Wednesday 1 April 2009

99 minutes of near-perfection

A warning: A Man Escaped is not a film for the impatient. It's slow, lacking in dialogue, unbearably tense and ends abruptly.

And it's utterly fantastic.

As Kaz has commented on, it's refreshing to see that the smaller films and the pictures from overseas are the ones gathering the larger audiences. A Man Escaped was no exception, the studio full to the brim, exposing the slight shortcomings of the seating (to the two people directly in front of me, whom I accidentally poked in the back, I apologise). It also made a nice change to briefly discuss the film with members of the audience afterward, all of whom enjoyed the film and even seemed to understand the director's intentions. This is the polar opposite of every experience I've had with a multiplex cinema (the sole exception being...sigh...Mamma Mia), so maybe it's time people considered a trip to the theatre to get their next motion picture fix? It doesn't improve things that you can count the number of screens at Hereford's Odeon on one finger.

So, back to the film, which I'm immediately listing as a must-see to anyone with intentions to make their own feature (regardless of professional level) or any film student for that matter. Not only does the film represent how much can be done with a relatively slim plot, but it also represents how much can be done with a relatively slim budget. The technical ability director Robert Bresson displays is nothing short of inspiring.

And same can be said for the plot. Throughout his incarceration, the protagonist never backs down, never gives up, always quietly toiling away at his escape plan. It may well be the only thing keeping him sane. Naturally, I won't give away whether he succeeds or fails. At the end of it all, it isn't very important. What matters is the journey to that particular conclusion. All quite profound, and all very human.

The prison-drama genre doesn't get many installments these days, probably because there's only so many paths for the plot to follow. The Escapist is a recent (and British) example of how things can be done differently but, ultimately, isn't as satisfying as A Man Escaped. But how does Bresson's film measure to that sacred cow of the prison drama genre: The Shawshank Redemption? It can't be better, surely?

It's damn close, I'll tell you that much.

1 comment:

James said...

If you like this movie , check out Bresson's Notes on Cinematography.