Diary of a Country Priest (Journal d'un curé de campagne)

Critics Consensus

Diary of a Country Priest brilliantly captures one man's spiritual and religious journey -- and the striking next phase in the evolution of a major filmmaking talent.

95%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 37

86%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,466
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Movie Info

An austere look at the experiences of a young priest in a small French parish, Robert Bresson's masterly Le Journal d'un curé de campagne (Diary of a Country Priest) presents a powerful, complex exploration of faith underneath a deceptively simple exterior. Drawn from a novel by Georges Bernanos, the film centers on the priest of Ambricourt (Claude Laydu), a withdrawn, devout young man whose social awkwardness leaves him isolated from the community he is meant to serve. Further problems derive from the priest's ill health, which limits him to a diet of bread and wine and hinders his ability to perform his duties. Growing sicker and increasingly uncertain about his purpose in life, the priest undergoes a crisis of faith that threatens to drive him away from his village and from God. Bresson presents his spiritual tale in a minimalist, unadorned style, relying on a rigorous series of stripped-down shots and utilizing non-actors in many of the supporting roles. The approach may initially seem distancing or ponderous to a contemporary audience, but the cumulative impact of the brilliant visuals and Laydu's powerful, restrained performance is unquestionable. Almost universally acclaimed, this searching drama is generally considered one of Bresson's finest works and a crucial classic of world cinema. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Diary of a Country Priest (Journal d'un curé de campagne)

All Critics (37) | Top Critics (10)

Audience Reviews for Diary of a Country Priest (Journal d'un curé de campagne)

  • Mar 25, 2014
    Country Priest from 1950 directed by Robert Bresson is a very faithful adaptation of the novel of the same name by Georges Bernanos. It centers around a young priest who has taken over a parish in Ambicourt. This film is very faithful to the novel in that it keeps the key moments of the book intact, and plays as a conversation between a man and God. Bresson's take is very straightforward, yet this is where the genius lies - because it allows someone who's familiar with its source material to see just how well the original novel plays on film. If someone were to ask, is it possible to translate a religious vision on film?, they would be answered with a yes by anyone who has seen this film. The film maintains a deep respect for the divine - by some, it has been dubbed "the greatest Catholic film of all time". It accurately shows the struggles of being a young Priest, and devoting one's life to God. Critic Jean Talard has said about the film, [regarding Claude Laydu as the Priest] "...no other actor deserves to go to heaven as much as Laydu.", and that clearly comes across on screen. Sensitive, yet unapologetic in his beliefs, Laydu does a better job at portraying the priest than I could with my own thoughts. What is one without their faith? The film begs us to ponder. The film thinks on simplistic living, one that a Priest would take up, and shows its goodness as well as its hard moments. At the same time, the film never upholds the role of a Priest in any pantheon above another occupation - it understands that the clergy has their place in society, and that it is just as respectable as being a carpenter or fisherman. Bresson uses brilliant performances to draw us in, understanding that the essence of the film is a parallel to the Christ story. A man comes to love and serve, does so, and yet is rejected by many and dies; and while he is suffering, he learns to love God even more deeply. Creatively, Bresson and Laydu combine to do great, but simple things for the camera. An establishing shot of the parish has Laydu walking behind a metal gate, evoking his isolation immediately to the audience. The camera only moves at moments of faith, or regarding it, and it always looks up to the Priest - signaling again that he is living like the Son of God he so desperately serves. Bresson stays simple with his style, creating compositions that are meant to always keep focus on the Priest. He likes shadow, and uses it sparingly, as much of the film takes place during the day. Bresson also constantly fades to black, and many critics see this as a literal "opening of the eyes" as if the film is us viewing the life of this Priest from afar. The breaking of every scene by fading adds a good sense of pace to the film, and also creates a good sense of time. It's been said that this film had a significant impact on Martin Scorcese and his breakthrough film, Taxi Driver (a favorite of mine) - and I can totally see why. This film, like the former, is about a man searching for justice. Isolated, neglected, yet determined to do find happiness and solace in life. Laydu always seems solemn, quiet and deep in thought. He seems to be contemplating the "big questions" constantly, such as, What is the role of the Priest? Is it okay to fear losing my faith? He fleshes out the priest by giving him a face, body language, and that helps give the audience empathy for the character. Critic Dennis Schwartz has stated that, "[Diary of a Country Priest] can be viewed as the closest thing to a religious experience in film." Notice that in the entire film, Laydu only smiles once, when he goes to see the doctor, in hopes that he'll be okay. He always talks to God, and God's presence is felt through the entire narrative. Like the book, the film spends a lot of time speaking from the Priest's diary, literally showing us write out the passages he speaks for us in voiceover. The diary acts as his tangible way to hold onto his faith, the symbol of all he is living for. We all project ourselves into some inanimate object, whether it's for nostalgia or safety. The film draws its power from the source material, without feeling preachy. This is a deep film that is probably asking for a second viewing, and I intend to do just that. I will continue to think on the film's final line of dialogue, for which it is most famous.
    Joshua H Super Reviewer
  • Mar 02, 2012
    I was extremely dissapointed. The biggest problem was the voice over. I mean I'd she motions for you to sit, you don't have to tell me I can see it. I can when you're having a meal, it felt like an audio book. While yes it was entertaining and fairly sad that voice over just ruined the whole thing for me
    Daniel D Super Reviewer
  • Sep 06, 2011
    Bresson's minimalist scope in his masterful and ahead-of-its-time essay on fortitude, faith and humanity allows us to appreciate how many directors including Tarkovsky, Bergman, Buñuel, Vlácil and even Scorsese grew up admiring this legendary milestone of metaphysical proportions. Exclusively aimed towards those that recognize cinema as an art and search for several perspectives regarding the most trascendent questions of our existence, Journal d'un Curé de Campagne punches the soul of its viewer with a catastrophic magnitude. 100/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Jan 29, 2010
    I know "Diary of a Country Priest" is a universally renowned classic but, sorry, I really did not enjoy this much. I can't relate to wallowing in this sort of miserable piety, and the lead actor has the same dazed, wounded expression on his face throughout the entire film. I have a pet peeve about overuse of narration which this movie certainly violated, and the shapeless, orchestral smears of the score seem quite maudlin and old-fashioned today. I can easily imagine someone else raving about how delicate and lovely Bresson's directing touch is, but I was counting the minutes until the finish. If I crave an old film about a troubled priest, I'll reach for "Nazarin" or "Winter Light" instead.
    Eric B Super Reviewer

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