He failed to show precisely what she most expected from him. Hence, her attitude to him became one of contempt. If Paul had used his F to "mark his territory" and said he would take a taxi with Camille, the first time, Prokosch might have taken the hint and Paul might have saved his marriage - at least for a time. As it was, the obvious manifestation of his R5 - his insistent asking of Camille for an explanation as to why she now despised him - would be as puzzling and irritating to her own R8 as her own desire for F had been to him.

There is a good-quality full version of Contempt on YouTube here - unfortunately not with English subtitles. The trailer of the 2016 restoration and re-release, with subtitles in English, is here.


  1. Thanks Peter for talking about case study of Socionics Analysis. I have read this post very carefully. I see that you talk about French couple. I visit the website for second time. I am waiting for next post.

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  6. This movie has a couple of socionics “Easter eggs”. The character of Francesca (Giorgia Moll), Prokosch’s PA, although a minor role, is portrayed as a clear Delta, EII in particular.

    Interesting, it is hinted that she might be a better match for the LSE Paul than Camille. Francesca also finds it hard to work for Prokosch. But that subplot is not really taken anywhere, although it could easily have been, from the point where the movie ends.

    Another is the “character” of Fritz Lang, who is playing himself but following the script. The “character” Fritz Lang gets along easily with Paul and Francesca, and his artistic integrity gains Camille’s respect. He interacts via I (Ne) with the LSE Paul, and provides P information to the EII Francesca. The SLE Prokosch can’t really stand him but can’t bully him because he’s Fritz Lang. Lang, in turn, has a sort of amused contempt for Prokosch but does not fight Prokosch’s F, he’s sort of oblivious to it. The type that fits Fritz Lang (as portrayed in the film) is LII. That is not necessarily the type of Fritz Lang the real person.