68 of 1001 Movies: Au Hasard Balthazar (1963)

French director, Robert Bresson, released many films before his last one in 1983, but one of his more memorable ones was Au Hasard Balthazar. Going into the movie you might instantly write it off as not such an interesting story after reading the synopsis, but once turning on the movie to watch you find that it catches you more than you thought it would, and as it goes you care way more for the characters than you believed you would.

Marie is a farm girl who is quite shy, and because she doesn’t exactly have the ability to speak her voice all the time when she should this leaves her prone to some bad situations including a relationship with an abusive lover. There is also her donkey who she has grown up with. The two become more separated over time as he is given to multiple owners that puts the distance in between them. These owners are all abusive to the donkey, Balthazar. Just as the girl is too shy to find a voice, the donkey doesn’t have a voice to speak up with. He takes the beatings over time still maintaining his nobleness.

This isn’t a movie you should watch when you need a light movie. It’s quite heavy, and probably has tons of artsy undertones. That being said it is very intriguing. You wonder how much the girl can take till she is pushed to the brink, but it turns out they will push her all the way to the brink till someone else handles the situation for her. The donkey on the other hand has no one stand up for him, which is quite sad. Though Marie is closest to him he can’t really trust her too, because she is so shy, and can’t even take up for herself, so he is basically left the wolves to withstand his abuse silently.

Is this movie about the donkey or the girl though? Is it just about the people who surround the donkey in his day to day life? There are many points of views you could look at this movie through. As the movie goes on you also begin caring more about the donkey. Though you also feel for Marie too. It isn’t until the ending that you see how mad it makes you to see how she is mistreated. The donkey sadly doesn’t have anyone to rescue him from the mistreatment that follows him.

The film is also well acted. There isn’t a moment of overacting that is commonly seen in movies like this. You really dislike characters like Gerard, and the guys who associate with him as they do nothing that gives you any insight on them not being terrible people. There are shots used to gain sympathy for Marie, and the donkey that really work though. They aren’t done in ways that are too in your face either.

Usually with black and white movies they can be quickly wrote off as looking a like, but with this one there is something really pretty about how it is shot. Each scene almost looks like a photo capture with the way the people are framed, and depicted.  Even though the donkey has no personality the way it’s even captured on film gives it a personality it wouldn’t otherwise have.

Au Hasard Balthazar is a nice little gem of a movie. It’s quite short, but will leave you thinking for days after it about it. Anne Wiazemksy is Marie in the film, and though silent leaves quite an impact as well as her depiction of her. The characters all work well to build off each other to develop the story, and even though it seems slow paced there is something that just keeps you watching about it.

Rating 3 of 5.

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