Robert Bresson Poster


Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (2)  | Trade Mark (11)  | Trivia (10)  | Personal Quotes (15)

Overview (3)

Born in Bromont-Lamothe, Puy-de-Dôme, France
Died in Paris, France  (natural causes)
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Robert Bresson trained as a painter before moving into films as a screenwriter, making a short film (atypically a comedy), Public Affairs (1934) in 1934. After spending more than a year as a German POW during World War II, he made his debut with Angels of Sin (1943) in 1943. His next film, Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945) would be the last time he would work with professional actors. From Journal d'un cure de campagne (1951) (aka "Diary of a Country Priest") onwards, he created a unique minimalist style in which all but the barest essentials are omitted from the film (often, crucial details are only given in the soundtrack), with the actors (he calls them "models") giving deliberately flat, expressionless performances. It's a demanding and difficult, intensely personal style, which means that his films never achieved great popularity (it was rare for him to make more than one film every five years), but he has a fanatical following among critics, who rate him as one of the greatest artists in the history of the cinema. He retired in the 1980s, after failing to raise the money for a long-planned adaptation of the Book of Genesis.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Family (2)

Spouse Leidia van de Zee (1926 - ?)
Marie-Madeleine van der Mersch (? - 18 December 1999)  (his death)
Parents Léon Bresson
Marie-Élisabeth Bresson

Trade Mark (11)

Thematically bleak films
Always cast non-actors or (as he called them) "models" to give the characters an impassive, naturalist feel
Catholic-based themes and images
Characters who go through emotional crisises and who find themselves hopeless by the end (with the notable exception of A Man Escaped (1956)
Shots of a character reading from or writing in a book
Close-ups of hands and feet
Use of ellipses
"Actor-model" technique
Minimalist filmmaking
Sparse use of scoring
Known for his ascetic approach

Trivia (10)

Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 55-63. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Did not direct his first feature film until he was 42 years old.
In a career that spanned fifty years, Bresson made only 13 feature-length films.
His early artistic focus was to separate the language of cinema from that of the theater, which often relies heavily upon the actor's performance to drive the work.
Has influenced a number of other filmmakers, including Andrei Tarkovsky, Michael Haneke, Jim Jarmusch, the Dardenne brothers, Aki Kaurismäki, and Paul Schrader.
Andrei Tarkovsky held Bresson in very high regard, noting him and Ingmar Bergman as his two favorite filmmakers.
Jean-Luc Godard once wrote, "Bresson is the French cinema, as Dostoevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is German music.".
According to Andrei Tarkovsky, Bresson is "perhaps the only artist in cinema, who achieved the perfect fusion of the finished work with a concept theoretically formulated beforehand".
In his development of auteur theory, François Truffaut lists Bresson among the few directors to whom the term "auteur" can genuinely be applied.
Bresson's actors were required to repeat multiple takes of each scene until all semblances of 'performance' were stripped away, leaving a stark effect that registers as both subtle and raw.

Personal Quotes (15)

Cinema is interior movement.
Two types of films: those that employ the resources of the theater; those that employ the resources of cinematography
Cinematography: a new way of writing, therefore of feeling.
For me, film-making is combining images and sounds of real things in an order that makes them effective. What I disapprove of is photographing things that are not real. Sets and actors are not real.
Painting taught me to make not beautiful images but necessary ones.
A film is not a spectacle; it is preeminently a style.
[When asked if he could summarize Mouchette as he saw it] No. It can't be summarized. If it could, it'd be awful.
In my opinion, it's clear that music is one element that transforms a film. Let me back up a bit: I believe all the elements: image, sound - and "sound" includes sound effects, dialogue, and music - should affect and transform each other. Without transformation, it isn't art. That's why I consider today's cinema a reproduction, not a true art, because it's just a copy of another art: theater. If we want cinema to be a true, independent art, there must be transformation. An image or a sound on its own is nothing. It takes on meaning only in relationship to what transforms it. An image only matters in relation to other images, or a sound to other sound or to the image it accompanies. In my opinion - though I too made this mistake at first - music should't be used to underscore or emphasize but to transform. Therefore in Mouchette, the music used, sacred music, probably certain wonderful passages from Monteverdi's Magnificat, will be used during the hunting scene that I added. I wanted to establish a connection between the prey and Mouchette. With sacred music played during the hunting scene, you'll see an extraordinary transformation of the wild animals through Montiverdi's Music.
I'd rather people feel a film before understanding it. I'd rather feelings arise before intellect.
There is the feeling that God is everywhere, and the more I live, the more I see that in nature, in the country. When I see a tree, I see that God exists. I try to catch and to convey the idea that we have a soul and that the soul is in contact with God. That's the first thing I want to get in my films.
There are so many things our eyes don't see. But the camera sees everything. We are too clever, and our cleverness plays us false. We should trust mainly our feelings and those senses that never lie to us. Our intelligence disturbs our proper vision of things.
I always shoot on the dangerous line between showing too much and not showing enough. I try to work as if I were on a tightrope with a precipice at either side.
I think that in other films' actors speak as if they were on stage. As a result, the audience is used to theatrical inflections. That makes my non-actors appear unique, and thus, they seem to be speaking in a single new way. I want the essence of my films to be not the words my people say or even the gestures they perform, but what these words and gestures provoke in them. What I tell them to do or say must bring to light something they had not realized they contained. The camera catches it; neither they nor I really know it before it happens.
I never use the same person twice, because the second time he would try deliberately to give me what he thought I wanted. I don't even permit the husband of a non-actress to see rushes because he would evaluate her performance and then she would try to improve it. Anyway, mechanics are essential. Our gestures, nine times out of ten, are automatic. The ways you are crossing your legs and holding your head are not voluntary gestures. Montaigne has a marvelous chapter on hands in which he says that hands go where their owner does not send them. I don't want my non-actors to think of what they do. Years ago, without realizing any program, I told my non-actors, "Don't think of what you are saying or doing," and that moment was the beginning of my style.
You can't show everything. If you do, it's no longer art. Art lies in suggestion.

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