Nouvelle Vague

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Nouvelle Vague ( French for new wave ) is a style of French cinema that ran in two phases. The first, less noticed, began in 1918 and was largely shaped by Marcel L'Herbier . The Nouvelle Vague found its continuation in its more important phase in the late 1950s .

The beginnings

After the First World War, a rather inhomogeneous avant-garde scene formed in the silent film era, the most famous representatives of which were Abel Gance , René Clair and Jean Cocteau . The development was permanently interrupted by the Second World War. At the end of the 1950s, a movement emerged in France among young cineastes and the pioneers of the first wave, which turned against the entrenched visual language and the predictable narrative flow of established commercial cinema. They took up the ideas and conceptions of the representatives of this first wave. Well-known directors of the Nouvelle Vague were previously authors of the Cahiers du cinéma . In their articles, they opposed the fledgling and predictability of French quality cinema ( cinéma de qualité ) and primarily propagated films by directors such as Alfred Hitchcock , Jean Renoir and Roberto Rossellini .

In 1954 François Truffaut published the article A certain tendency in French film ( Une certaine tendance du cinéma français ). This text is considered to be the first theoretical basis of the Nouvelle Vague and is primarily directed against those scriptwriters who adapt novel templates without being inspired by the cinema themselves. The demand: “Men of the cinema” should do the cinema and not allow writers to dictate what can and cannot be filmed.


The founder of the Nouvelle Vague , François Truffaut, emphasized that his friend Jacques Rivette initiated the Nouvelle Vague with “Paris nous appartient” (“Paris is ours”). But it was Truffaut himself when he kissed with you and they beat him ("Les quatre cents coups") made his debut as a director in 1959. A year earlier he was excluded as a film critic in Cannes because of his criticism, but with his debut he won the prize for best director. The 13-year-old hero Antoine Doinel , played by Jean-Pierre Léaud , was Truffaut's alter ego. A year later, his then friend and colleague Jean-Luc Godard, based on a script by Truffaut, shot his debut out of breath (“Á bout de souffle”) (“Out of breath”) and thus the Nouvelle Vague was established.

Over time, Godard became more experimental against visual habits, incorporated written slogans, with Truffaut the experiments remained visual and narrative. What they have in common is the commitment of Jean-Pierre Léaud, who also played for Godard (including Masculin - Feminine or: The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola , Made in USA , The Chinese Woman , The Happy Science ) Truffaut was nimble in the narrative, which is characterized above all by its previously unattainable lightness despite the often difficult topics. While Claude Chabrol had specialized in crime films and the dissection of the bourgeoisie and Godard in political agitprop, Truffaut's genre diversity remained remarkable: his youth drama was followed by an experimental gangster film ( Shoot the Pianist ), and two opposing triangular stories ( Jules and Jim , The Sweet Skin ) and a science fiction film ( Fahrenheit 451 ), Truffaut shot the poetic love comedy Robbery Kisses , in which his alter ego Antoine Doinel chooses his childhood sweetheart Christine Darbon, played by Claude Jade . Truffaut continues to accompany the couple Antoine and Christine with the films Tisch und Bett und Liebe auf der Flucht , a transition from experiment to romantic narrator, which also remains visually and narrative experimental in these works, which combine film art and entertainment.

In addition to the films by Truffaut and Godard, the works of Alain Resnais ( Hiroshima, mon amour ), Claude Chabrol ( Scream, if you can ) and Louis Malle ( The Irrlicht ) are among the outstanding films of the Nouvelle Vague.

Authors' policy

Based on the writings of Alexandre Astrucs and under the direction of André Bazin , the editor-in-chief and one of the founders of the Cahiers, they developed the politics of the authors ( politique des auteurs ). This policy required the director to participate in every step of the film production in order to be able to develop his own personal style. With this characteristic signature of the director, the films should become more personal and individual and step out of the shadowy existence of literature. It is not the individual film made by a director that is evaluated, but rather his entire work. What counts is the relationship between an author and his film, which is expressed in the way it is implemented. He differs from the director ( réalisateur ), who always only implement the story prescribed by the scriptwriter. Author ( auteur ) is therefore who Observed again creates ( récréer ). In this respect, he can put his personal stamp on a foreign material by processing and transcending it. The politics of the authors should not be confused with the auteur film in Germany. A translation with the author's theory is also wrong, since it suppresses the demands on the directors associated with it.

Michel Marie sees the Nouvelle Vague as an art school ( école artistique ). In this sense, the authors' politics can be understood as an aesthetic program, according to which the author inscribes his worldview ( vision du monde ) on the film. The solid corpus of debut films that relate to a common program and are perceived as Nouvelle Vague also speaks in favor of speaking of a school. A firm group context is promoted by the journalistic support of the film magazines ( Cahiers du cinéma ) and above all - Michel Marie emphasizes this expressly - there are common enemies: the authors of the Rive Gauche , gathered around the much more politicized film magazine Positif .

The initiators and precursors of the Nouvelle Vague can be found in Italian neorealism , in documentaries by directors such as Jean Rouch and in American B-movies .


The development of new, lighter cameras and more light-sensitive film material made it possible for filmmakers for the first time to shoot without artificial light and to work with handheld cameras outside of the film studios . The photography of the cameraman Raoul Coutard was formative for the visual aesthetics . The directors mainly hired young, unknown actors and less the established film stars. Music played an important role in the films, as were new film techniques and unusual narrative styles. The essay film was created .

The heyday of the Nouvelle Vague lasted until the mid- 1960s . The effects and storytelling techniques developed are still used today, including in commercial films and advertising.

Important directors


Rive Gauche and Extended Circle

Famous actors


Major films

See also


  • Simon Frisch: Myth Nouvelle Vague. How cinema was reinvented in France. Schüren, Marburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-89472-534-1 (dissertation at the University of Hildesheim, 2005).
  • Frieda Grafe : Only the cinema - 40 years with the Nouvelle Vague (= selected writings in individual volumes. Volume 3). Brinkmann & Bose, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-922660-82-7 ; in this:
    • P. 106–116: Twenty years later - What the Nouvelle Vague was - after a series in the Munich Film Museum . First published in: Süddeutsche Zeitung from 17./18. January 1981.
    • Pp. 168–173: When the cock crows - The Nouvelle Vague in 2000 .
  • Norbert Grob u. a. (Ed.): Nouvelle Vague (= Genres & Stile 1). Bender, Mainz 2006, ISBN 3-936497-12-5 .
  • Michel Marie : La Nouvelle Vague. Une École Artistique (= Collection 128. 180 cinéma ). Armand Colin, Paris 2005, ISBN 2-200-34168-7 .
  • James Monaco : The New Wave. Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rohmer, Rivette. 30th anniversary edition. Harbor Electronic Publishing, New York et al. a. 2004, ISBN 0-9707039-5-3 .
  • Emilie Bickerton: A Brief History of the Cahiers du cinéma. diaphanes, Zurich 2010, ISBN 978-3-03734-126-1 .
  • Scarlett Winter and Susanne Schlüter (eds.): Body, Aesthetics, Play: To the cinematic écriture of the Nouvelle Vague . Fink, Munich 2004.

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