Robert Bresson

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Robert Bresson (pronounced [ʁɔbɛʁ bʁɛˈsɔ̃] in French; 25 September 1901 – 18 December 1999) was a French film director known for his spiritual, ascetic style.


Life and career

Bresson was born at Bromont-Lamothe, Puy-de-Dôme, the son of Marie-Elisabeth (née Clausels) and Leon Bresson.[1] Little is known of his early life and the year of his birth, 1901 or 1907 varies depending on the source. He was educated at Lycée Lakanal à Sceaux, Paris, and turned to painting after graduating.[2] Three formative influences in his early life seem to have a mark on his films - Catholicism, art and his experiences as a prisoner of war.

Initially also a photographer, Bresson made his first short film, Les affaires publiques (Public Affairs) in 1934. During World War II, he spent over a year in a prisoner-of-war camp - an experience which informs Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut (A Man Escaped). In a career that spanned fifty years, Bresson made only 13 feature-length films. This reflects his meticulous approach to the filmmaking process and his non-commercial preoccupations.[citation needed] Difficulty finding funding for his projects was also a factor.


Bresson's early artistic focus was to separate the language of cinema from the theatre, which often heavily involves the actor's performance to drive the work. With his 'actor-model' technique, Bresson's actors were required to repeat multiple takes of each scene until all semblances of 'performance' were stripped away, leaving a stark effect that registers as both subtle and raw, and one that can only be found in the cinema. Some feel that Bresson's Catholic upbringing and Jansenist belief-system lie behind the thematic structure of most of his films.[3] Recurring themes under this interpretation include salvation, redemption, defining and revealing the human soul, and metaphysical transcendence of a limiting and materialistic world. An example is his 1956 feature A Man Escaped, where a seemingly simple plot of a prisoner of war's escape can be read as a metaphor for the mysterious process of salvation.

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