’Diary of a Country Priest’ – Robert Bresson – (With actor Claude Laydu)
“I try to catch and to convey the idea that we have a soul
and that the soul is in contact with God.
That’s the first thing I want to get in my films.”
~ Robert Bresson.
Robert Bresson is a unique film maker in the history of cinema. He has developed a very personal way of filming that wholly tends towards one thing only: conveying truth. This is achieved by means of the right use of cinema language. As the French master said in the newspaper ‘Libération’: “The true language of cinema is that which translates the invisible. I am trying to convey feelings rather than facts or actions. I am trying to substitute an internal movement for an external movement.” This is particularly well shown in his 1951 film ‘Diary of a Country Priest’, where Bresson, slowly, relentlessly, and above all with simplicity, is scanning the interior life in everything, in the dialogues, the lights, the camera movements, the acting. But this simplicity is here to serve an utter precision. The film is crafted. A skilful surgeon is here at work. And we make silence.
‘Diary of a Country Priest’ tells a simple story based on the novel of the same name by Georges Bernanos, published in 1936. A young priest arrives in his first rural parish where he and his faith will be met with misunderstandings and challenges, both from his parishioners and his declining health. The film opens with these simple lines in his diary: “I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong in writing down daily, with absolute frankness, the simplest and most insignificant secrets of a life actually lacking any trace of mystery.” In the first scene, we see the young priest appearing behind the bars of a gate, signifying that we are about to see the story of an imprisonment. The film is the description of his total dedication to his duty, which will prove to be an ordeal. We are always in a prison, when we are locked in the belief in being somebody.