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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...


Robert Bresson's account of the Joan of Arc story, although austere and elliptical as are all his films, remains very close to the written records of the trial held in 1431. ... The film begins ... More »


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 »


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 »


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 ... 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 »


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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