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In Ambricourt, an idealistic young Priest (Claude Laydu) arrives to be the local parish priest. He attempts to live a Christ-like life, but his actions are misunderstood. The community of the small town does not accept him, and although having a serious disease in the stomach, the inexperienced and frail priest tries to help the dwellers, and has a situation with the wealthy family of the location.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This is adapted from a book apparently but seems to be very much a personal diary. A pious young priest, I take this to be Bresson himself, arrives at a remote village during the war. He's idealistic and wants to be of help, is eager to knock on doors and upset normalcy.
The very first line on his diary, he writes on it throughout, delineates a whole worldview here; absolute frankness, the most insignificant secrets of life, life without a trace of mystery, laid bare.
His intense sincerity is curious to those around him, a local churchman wonders with disapproval if he's not better off becoming a monk, this is a peoples job he says implying people just want to go on as they do with the small of life, not be upset in how they rationalize what they do.
And this is all so we can find ahead of us a life that retains its confounding mystery, a mystery that conceals hurt. A mother who has been so numbed by the loss of a child she turns a blind eye to suffering in her home. Two girls, both in unhappy homes, one smitten by him, the other comes to revile him because he preaches resignation and she's burning up with a desire to run off from an unhappy life.
There are several good things here. But I hit a stumbling block as a viewer in the philosophy behind it, I take this to be Bresson's; anguish as deep truth, obstinacy as spiritual fortitude, renounciation of life but his kind only imparts gloom and dejection.
This is all crude to me. For example the priest has a letter that would exonerate him from a certain wrongdoing being rumored but says nothing about it, the silence gives him strength. But, if we're here to take care of life and lead a way out of suffering, that means taking care of our own selves as well and doing everything we can to dispel illusion. This is just needless ego as purity; how is anyone better off not knowing that she really died in peace?
It's all essentially coming from Christian notions of grace where the body has to be mortified, the soul atone for sin by dejection, and the resulting anguish as proof of being close to the truth and price paid for it. This is all baggage for me, a romanticism of suffering in place of clear seeing. I know of a more eloquent "resignation" (which he preaches) in Buddhist non-attachment; a cessation of ego that doesn't demand self-mortification.
Another possible reading is too tantalizing to ignore but would go against the grain of why the film is lauded as pure and deep.
We see a young man who is well-meaning but a little befuddled in his efforts to be pure; he drives himself to sickness by his ascetic lifestyle and begins gradually to confuse the pain of that sickness with a pious torment of the soul in the course of doing the right thing, a surrogate Christ bearing the sins of mankind. It's only too late that he comes to recognize that love is all, awakened by how it has been wasted in his old classmate's home (a cynical, self- absorbed version of his intellectual self).
Maybe this was early for Bresson; I find this to be purism that is still beholden to self and preconceived ideas. Maybe his next films shed some light.
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