Au Hasard Balthazar - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Au Hasard Balthazar Reviews

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June 29, 2017
Why do bad things happen to innocent people? That's the question that Robert Bresson is seeking to explore. It's a masterful and profound allegory about enduring hardship.
June 12, 2017
"Everyone who sees this film will be absolutely astonished," Jean-Luc Godard once said, "because this film is really the world in an hour and a half".

We follow a mistreated donkey and the people around him. One of these people is Marie. She is not treated that good either. Not to herself, not by many others. Jacques treats her nice though, but she's not sure she deserves him.
Marie cares a lot for Balthazar, the donkey and protagonist here. He is stolen, he is bought, he is drifting where people tell him to go and when he manage to escape, he will surely be into some new human relationship pretty fast.

Poetic and powerful film, minimalistic and real. There is some animal cruelty here, but rather mild stuff. It surely makes an impression no matter the degree.
The donkey is a symbol of transcendence - the feeling of excistence only, Marie for me is the symbol of the more humane stuff - they are a pair, they match.

Shot in a fantastic manner, images are nearly burned into you mind. Animals have rearly been shot so nicely in a film setting before. Incredibly sad, heartbreaking actually, but at the same time very pretty.

8.5 out of 10 sheeps.
April 4, 2017
*Spoiler Warning*

I've seen a lot of films about animals getting abused from that animals perspective. Some films that share this plotline can easily feel cookie-cutter after you've been exposed to it several times. I had a few concerns about that when I was about to go into this movie. Fortunately, however, "Au Hasard Balthazar" was not one of those examples. It turned out to be an exception. It was able to stand out amongst the rest of them. I don't think that it's flawless, but it's still a great movie.

This film chronicles the life of an abused donkey named Balthazar as it passes from cruel owner to cruel owner. Meanwhile, the life of a young girl who originally owned it named Marie is chronicled as she gets badly treated by her abusive boyfriend. Both of their lives seem parallel to each other.

On my re-watches, I noticed how the movie has a lot of religious symbolism. For instance, the fact that Balthazar goes through seven different owners could mean numerous things. It could represent the seven deadly sins or the seven sacraments. Also, Marie's name sounds similar to "Mary", the mother of Jesus. That's another example of symbolism. There's also the donkey's baptism that the kids try to do. It makes Balthazar seem divine. Also, the wreath of flowers put on Balthazar's head reminded me slightly of the Christ's crown of thorns. Also, the wine that Arnold drinks, and the bread that Gerard delivers could represent transubstantiation. There might be a few more examples from the movie that I missed. Some of the symbolism is a bit obvious, but I didn't mind that too much. I have a few explanations which explain Bresson's purpose for including them. The first one is that he could be trying to juxtapose religion with sin or simply good with evil. My second interpretation is that he might also be trying to establish Balthazar as a divine figure. My last interpretation is that he might be trying to inform the viewers that there is a special heaven for animals, as well as people.

One of the things which set this film apart from many other films with similar plots is that it chronicles the hardships of Marie as well as Balthazar. When Balthazar was young, Marie was one of his original owners. Both of these characters lived relatively parallel lives. Balthazar got abused by each of his cruel owners, and Marie gets abused by her boyfriend Jacques who tried to force himself onto her in numerous scenes. However, the difference between the two of them is that Marie could defend herself to an extent, unlike Balthazar. Marie sometimes tried to avoid being around Jacques. Balthazar, on the other hand, was powerless, and he had very minimal reactions. Balthazar simply walked and waited for someone to give him order. The reason why he behaved this way was likely that he knew that his life consisted of him either feeling or not feeling pain. The most he did in the film was bray every now and then. It was almost like he couldn't do anything else to defend himself as he was powerless to his owners.

The fate of Marie was not stated at the end of the film. After she gets stripped and beaten, we don't see her again. It's likely that she's going into a life of servitude. However, we do find out Balthazar's fate by the ending. After he's accidentally shot while Jacques uses him to steal certain items, he walks up to a sheep herd and spends his last minutes with them before he dies. There are a few interpretations I have for what Bresson intended by this scene. It could mean that Balthazar is trying to die in peace away from the abusive owners he encountered in his life. It could also mean that Balthazar is thinking of the life he could've had if he had kinder owners. Regardless of what Bresson intended by this scene, I still found it to be memorable. I enjoy movies with tragic endings, because they often linger with me long after viewing them (sometimes, I even like them more than happy endings). I appreciate directors who aren't afraid to step out of the comfort zones of audience members.

The only major issue I had with this film was with the character of Jacques. I found him to be very oversimplified. In the first scene, he seemed like a nice kid. In the next scene when he's all grown up, however, he turns violent as he abuses Balthazar and forces himself on Marie. The movie doesn't explain how he became that way. It just skips his character arc and tells us "Jacques is a bad character, so you should dislike him", thus oversimplifying him. Also, most of the owners of Balthazar were either very underutilized or unmemorable. The only one who I found to be memorable was Arnold, but that was only because he was in the movie more.

In conclusion, this was a pretty good movie. Robert Bresson did a great job with this film as he turned a tired plot into a memorable film that does a lot differently than other films. It could have been better, but it was still pretty good. This is the 2nd Bresson film I've watched (the first one being "A Man Escaped" which I enjoyed a bit more). I'm going to probably keep watching his films since he's proven himself to be a talented filmmaker.
March 5, 2017
Yorgos Lanthimos rec
December 19, 2016
Trying to find heart in the midst of an ocean of ill considered human cruelty.
½ July 2, 2016
It's sui generis, and of interest really only to the dedicated. It stays with you, but is more of a presentation of suffering, with strong Christological overtones, than a developed plot. There is not a lot of dialogue, and lends itself to patient watching on a big screen.
½ December 4, 2015
La vida y muerte de un burro llamado Baltasar.
September 28, 2015
Au Hasard Balthazar is a movie of extraordinary beauty, and earth-shattering tragedy, and a Godliness that can't simply be put into words. It's the story of a girl and her donkey, and the parallel existence between the two. They are abused and tortured by piggish men. The moral is as Catholic as movies get. The more Balthazar suffers, the wiser and holier he becomes. By the end of the movie, he's a saint, surrounded by a flock of sheep, as he lays to rest. The final scene alone is an unmistaken triumph of the power of cinema.
September 27, 2015
An incredibly mean spirited, depressing film. Showing nothing but animal cruelty, horrendous performances, overly pretentious symbolism. But I guess that was the intention.
No doubt this was really artsy and well made. Its a unique film you won't like it though. It aint worth checking out. Even though I'm giving it a 6/10 Why? I don't know why... You don't have any feelings for this movie you're just neutral... Like the performances
June 10, 2015
The most pretentious thing I've ever seen, and that's saying something.
June 1, 2015
Bresson invests Au Hasard Balthazar with a remarkable intensity that is only enhanced by the stark and austere visual style. It's a tremendously powerful allegory on human cruelty and suffering and a study in saintliness, with the eponymous donkey used as a symbol of virtue and salvation. It's one of the most transcendent art house films of the 20th century.
March 18, 2015
150318: Perhaps it's my limited exposure to that required me to read the insert and watch the extra features. This film, regardless of my understanding, pulled me in. It is art. It inspired research and I gained appreciation in doing so. Well worth watching.
½ March 14, 2015
I am puzzled by the praise for this film.
January 27, 2015
Grim and emotional Bresson classic that will surprise, shock, and ultimately move you.
September 12, 2014
The extent of cruelty man is capable of inflicting on other living beings and creatures is absolutely heartbreaking!
August 31, 2014
Strange film about the life of a donkey. Highly regarded as a classic, I personally couldn't really accept the animal cruelty on show and take the stance that it is never necessary in the name of entertainment or art or whatever you wanna call it.
August 10, 2014
A blunt reflection on life where the aesthetics of the film climax in a flash of beautiful revelation
August 1, 2014
What a unique piece of filmmaking! A donkey as the centerpiece of all the people he encounters, which most are idiots by the way, some straight evil, but he just takes it as it is since he's nothing but a regular donkey and nothing more. It's so appalling what the poor donkey goes through everyday, it's a heartbreaking story, but one great film. I will watch it again then move on to more Bresson films, followed by Ozu and Kobayashi ones.
½ January 28, 2014
The citizen kane of donkey movies.
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