Sunday, October 25, 2015

Between Sorrow and the Shadow

"Au hasard Balthazar is the world in an hour and a half" -- Jean Luc Godard

Mouchette (1967) and Au hasard Balthazar (1966) are the two darkest, and most Catholic, great films ever made. In both works, innocents -- a girl and a donkey -- suffer their own Stations of the Cross -- beaten, raped, whipped, abandoned, slapped, burned -- and then die. Both works are anthologies of sadism, ending in moments of Transfiguration; one in a pond, the other on a hillside; both to pieces of sacred music. However, little is divine. We are faced with a hard, physical world of muddy fields and of things and of objects; and forces of control and imprisonment. Director Robert Bresson's double miracle turns a suffocating austerity into endless plenty; so oblique and concentrated are Mouchette and Balthazar, they become the walls of a collapsing hell. And then home.

Bresson was interviewed in late 1966, between the making of the two movies.