Criterion Collection: A Man Escaped

Criterion Collection: A Man Escaped

5.0 1
Director: Robert Bresson

Cast: Francois Leterrier, Roland Monod, Jacques Ertaud

     
 

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In a genre crowded with quality films, director Robert Bresson's POW drama has become legendary, in part because it strips down the experience of a man desperate to escape to the essentials. That's in keeping with the approach Bresson took with all of his films. The filmmaker, who spent a year in a German prison camp during World War II, based this story on the… See more details below

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Overview

In a genre crowded with quality films, director Robert Bresson's POW drama has become legendary, in part because it strips down the experience of a man desperate to escape to the essentials. That's in keeping with the approach Bresson took with all of his films. The filmmaker, who spent a year in a German prison camp during World War II, based this story on the experiences of Andre Devigny, a French Resistance fighter sent in 1943 to the infamous prison in Lyons, where 7,000 of the 10,000 prisoners housed there died either by natural means or by execution. Lt. Fontaine (Francois Leterrier) is certain that execution awaits him, and he almost immediately begins planning his escape, using homemade tools and an ingenuity for detecting the few weaknesses in the prison's structure and routine. For a time, he goes it alone, then takes on a partner, but only reluctantly. Fontaine does get some help from a couple of prisoners allowed to stroll in the exercise yard, but for the most part he is a figure in isolation. For Bresson, the process of escape is all, and in simplifying his narrative he ratchets up the tension, creating a film story of survival that many feel is without peer.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
After fellow French director Jean Renoir set the standard for POW dramas with Grand Illusion, as well as codifying many of the genre's trademark details, Robert Bresson went his own way with this film, based on a true story and informed by his own experiences during World War II. In Grand Illusion (and many films to follow, such as Stalag 17 and The Great Escape), the camaraderie among the prisoners and the relationships between them and their captors are as important a part of the story as the prisoners' attempt to escape. Bresson will have none of that; his Lt. Fontaine is, like many a Bresson protagonist, going it alone. Here there are no community meetings, no tense or even jocular exchanges between captive officers and their captor counterparts. Much of the film is free of dialogue and music (Mozart is employed occasionally); the sounds you hear are one man scraping, whittling, and carving his way out of his cell. That Fontaine takes on a partner in this enterprise only adds to the tension; who's to say this man won't make a mistake or, worse, report Fontaine to the authorities in hopes of better treatment. The film has the austerity of a documentary but ultimately the shapeliness of a work of dramatic art. There's nothing ingratiating about it, which is not to say that it's inaccessibly remote. Bresson and Lt. Fontaine each work pretty much their own way to achieve a goal, whether it's making a film or a good escape.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/26/2013
UPC:
0715515104012
Original Release:
1956
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
A
Presentation:
[B&W]
Time:
1:41:00
Sales rank:
138

Special Features

"Bresson: Without A Trace," a 1965 episode of the television program Cinéastes De Notre Temps in which the director gives his first on-camera interview; The Road To Bresson, a 1984 documentary featuring interviews with filmmakers Louis Malle, Paul Schrader, and Andrei Tarkovsky; The Essence Of Forms, a documentary from 2010 in which collaborators and admirers of Bresson's, including actor Fraçois Leterrier and director Bruno Dumont, share their thoughts about the director and his work; Functions Of Film Sound, a new visual essay on the use of sound in a Man Escaped, with text by film scholars David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson; Trailer

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