? Intriguing spiral events based on a petty crime
? Uncharacteristic cold atmosphere
? Unfocused and underdeveloped narrative
In his last film, Robert Bresson attempts a psychological study of man in the lowest and most depressed part of his life as the cards fate hands him go terribly wrong. A spiral of events start from a petty crime done by two teenagers whose forged money, exchanged in a store, lands an unsuspecting youth in dire straits.
Bresson paints a black and white universe where a single person is continually being tricked, harmed, and manipulated by a large mass of people whom see money as the sole source of motivation. This young man, named Yvon, is unable to rise from this elementary act of manipulation, and due to loss of his job, falls into crime, and eventually jail. Loss of members of his family and time in solitary confinement make this bumpy ride all the more psychologically abusing which contributes to the young man's eventual downfall.
Bresson paints this film in a world of coldness, bitterness, apathy which does suit the character's infatuation with money quite well; the problem lies in the desire of the film for the audience to feel sorry for the main character. I must respond, for what, and even if there was a sufficient answer to such a question, why? The true arbitrators of the immoral acts that land the main character in prison don't crack a smile, shed a tear, or show any remote sign of emotion through the entire film; however, that could be excusable, being blamed on their sheer interest in money and unconcerned about the method of its gain. However, the sole character, himself, seems to lack the faculties of emotion, with no true recognizable emotion toward his wife-besides placing his hands on her shoulder or back. During her sole visit with her husband in prison, his wife reminds
him that they should not resolve to fighting in such a condition as they never have quarreled before. This is not such a difficult concept considering that these people don't exist-not because they are in a film-but mainly due to the fact that most people expend energy and emotion rather than function as pre-programmed citizens in a world taken over by money and deceit. However, this is still excusable if the film did not demand us to feel sorry for these characters who could not express "sorry" if you asked them.
Another issue with the problem is the unfocused narrative of the film. There are scenes, such as the introduction of the protagonist, that seem fuzzy and unclear, and for some individuals a second watch may be required so that certain ambiguities become clear. A narration would not be necessary, but due to the apathy of the characters, it would help the film progress more smoothly and seem, at certain points, less tedious.
There is no doubt that Bresson intended this chilling atmosphere to resonate through the entire film, but unfortunately this style of his overpowers the film and the philosophy he intends us to infer from it. By the end of the film, we have not seen a film that displayed to us the root of all evil, or a critique of French society, but we have witnessed a film that is depressing; so depressing and banal that any message that lays within it seems void, empty, and uninteresting.