Which director can possibly think about making a film keeping a donkey in a main lead? Here is a film where a common donkey is not just silent ‘beast of burden’ but reaching a status of almost a saint. Robert Bresson’s this minimalist classic literally surpassed all my film experience for the sole reason that he raised the scale of cinematic medium with impeccable purity of visuals. As a viewer the only things this film demands are a lot of patience and a complete surrender of your visual sense to Bresson’s unique camera narration.
The film is a beautiful and symbolic life journey of a donkey named Balthazar passing from one owner to another till the end. It also follows the life of other changing characters around him. The one most central and almost parallel with a donkey is a girl named Marie who’s also like to run away in search of pleasure but like a stray donkey she too ended up with pain each time. Instead of emotional manipulation, Bresson kept a certain amount of detachment towards his characters; quite a trademark of Bresson’s any films. But it’s this detachment which makes you feel deeply.
The subtlety of the film lies in its scenes where silence is most felt. Bresson seldom used even background music to uplift the mood; for him camera is the only tool to tell his story. His gaping close ups on his characters tells a lot about internal strife than any other filmmakers. The scene where loaded donkey is observing other wild animals rested in cages around a circus is really moving one. The last scene is one of the most tragic and touching one. Along with the donkey, we also feel and witness the height of human selfishness, cruelty in a deeply moving way.
I have seen just three Bresson films and with each film, he’s becoming one of my favorite one.
A movie which surpassed all ratings and an emotional experience not to miss.