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Diary of a Country Priest (The Criterion Collection)

4.5 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A young priest arrives in the French country village of Ambricourt to attend to his first parish, but the apathetic and hostile rural congregation rejects him immediately. Through his diary entries, the suffering young man relays a crisis of faith that threatens to drive him away from the village and from God. The fourth film by Robert Bresson (Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne) finds the director beginning to implement his stylistic philosophy as a filmmaker, stripping away all inessential elements from his compositions, the dialogue and the music, and exacting a purity of image and sound. The DVD also features an audio commentary by film historian Peter Cowie, deleted scenes and the trailer.


Diary of a Country Priest is the first masterpiece by the great Robert Bresson, a towering and slow-working figure in French cinema. Starkly adapted from a successful novel by Georges Bernanos, the film locks in to the mind of a sickly, ineffective young priest trapped in an unfriendly rural area. Bresson charts the priest's collapse with a series of brief scenes, a minimalist style that makes the slightest touch of a hand or far-off sound of a dog barking seem magnified in importance. (This is a movie that must be watched and listened to--it is not a casual experience.) Bresson's luminous portrait of faith and worldly humiliations takes on the intensity of a saint's notebook. In the central role is Claude Laydu, one of Bresson's early experiments with non-actors; his sad, open face is often in close-up, lighting our way into a world of private salvation. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • New essay by film critic Frederic Bonnaud

Product Details

  • Actors: Claude Laydu, Nicole Ladmiral, Jean Riveyre, Adrien Borel, Rachel Bérendt
  • Directors: Robert Bresson
  • Writers: Robert Bresson, Georges Bernanos
  • Format: Black & White, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: February 3, 2004
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000127IF2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,231 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Diary of a Country Priest (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on August 24, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
I have not yet seen Bresson's earliest film The Ladies of the Bois de Boulogne. That film was based on a Denis Diderot novel and that is not surprising as the Bresson films I have seen all have a distinctive literary quality. Diary Of A Country Priest as well as A Man Esaped(based on a memoir) & Pickpocket(based on a Dostoyevsky story) are all stories narrated to us by the protaganist. Diary of A Country Priest may be the most literary of them all for this film focuses almost exclusively on the thought processes of the priest. He tells his own story as though it were a confession. Bresson was a devout Roman Catholic but you don't have to be religious to appreciate this film because the priest struggles not so much with his faith but with his place in society. The film is quiet and is centered in this priests lonely introspections. He struggles not with faith but with making contact with another human being. Strangely enough his beliefs make him an outcast even to the other priests as they are much more practical minded and see the church as providing a practical social function. The other priests may believe in God but they live in the world comfortably. The young priest though is not practical and his religious feelings make him unable to function on any practical level. He has faith and yet he makes many of the villagers uncomfrotable because he is not a friendly gregarious presence as some of the other preists are but a quiet solemn one. He is really incapable of living on the surface of life and so he is incapable of the friendly kind of chatter that wins friends so when he goes on his rounds from home to home his social awkwardness tends to make people feel a bit uncomfortable.Read more ›
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By A Customer on February 6, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Diary of a Country Priest, which made Bresson a name in French cinema, is one of the most perplexing films I've ever seen, despite being one of his earliest. Here he begins developing the minimalistic style that would mature throughout the rest of his unprolific career. The editing is furious and bizarre, unlike anything in any other film. Long, forboding shots of natural settings are closed in by barrages of short, clausterphobic indoor shots. Scenes often begin in the middle, or even after the important dramatic events. What I noticed most of all is that sound often preceeds the image -- and many time the screen is black for several seconds, leaving the viewer to absorb and reflect solely on the audio before the visuals kick in. And, oddly enough, reading of the diary is accompanied by the actual shot of the priest writing, defying the cinematic "rule" that sound isn't needed. Bresson makes full use of all cinematic effects, and listening to this film is as important as watching it.
The film is adapted from the French conservative Catholic novelist Bernanos's book of the same title. It is faithful to some degree, but with small, very important departures. A young, sickly priest arrives in a miserable French village and is immediately outcasted by the townspeople. Living off of hard bread and sugared wine (one of many almost too-obvious religious symbols), he desperately tries to make a spiritual difference in the town. The more he tries, however, the more suspicion and scandal is heaped on him by the townspeople, especially the local count, who entertains a mistress while his wife and daughter fall into a bottomless pit of morbidity and hatred. His spiritual failures are echoed by his physical weakness, and at last his constitution gives out.
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Format: DVD
Bresson's screen adaptation of Bernanos' novel brilliantly plumbs the depths of one soul's quest for redemption. This film is a stirring masterpiece to be viewed time and again even by those to whom the overt religiosity may seem somewhat daunting. As the doomed country priest persecuted to martyrdom by virtually everyone around him, Claude Laydu turns in a remarkably nuanced performance. But it is Bresson's humanism which suffuses the work with its unique ardor and beauty. Needless to say a film of this depth of feeling could never be produced in today's rampantly commercial celluloid world! Forever Diary of a Country Priest will stand as a testament to the amazing creative genius of the peerless French director Robert Bresson.
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By A Customer on November 1, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
Andrei Tarkovsky said once in an interview that among all the directors who made films of a spiritual nature,(among them Mizoguchi,Bergman, and Kurosawa) Bresson was the most lauded example. This was enough to send me in a frantic hurry to see every one of Bresson's movies. Pickpocket, A Man Escaped, and The Devil Probably were the ones which stood out for me the most, but it was The Diary of a Country Priest,which I saw lastly, that best represented his cinematic vision.(for me) There is almost always a character in his films that takes primacy throughout: Tarkovsky was right in seeing the internal strife of the individual in all of his films, and it is this quality in Diary which creates an absence in the film to which we are given only a glimpse through intricate gestures of the face and by the subtlety of the narrative. The man who played the priest was tremendous not because of any acting, but because of his sheer presence, which was simultaneously an absence. The journal entries are beautifully written and concurrently portray the life of a priest and how any sense of such a Life's selfhood is dispersed into the characters and settings of his periphery. I think this is important because otherwise the film would completely flounder under the weight of an enigma, and the viewer would be completely denied access to such a rich character. It is through his relationship with other members of the parish that we get to know this priest,(not completely I might add) and not simply by the actor who played the role. I really feel that this movie is as a whole the best of Bresson.
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