Tim Cawkwell's Cinema

Intelligible writing on intelligent film

Reflections on Bresson 6: Milieux

Just as Bresson had an intense focus of theme in his 13 films, so there is an intense focus of place:

  • Les Anges du Péché – nunnery, prison
  • Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne – Paris
  • Le Journal d’un curé de campagne – rural
  • Un Condamné à mort s’est échappé – prison
  • Pickpocket – Paris, prison
  • Le Procès de Jeanne d’Arc – prison
  • Au Hasard Balthasar – rural
  • Mouchette – rural
  • Une Femme Douce – Paris
  • Quatre Nuits d’un rêveur – Paris
  • Lancelot du Lac – rural
  • Le Diable probablement – Paris
  • L’Argent – Paris, prison, rural France

From this list it seems that Bresson only used those settings that he knew at first hand: he knew about rural France because he was born and brought up in Bromont-Lamothe, a small commune in the department of Puy de Dôme, some 20 km west of Clermont-Ferrand – ‘la France profonde’; he knew about Paris because he lived much of his life in the city, including a period on the Île St Louis – ‘la France centrale’; and he even knew about prison because in 1940-41 he had been in a German internment camp following the fall of France – we might call this ‘the world from below’. It is fitting that his last film, L’Argent, brings all three settings together and supports the view that it was his crowning achievement.