Robert Bresson’s second Georges Bernanos adaptation, beginning a long engagement with the question of suicide, tells the story of a neglected and impoverished girl hemmed in on all sides by her brutal provincial milieu.
“Het gewoonste woord, op de juiste plaats, krijgt plotseling glans. Met deze glans moeten je beelden stralen.
Niet ontroeren door ontroerende beelden, maar door onderlinge verbanden tussen beelden die ze tegelijk levend en ontroerend maken.
Laat je voorwerpen de indruk wekken dat ze graag aanwezig zijn.”
“In a sense Mouchette’s precursor is Balthazar, for whom life is also a series of mistreatments that must be borne and whose complaints barely register on anyone. The imagery that pervades the film and the novella, in which she is described as “half-animal’, suggests as much. Like the birds and rabbits hunted and ensnared in the woods on the edge of the village, Mouchette is prey to the cruelty of the townspeople, and like Balthazar is subject to the use and abuse of nearly everyone she encounters. As Balthazar ambles from one owner to another, Mouchette walks through her village, circumscribing its physical and moral smallness. In her ill-fitting clogs, the noise she makes on roads and wooden floors – “like a pair of castanets,” says Bernanos – announces her presence along with her poverty, inviting the disdain that her very name, “Little Fly,” provokes. Her walk describes the crisscrossing of paths, typical of a provincial village, at once au hazard and unavoidable – casual passings that prove to be anything but.”
“As Jean-Luc Godard noted, Au hazard Balthazar asks us to consider Marie and Balthazar as twinned beings; what happens to one is what happens to the other. Mouchette, more simply, appears as animal. As if to emphasize the relatedness of these two films, Bresson – in the only exception he would make to his own rule of production – cast the same model in both films. Jean-Claude Guilbert plays both Arnold in Au hazard Balthazar and Arsène in Mouchette. It is difficult to distinguish Arnold from Arsène, related as they are by a will to drink and disrupt, not to mention the fact that both roles are performed by the same model. This rare rupture in the Bressonian system asks us to see these films as related, as sharing a category – or, perhaps, a species.”
Trois jours, leur dit Colomb,
En montrant le ciel immense,
Le fond de l’horizon.
Trois jours et je vous donne un monde
Vous qui n’avez plus d’espoir,
Sur l’immensité profonde
Ses yeux s’ouvraient pour le voir.”
- 1Robert Bresson: Aantekeningen over de cinematografie, Sabizan, 2014.
- 2Tony Pipolo, Robert Bresson: A Passion for Film (Oxford: University Press, 2010), 210.
- 3Brian Price, Neither God Nor Master: Robert Bresson and Radical Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 71.