Saturday, November 21, 2009

#422: A Man Escaped (1956)

(Original Title: Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut)
Director: Robert Bresson
Cast: François Leterrier, Charles Le Clainche, Maurice Beerblock & Jacques Ertaud

In April of 1943, French resistance member André Devigny was arrested by the German authorities and brought to prison in Lyon. In his cell, nothing but escape was on his mind. Using the bare furnishings inside his cell, he conceived a plan - but has to carry it out before August 28, the day set for his execution.

The film is designed for the viewer to be forced to endure just a glimpse of the patience and determination required to even stay sane while detained in such horrible conditions. We grow an understanding of how much we overlook the opportunity to treasure the smallest of things, taking full advantage of their uses. Much of the success of this film is thanks to the advice from the man himself, André Devigny, who gave many details of his travails to director Robert Bresson. The film gets even more credibility by having a majority of the piece filmed inside the actual prison, Fort Montluc.

The minimal use of music, script or even visual detail gives a sense of dread to this film, leading us to have just the slightest of ideas of the horrendous state of affairs in Occupied France.

You should most certainly watch this film, considered one of the classics of French cinema. Even Paul Dano agrees with me.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • Bresson insisted on complete authenticity. Original author Andre Devigny served as adviser on the film, which was actually shot in the same Montluc prison where he was incarcerated. Devigny also loaned Bresson the ropes and hooks he had used in his escape.
  • After seeing the film, Jean-Luc Godard said that Bresson was "to French cinema what Mozart is to German music and Dostoevsky is to Russian literature".
  • Robert Bresson himself had been a prisoner of war during WWII.
  • The first film of Bresson's where he used a completely non-professional cast.

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