“The simplest tasks are by no means the easiest.”
A sickly young priest (Claude Laydu) in the French countryside struggles to bond with his suspicious parishioners.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Character Studies
- Downward Spiral
- French Films
- Priests and Ministers
- Robert Bresson Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “award-winning film” by writer/director Robert Bresson — based on a novel by Georges Bernanos — is “somber and slow” but sustains a “haunting, almost poetic quality” throughout. Peary argues that the film’s titular protagonist (effectively portrayed by non-actor Laydu, who went on to pursue a film career) is “a typical Bresson hero in that he is extremely introverted and incapable of social conversation; … feels isolated; … has grave self-doubts; and suffers terribly, … not only from guilt and spiritual malaise… but physically as well”. Yet “Bresson admires this individual because he somehow retains his faith through [a lengthy] period of terrible despair”. The storyline itself is sparse but oddly compelling, simply following Laydu as he attempts (usually in vain) to connect spiritually with his parishioners, meanwhile assuaging his increasingly crippling stomach pains with wine (leading those around him to unfairly suspect him of alcoholism — though he’s never overtly seen as “under the influence”). What lingers longest in one’s memory of this introspective film are its many “memorable images”, courtesy of both Bresson’s unique vision and Leonce-Henri Burel’s “exquisite” cinematography; see below for a few representative stills.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A powerful tale of spiritual longing
- Leonce-Henry Burel’s cinematography
Yes, as Bresson’s acknowledged “masterpiece”.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)