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France, 1956 (MIFF 1979, Missed Masterpieces)

Director: Robert Bresson

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 invisible hand over the prison, directing what happens and causing such and such a thing to succeed for one and not another. The Spirit breathes where it will.'

The story is taken from Andre Devigny's account of his imprisonment by the Gestapo for his activities with the French Resistance movement during the German occupation. Devigny managed to escape from Fort Montluc in Lyons just a few hours before he was to have been executed. The film's Devigny is Fontaine.

First we see Fontaine being transported to the prison; he makes an ineffectual attempt at escape. In his cell he is entirely alone. By intense concentration on the objects around him, he begins to devise a means of escape. He transforms a spoon into a knife with which he dismantles the cell door; blankets are woven into ropes; lanterns used for hooks. Gradually, he comes into contact with other prisoners who help him. Coincidence, or fate, saves Devigny on several occasions from being discovered.

Another prisoner, Orsini, attempts to escape, but is killed in the process. Fontaine observes this dispassionately and works out improvements in his plan. Then, he is interrupted by the arrival of a cell-mate, Jost, who demands to be taken along. As it turns out, Jost's assistance becomes a vital factor in their successful escape.

See also...


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Aku Louhimies' tough and fearless [Frozen Land] was inspired by Leo Tolstoy's short story [Faux Billet], in which mischance is passed from one person to another. It thus finds a peer in Robert Bresso… More »


France, 1977
"By far the most punk movie ever made." - Richard Hell, punk legend ... Banned in France for its daring portrayal of alienated youth - and called a masterpiece by the likes of Francois Truffaut - The… More »


France, 1969
The husband of a young girl who has just killed herself relates in a formal, almost detached manner, the strange story of their meeting, marriage and life together. It reveals the situation of a rela… More »


France, 1971
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 Dostoe… More »

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