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France, 1966 (MIFF 1967, Programme 12)

Director: Robert Bresson

The donkey, always regarded as an important creature of nature, is the central figure of this film. One is adopted as a pet and christened Balthazar by childhood sweethearts Marie and Jacques, in a small French town. The life of this donkey parallels the ages of man: adored childhood, the harsh awakening to adulthood, success, and the mystery of death.

With the eyes of a judge, Balthazar passes through groups of people, each representing a vice, as avarice, ignorance, laziness, and his life intermingles with the story of Marie, whose tragic experiences reinforce the drama.

Bresson's first film in three years hovers outside of time, and carries echoes of a simple Christian parable. But the film is more than symbolic: it has layers of meaning that are expressed purely in visual ways. The value of this demanding work of art lies in the veiled, but disenchanted eye which Bresson turns on the price of progress in this mechanical age.

O.C.I.C. Grand Prix; Cinema Nuovo Prizem, St. Giorgio Prize, Venice Festival.

See also...


The burden of humanity is placed on the shoulders and into the very being of one of God's forgotten creatures in Bresson's masterpiece, the ultimate animal film. ... Baptised by three children and ... More »


Like Bresson's earlier Diary of a Country Priest, this film is based on a novel by Bernanos, but this time the book has been freely adapted. It is the story of an utterly despised and rejected ... More »


Our civilization is moving towards its end, and fast - this is one possible message of Bresson's film. ... Charles, a sensitive young man, wanders about in Paris, lost and desperate: there is no ... More »


After having made The Gentle Creature, in Four Nights of a Dreamer, Bresson once again turns to Dostoevsky &ndash: the script being based on "White Nights", and centering on what Bresson calls ... More »


Bresson's A Man Escaped, like The Trial of Joan of Arc, is closely based on factual records. Yet it is far from being a documentary. 'I would like to show this miracle', Bresson explains. 'An ... More »


For his first film in six years, Robert Bresson has been inspired by a short story by Leo Tolstoy, "The Counterfeit Note". When making a delivery of fuel oil, a young Parisian workman is given a fake ... More »

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