Zéro de conduite

Jean Vigo, France, 1933


In this sequence the students of the school revolt against authority, represented by the form of caricatured adults, the staff of this wretched institution.

Everything happens as if the whirlwind of children in revolt affects the representation of the world itself, affecting both time and space. At the start of the scene, we see wide, swooping shots of the dormitory whose rigid geometry dominates the boarding school. Then, little by little, all points of reference are lost and the world becomes unstable and ambiguous – the children create a swirl of permanent movements. To bring the scene to a close Vigo chooses to slow the action right down, transforming the greying reality by way of an unreal, cottony world. Filming this little window into the world renders the children and feathers as if they were in an aquarium, suspended and trapped by gravity and perspective. The music follows this shift from reality and creates a universe apart from ours, a dreamlike space where the participants are playfully free from the laws and rules that regulate the repressive universe of the school. The revolt is a joyous game which contaminates the film itself and infects the spectator with its jubilant ways.