A Man Escaped
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You might say of this film -- though Bressonian purists might hate me for saying this -- that Bresson uses his anti-Hollywood style to outdo Hollywood style. What I mean is: Bresson is known for revealing only what is absolutely essential, a gesture, an item, two hands engaged in an activity, feet walking. This has the effect of encouraging the viewer to pay attention, but also, because it forces no specific interpretation upon these items, encouraging the viewer to participate in the unfolding of events, and become more than merely a spectator. Hollywood style tends also to eliminate much of what is inessential, but to a much different end: to eliminate moments where the viewer might be distracted and think about something other than the film; the aim is to replace thought with the action on the screen, rather than to stimulate thought. In the case of this film, however, where the subject matter is a prison breakout (standard Hollywood fare) the minimalist style employed by Bresson is able to achieve both a high degree of tension, and a high level of involvement. From the moment the prisoner is in the prison, nothing is shown except what is relevant to the single-minded focus of the prisoner: to escape. In that sense, it is not at the end that the man escapes (as already announced in the title of the film), but from the very beginning he is escaped in the sense that he never accepts the status of imprisonment. The film is able to show this without ever having him discuss the matter with anyone. Remarkable.
I've never seen a film that truly kept me so involved and on the edge of my chair. Bresson lets this story tell itself from the beginning as you watch the main character's hands and feel his hesitation and his desperation. A man so fully human and yet touched and guided by an amazing grace that takes him step by step and leaves him free in the truest sense of the word.
It seems strange to me that Robert Bresson referred to himself as a "Christian atheist", because God is very much present in this film. A
Man Escaped is based on the true story of André Devigny, a member of the French Resistance who managed to break out of prison just
hours before he was to be executed by the Germans. The movie begins with the prisoner, here called Fontaine, being driven to jail. The
men beside him are cuffed, but he is not. He tries to get away when the car stops but is recaptured and beaten about the head.
In prison, Fontaine nearly succumbs to despair, fearful that his fellow Resistance fighters will be rounded up too, but then a stranger
intervenes, a prisoner exercising in the courtyard who promises to get a note to them. Relieved of this concern, Fontaine once again sets
his mind to escape. While other men remain bound either physically or mentally, Fontaine develops a detailed plan of escape and
arduously sets about implementing it.
Bresson presents Fontaine's machinations in painstaking detail. He also confines most of the film to Fontaine's cell, so the viewer too
feels like a captive. Seemingly forgotten by the Germans, Fontaine delays his escape attempt. He believes that two people will be
required to make the attempt work, but is unable to convince anyone else to join him. He is himself afraid to take the leap of faith that it
requires, seemingly waiting for a sign that he should go ahead. The sign comes quite suddenly in the form of his death sentence, his
crimes not forgotten after all.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The most gripping slow-moving movie that you'll ever see, this is Bresson at his very finest.Published 16 days ago by Kubelsky
Simply put - a masterpiece of subtle suspense. Simple, to the point, and a superbly executed story. Metaphors galore.Published 1 month ago by Corso
A prison escape film that is pure Bresson. Spare, deliberately paced, avoiding all the usual tricks of the cinema to heighten suspense (music, flashy editing), yet it feels so... Read morePublished 3 months ago by K. Gordon
I have bought the film because Andrei Tarkovsky included Bresson in the list of his favorite directors. I am trying to find and buy the films from his list. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Olga Zakharova
Great, classic drama by a master. This is not Amazons fault, but it's terrible to charge for a film like this without at LEAST a 16 x 9 aspect ratio. Read morePublished 16 months ago by redragon
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