Critics Consensus

Remarkable not only as a viewing experience, but as a showcase for Robert Bresson's tremendous skill, Mouchette underpins its grim narrative with devastating grace.



Total Count: 24


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,552
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Movie Info

Robert Bresson directed this grim but moving story of a girl forced to grow up quickly due to the unfortunate circumstances which surround her. Mouchette (Nadine Nortier) is a fourteen year old girl living in a rural village in France; while it's the mid-1960's, in many respects her community looks as if it could still be World War II, or even the turn of the century, and a number of the men earn their living though poaching game. Mouchette's mother (Marie Cardinal) is slowly dying of an incurable illness, while her father (Paul Hebert) is a heavy drinker who shows little concern for his daughter, often using a hard shove as a parenting technique. Mouchette is an outcast at school, works odd jobs to help her family's meager circumstances, and has developed a thinly veiled contempt for most of those around her. One of the few places Mouchette feels at home is in the woods, and when a heavy storm breaks out while she's making her way home from school, she happens upon Arsene (Jean-Claude Guilbert), a poacher who allows her to stay in his cabin for the night; he forces himself upon her sexually, but after her initial resistance Mouchette seems to almost welcome his attention. When Mouchette is made party to an act of violence between Arsene and a rival gamekeeper, she's forced into a complicated lie, and after the death of her mother, her shabby existence becomes almost too much to bear. Based on a novel by Georges Bernanos, Mouchette was (like many of Robert Bresson's films) largely cast with non-professional actors, and shot using a deliberately simple, ascetic style; the result was honored with major awards at the Cannes Film Festival and Venice Film Festival, and was named Best Film of 1967 (along with Luis Bunuel's Belle de Jour) by the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi


Critic Reviews for Mouchette

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (5)

  • Everyday incidents take on an almost spiritual intensity in Bresson's controlled and incisive direction and handling of the players. Nadine Nortier has the animal ferocity and gentleness needed for the role.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • A magnificent and deeply rewarding example of Bresson's stripped-down methods of cutting and framing, sound and dialogue, performance and movement.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Wally Hammond

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Like any genius, Bresson made rules in order to break them.

    Oct 4, 2005
  • In artistically pointing up their lack of understanding and affection for Mouchette, Mr. Bresson never fully lets a viewer in on details that would help him appreciate them, too.

    May 10, 2005 | Full Review…
  • It's a remarkable film: dark, compressed, shattering.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • The film has apparently melted down to a short story, being adapted from a Bernanos novel, but it moves on about five levels.

    Jun 18, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Mouchette

  • Sep 13, 2011
    "Mouchette" is a tragic tale of an unappreciated adolescent girl. Call it the "Welcome to the Dollhouse" of its day, if you like. As usual, director Robert Bresson calls on amateur actors to execute his minimalist script. This does not come without a price -- star Nadine Nortier's wooden qualities go beyond her emotionally numbed character, and whenever she's asked to cry, it's painfully obvious that a stagehand has squirted her cheeks with water. Fake tears and all, Nortier's Mouchette is an impoverished, abused girl around 14 years old. Her ragged pigtails alone are enough to draw our pity. Her mother is dying, and her father is a heavy drinker who traffics liquor. She works odd jobs for trivial wages. Thanks to her bedridden mother, she also is forced to care for an infant sister. Her dirty appearance and hand-me-down clothes earn her ridicule at school, and even her teachers don't like her. Her only happy moment during the film is some quick fun with a carnival bumper car -- she mischievously bonds with a boy driving another car, only to be snubbed once they exit and their gap in social class becomes clear. The girl can't catch a break. However, the story resists digging for easy pathos. Mouchette is far from likable. She is sullen, suspicious and uncommunicative. She wreaks petty revenge on her classmates by throwing mud clumps at them. And she's often rude to people who show her kindness. Moral principles aren't a luxury that she can afford. She's just trying to get through another miserable day. A crisis occurs when she witnesses a backwoods argument between a poacher and the local gamekeeper. The men are not only on opposite sides of the law but are courting the same woman. Mouchette is manipulated into supplying an alibi for a possible murder, and it's a safe bet that she'll regret being pushed into this dispute. "Mouchette" is a short feature that never wastes a beat. It does have plenty of stiff acting, as well as Bresson's dependable quirk of boosting incidental sound effects (poured liquid, crunching leaves, clinking bottles, especially footsteps) to maddening levels. Watching a Bresson film can be like listening to someone slurp his coffee. Luckily, the deft editing and cinematography are exquisite. Warning: Scenes with real-life hunting of rabbits and birds may offend sensitive viewers.
    Eric B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 14, 2009
    <i>"Get the bottle of gin; it's behind the cellar door. --- Death'll be less painful."</i> <CENTER><u>MOUCHETTE (1967)</u></CENTER> <b>Director:</b> Robert Bresson <b>Country:</b> France <b>Genre:</b> Drama <b>Length:</b> 78 minutes <CENTER><a href="¤t=011.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a></CENTER> Intentionally or not, <i>Mouchette</i> is the final chapter of a possible human condition trilogy, not to mention the perfect cinematic proof of Bresson having perfected his unusual direction style he was able to considerably improve in <i>Au Hasard Balthazar</i> (1966). This intentionally depressing masterpiece has a shocking subject matter depicting a decaying modern French society who lets itself to be driven by prejudice, and how it is able to transform innocent souls into devastated beings, a topic treated in Bresson's previous films <i>Pickpocket</i> (1959) and <i>Au Hasard Balthazar</i> (1966). Although Bresson still relied on a depressing subject matter with a partially appealing portrayal of the events throughout, its influence it had on subsequent decades of melodramatic filmmaking and its overall premise and subject matter makes it a unique masterpiece of its genre. It is the mix of deep religion, the loss of faith and an extraordinary, young female leading role the elements that gave <i>Mouchette</i> the necessary power to achieve an everlasting effect in its audience. Naturally, this film is also a powerful study on saintliness and solitude, and justice being served after every single event shown in this film may be a relative topic. Audacious by its own merits, this movie belongs to a mercilessly engaging category of cinema, having no scruples towards the viewer because of its original nature despite its relatively small, yet intentional running time. <i>Mouchette</i> deals with a young teenager who daily goes through difficult life conditions and lacks love from her father and care from her mother, who is evidently dying. Despite how typical and melodramatic the plot may seem, it became an undeniable influence for several filmmaking decades to come and a daring view towards Christianity and rural life, including the brutal psychology of its inhabitants. Robert Bresson won the OCIC Award and was nominated for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival in 1967, losing it against Michelangelo Antonioni for his film <i>Blowup</i> (1966). The film also won the Pasinetti Award at the Venice Film Festival the same year. <i>Mouchette</i> had the guts of portraying a tough France in its most unpleasant state and how it affects individuals who are unfairly forced to be adapted to its surrounding society, despite the lack of moral issues and empathy it may have. Bresson continues with his slow-paced and quiet direction style that gained him worldwide recognition. With one of the most outstanding, impressive and heartbreaking young leading roles in the history of cinema, the power the film achieves regardless of its solid direction and a desperately dark script is unprecedented. The depiction of a decaying society that disguises its brutality, its sinful state and the overall prejudices it applies over its residents with its supposed morality and Catholicism, a religious influence that became very present since Bresson's magnum opus <i>Journal d'un Curé de Campagne</i> (1951), arises several debatable conclusions that strengthen the main arguments stated by the director. Each single masterpiece of his has the peculiar characteristic of being hard to digest; however, an intentional negative feeling or a bad sensation is not the main purpose that the structure of his films attempts towards any specific audience. <i>Mouchette</i> is not an exception, making an invitation towards personal reflection and a questioning towards the veracity of universally accepted moral values rather than attracting depression. Once again, Bresson does not seek for the cast to act, but just to be, hiring nonprofessional actors. The film could not have opened with a more appropriate metaphor of a bird being trapped by an observing poacher while we, desperately watching, witness the eternal struggle of the bird for impossible freedom, a psychological introduction for the inevitable upcoming fate of Mouchette and her happiness being trapped by an "observing" society who consciously rejects her and all forms of helping her out. Every frame is masterly constructed and the distance between us and the screen, besides achieving to transform us into an impartial and omnipresent audience, prevents us from literally jumping to the screen and trying to change the depicted little world, not mentioning offering every single emotional element Mouchette has lacked for so long. This time, Bresson decides to culminate his story with one of the most memorable endings ever filmed, which represents a perfect closure for his trilogy, explicitly showing the predictable, yet unexpectedly beautiful tragic end of the main character, mirroring the fate of Balthazar in his previous film. It is a shocking conclusion, a sequence that may be considered as a closure of religious statements caused by the loss of faith and the impact of several individuals with one mentality that opposes the one with benign purposes and a well-intentioned personality. Purity is portrayed at its most enchanting form through the character of Mouchette, a girl whose name is as beautiful as her physical appearance, a character whose soul is as black as the darkness of the night not because of evilness, but because of a reactionary state of sadness. The technical aspects feel free enough to put the necessary attention to the main character and a partial attention towards the elements that surround her. A grandiose cinematography and a spellbinding music are not ultimately required characteristics, and yet they were perfectly planned concepts accompanied by an unforgettable opening musical score. The atmospheric feeling of the school, the house and the darkness of a stormy and mysterious night allowed the plot to avoid extreme and exaggerated portrayals of drama. Tears flow as a tranquil river, but these drops do not remove <i>Mouchette</i> from its main objectives and its valiant ideals. A character whose facial tenderness and constant tear-shedding intentionally contrasts the village she lives in is, precisely, the most important factor in this heartbreaking drama of giant proportions. With a positively slow-paced rhythm and almost incomprehensible character reactions, <i>Mouchette</i> assures the viewer to leave him/her marked for life, and its ending sequence will be an image impossible to remember. It is a manifesto towards unjustified cruelty and the confusion that abandoned souls will present, thus affecting themselves and the people around them. A cathartic feeling may be a possible consequence, a factor that depends on our view towards the world and the importance we attribute to human relationships. Most of the magic is originated from the idiosyncratic approach of Robert Bresson, an unfortunately underrated director for the wrong reasons, and this can be easily found among his best films. 99/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Feb 02, 2009
    Isolation & desolation, people's cruelty & misjudges &.... , Well I can go on & on about this masterpiece's greatness but I don't think I can find the right words to describe it
    Arash X Super Reviewer
  • Aug 28, 2008
    To say this the easy way...Mouchette contains one of the greatest endings in the history of 7th Art.My oh my,and just for the theme of it,it goes on the 1967 best list.
    Dimitris S Super Reviewer

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