Stylistic coherence of Bresson’s moralist opus
Bresson graduated with degrees in literature and philosophy and worked as a painter and photographer: at the beginning of WW II he spent 18 months as a war prisoner. He is a famous film author with a unique carefully cultivated style and many critics regard him as the moralist of world film whose work tends to the transcendental.
In his films he relies on literature, the highly speculative and on religion; he is devoted to ascetic and “bare” scenes that he fills with surprising, deeply lonely and above all anxious heroes who, in attempting to escape their suffering, wish to attain God’s grace and forgiveness of their sins through religion.
In powerful works from his earlier phase (Les agnes du péché, Les Dames du bois de Boulogne, Journal d'un curé de campagne, Un condamné a mort s'est échappé, Pickpocket, Proces de Jeanne d'Arc), striving to depict universal themes, he side-steps concrete social contexts in favor of a discourse that borders on nakedly simple symbolism. Almost fanatically consistent with his pure style, Bresson steadily avoids “richer” narration, more elaborate dialogues, more imaginative plots and parallel story lines. Attached to restraint and measure, he strives rigorously to restrain so-called expressive acting; in his work with actors he reaches for the ideal of “acting without psychologizing” and started working with amateur actors early on, some of whom later became very popular professional film actors. This “Jansen-ist of French film” (André Bazin), whose opus (“of abstract spirituality”), according to experts, is equally as good as the opuses of international film masters, builds his work as attempts at transcending the physical reality he explores; besides all else, through a carefully elaborated fragmentation of scenes (predominantly using close ups) he establishes a basis for a methodically executed and unique film signature that is, in many respects, international in proportion. Among many (in general innovative) characteristics of his style it is necessary to point out his “arrogant” equivocation of dogma about the untouchable and dominant image on film: on many occasions he subjected the image to sound!
His emphasized coherence in his choice of themes, world view and style was somewhat tarnished in the 1960s and later on (Au hasard Balthazar, Mouchette, Une femme douce, Le Diable Probablement, Lancelot du Lac, L'Argent, Quatre nuits d'un ręveur) by a more direct immersion into human intimacy - into the one who, because he suffers from the harshness of the world - often becomes self-destructive.
Even though the complex system of stylization upon which Bresson’s work rests is of interest to true film lovers, it would be unjust not to point out that his opus can be viewed as an impressive testimony about social crises in France after WW II. (Petar Krelja)