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Diary of a Country Priest

August 25, 2010

Diary of a Country Priest (1951)
Director: Robert Bresson
Actors: Claude Laydu, Andre Guibert, Nicole Ladmiral

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Synopsis: A young Priest (Claude Laydu) begins his first assignment in a harsh and soulless community.

Review: This uncompromisingly spartan and bleak piece of work from Robert Bresson, has a misleadingly literal-minded narrative, but one that slowly and memorably imprints itself on one’s subconscious long after the final reel has run. Concerning the travails of a young and sickly priest on his first ‘mission’ in an unfriendly, provincial outpost – the drama follows a seemingly episodic path as the priest battles with the tenets of his vocation while negotiating the various agendas of his parishioners and his own encroaching ill-health. Though unremarkable from a classically dramatic perspective, the film is pure cinematic gold dust as Bresson exercises his idiom somewhere in-between a conventional verité aesthetic and overt poetic allusiveness. The perpetual rhythm of scenes fading into darkness, the mastery of naturalised sound, and the serene tenderness of the framing and camera movements – they all lend this film about the journey to grace a subliminal quality that is captured in the film’s “blink it or you’ll miss it” climax, as the priest’s dying moments reach a subtle and poignant moment of rapture. (May 2008)

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