Holy long title, Batman. Now, with that out of the way…
Robert Bresson is a unique director, and one that I am becoming quite highly regarding of; he is considered one of the masters of cinematographic minimalism, and nowhere is this more apparent than in A Man Escaped, his tale of, well, of a man imprisoned in a jail who sets out to escape. There’s really nothing more to the plot than that, but Bresson is more skilled than that might seem at first; he cuts his films down to their threads, leaving nothing there but a bare-bones narrative, and an experience unlike much of what else is out there.
The story is mostly told through a oddly succinct voiceover from the main character, Fontaine, which allows us to follow his thoughts and plannings as they happen; the film follows him precisely as is when he is captured, put in a cell, and all the way through his plans for escape. Bresson is most notable to me for his cinematography; so starkly black and white that the whole frame seems to blend into one barely-comprehensible smattering of gray. Bresson is truly one of the most minimalist directors I’ve encountered from the list. He takes great care to utilize only the essentials of what he needs to tell the story, whether that be minimal sound effects and music, or even minimal action that’s taking place. Mozart is used as the score, to give the film an extra bit of operatic quality, but only in precisely the moments Bresson wishes to have it. Everything about this film just screams precision, from the narrative of Fontaine’s escape itself to the way the film carries out its vision.
I liked this a great deal, but I found myself unable to really put a finger on to why. Maybe it was just because the film had no frills or shiny baubles like exquisite cinematography or great editing or production value; everything was as thrifty as possible, and it made for a very lean and enjoyable film, much like eating a hare or some other gamey animal with just enough meat to sustain you. This also means, however, that many will likely walk away from this unsatisfied, and they may be bored to tears watching it thanks to the minimal sound design and muted color palette (even for black-and-white). To these people, I can say that I understand such a viewpoint, even if I don’t share it. I’ll likely be walking on eggshells when it comes to my next Robert Bresson film, since the three I’ve seen so far have been remarkably similar experiences, so he may not have a whole lot of stuff to offer me. Still, like I said, I did like this one at least, so there may be hope yet.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10