(Le Diable Probablement)
Directed by Robert Bresson. 1977.
The film begins and ends in darkness and light is meagre throughout. One is not used to colour in a Bresson film but here colour is almost non-existent and Paris has never looked colder or bleaker. After an illuminated boat pierces the darkness and drifts along the Seine, two newspaper articles are flashed on the screen. Eliminating any suspense, the newspapers announce the death of a young man in Paris, one article says it is a suicide, the other a murder. We then go back six months. The main protagonist, Charles, joins his friends in a meeting about the environment. All of them watch videos of man polluting the environment and scenes of nuclear destruction. They play bongo drums and talk about religion but to no apparent purpose. Each scene is brief and does not last long enough to involve us emotionally.
Charles looks like a typical College student but has the air of insufferable superiority that can only come through righteousness. Physically, he is slender and quite handsome and one does not expect to see an attractive actor as the lead in a Bresson film. He has a nucleus of friends, Michel, Alberte, Eddwige who are concerned about him but he gives little in return, showing no outward emotion and all seem to move about in a catatonic state. Concerned about where Charles seems to be headed, his friends arrange for him to visit a psychiatrist but he tells Dr. Mime (Regis Hanrion) that his problem is only that he "sees things too clearly". He reads from a crumpled brochure in his pocket, telling the doctor what he would lose if he lost his life: family planning, package holidays, cultural, sporting, linguistic, the cultivated man's library, all sports sickness, credit cards, and so forth. The young man says that he is not depressed, that he just wants "the right to be myself. Not to be forced to give up wanting more . . . to replace true desires with false ones based on statistics". In a moment of humour rare for Bresson, the doctor tells Charles that it if he was spanked as a child it is possibly the cause of his feeling crushed by society and asks him, "When it's over, do you see yourself as a martyr?" The reply: "Only an amateur."
On his way to his ultimate
protest, the young man hears the sound of a sublime Mozart piano concerto
coming from an open window. He stops to listen as if trying to find the
source of grace but is denied. When he sees that the music is only coming
from a television set, he continues his journey to its inevitable conclusion.
The climax, unlike other Bresson films that engender a feeling of spiritual
lightness, left me uninvolved, more depressed than moved. When Charles
begins to talk about his lack of sublime feelings, he is stopped suddenly
in the middle of a sentence, unable to explain to the world why he thinks
he has run out of options. In the end he gets to be right…dead right. His
death, however voluptuous, does not clean up any toxic waste, save the
felling of a single tree, or protect the life of one baby seal.
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