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Au Hasard Balthazar

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

tomatometer

100

Average Rating: 8.8/10
Critic Reviews: 9
Fresh: 9 | Rotten: 0

No consensus yet.

audience

86

liked it
Average Rating: 4.2/5
User Ratings: 6,573

My Rating

Movie Info

Robert Bresson's acclaimed Au Hasard, Balthazar presents an unfettered view of human cruelty, suffering and injustice, filtered through the eyes of a donkey over the course of his long life. The burro at the film's center begins life peacefully and happily, as the unnamed play-object of some innocent children in bucolic France, but his circumstances change dramatically when he becomes the property of a young woman named Marie - who christens him Balthazar. As she grows up and encounters tragedy

Unrated,

Art House & International, Drama

Jun 14, 2005

Criterion Collection

Watch It Now

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All Critics (35) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (34) | Rotten (0) | DVD (11)

The film could have sunk beneath this symbolic burden, yet it is lightened by the speed and precision of Bresson's art; he could derive more from one pair of hands than most directors can from two hours of blood and guts.

March 5, 2013 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Perhaps the greatest and most revolutionary of Bresson's films, Balthazar is a difficult but transcendently rewarding experience, never to be missed.

April 27, 2009 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is perhaps the director's most perfectly realised, and certainly his most moving.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is neither an easy film, nor, in the show biz sense, an entertaining one. It makes large demands upon its audience, and in return confers exceptional rewards.

May 9, 2005 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Quietly devastating, nearly perfect allegory.

April 9, 2004 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Bresson is one of the saints of the cinema, and Au Hasard Balthazar is his most heartbreaking prayer.

March 19, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The antithesis of cute Disney films about animals, Au Hasard, Balthazar is a stark meditation on existence in which meaning is conveyed through images and sounds, culminating in a moment of sublime epiphany.

March 5, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

With Bresson, patience is rewarding, and not just because Balthazar has an ending both strangely beautiful and profoundly sad. It's worth the effort to connect to this singular vision, one that's austere and humane in equal measure.

March 5, 2013 Full Review Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

Very much deserves its art-house cred.

April 13, 2011 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

If you can see past the heavy-handed religious overtones you will encounter an inspired and deeply intelligent Bresson classic.

April 27, 2009 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

It's a cinematic experience that deserves to be discover for those who want more than what they are told to watch.

July 22, 2008 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

The film does maintain a powerful mood throughout, a kind of stringency, and the fate of the humans fades into insignificance as the film draws to a bleak close.

May 30, 2008 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

It's a study of human weakness and cruelty, it's a portrait of Christ the suffering servant, it's the heartbreaking story of a young girl's descent from innocence to despair. But above all, it's a movie about a donkey.

September 1, 2006
Christianity Today

Bresson's greatest masterpiece.

November 9, 2005 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

A deft, impassioned, and wrenching film, but also - emphatically, absurdly - a film about a donkey. Indeed, it hardly pretends to be much more.

July 26, 2005 Full Review Source: Not Coming to a Theater Near You
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

Each scene emerges as a minor miracle. Which makes the sum total an object of extraordinary glory.

June 24, 2005 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

The lens of dispassion Bresson invites us to look through during Balthazar embodies "a prayer which slips into life without interrupting it."

June 22, 2005 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Bresson’s most poetic, haunting, personal work.

June 20, 2005 Full Review Source: Decent Films Guide
Decent Films Guide

Robert Bresson's aesthetic of realist, material sounds and images assembled in paradoxical ways virtually defines the cinematic parable...

June 14, 2005 Full Review Source: Filmjourney

This is what makes Au Hasard Balthazar so powerful, and yet so distant. It asks as much of its audience as it does of its characters...

June 14, 2005 Full Review Source: DVDTalk.com
DVDTalk.com

Irreverent? Absurd? Indeed, and that's much of the film's genius and inspiration.

April 17, 2004 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

Audience Reviews for Au Hasard Balthazar

Godard once said that Au Hasard Bathazar, Bresson's fascinating allegorical study of spiritual transcendence, is "the world in an hour and a half." I think that's a fitting description. Perhaps only Bresson can take a tragic story about a donkey and within it find the story of Christ, but all be damned if he doesn't pull it off to miraculous effect. This film can be interrupted many different ways, but for me, Balthazar is Bresson's inspiring reassurance of the existence of God by the lack of even the slightest miracle or good fortune. What is not seen, the saving grace, is made more real and believable in its absence. The story, that of a donkey's life, is, on the surface, absurd; however, what Bresson can bring to it through the patient austerity of his camera work, the martyr like surrender of his characters (including the donkey Balthazar), is as transcendent and enlightening as a private epiphany. What is amazing is that he is able to project so much depth into an audience so unsuspecting. Like Ozu, he never judges his characters, he just presents them to his audience.

I feel compelled to comment on the ending. A powerful final sequence, it achieves an eerie grace, consistent with its almost unique tone - allusively Biblical and allegorical, yet resistant to specific meanings and interpretations. The plot is a narrative of human cruelty and escalating despair, but always with enough mystery in the motivation to ward off easy condemnations; and perhaps even to indicate divine guidance. Throughout, Anne Wiazemsky seizes on the donkey as a symbol of transcendence (her mother even calls it a saint in the end); it's formally christened at the beginning and undergoes something approaching a formal funeral, all of which gives its life the contours of a spiritual journey of discovery. The narrative encompasses both revelations (the interlude in the fair; new tortures like the mean old man who starves and beats him) and retrenchment; both life's austerity, its roots in servitude, and its enormous potential dignity. Never was a donkey filmed so evocatively - but as always with Bresson, the simplicity is thrilling too - there's no false artistry here; no dubious anthropomorphism. To be honest, I'm genuinely impressed that he got so much out of what appears to be so little. If you can withstand Bresson's detached style and elliptical narrative techniques, then you'll be rewarded with a powerful and soul-stirring cinematic experience.
June 10, 2012
JonathanHutchings
Jonathan Hutchings

Super Reviewer

like de sicas "the bicylce thieves", bressons character study is more about the human condition than about the plot itself. too much polish would have distracted us from the simplicity of the story, but realism provides it with a profound texture that i fear most common movie fans would miss entirely. who knew that a 90 minute movie about a donkey would have so much to say about humans?
January 18, 2010
sanjurosamurai
danny d

Super Reviewer

To paraphrase Bresson, Au Hasard Balthazar presents a progression of life. From tender childhood to laborious adulthood to a "time of talent & genius" to mysticism and, finally, to the inevitable demise that awaits us all. The approach is artistic and abstract with few empathetic characters. I appreciate this film but, because of it's dark tone, I can't say that I enjoyed it.
December 28, 2009
flixsterman
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

it's an oddly appropriate christmas film but i wouldn't recommend it to anyone who's not already a fan of bresson. it's hard to see animals treated badly and, like mouchette, it's horribly depressing. still a beautifully made film that makes it's point
December 20, 2009
rubystevens
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Au Hasard Balthazar (DE)
  • Balthazar (Au Hasard Balthazar) (UK)
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