Saturday, April 7, 2012
A Man Escaped. A
The great POW films involving grand escapes are generally thought to be Grand Illusion, Stalag 17, and The Great Escape. What do these all have in common? Well, among other things, the escape routes in all three involve underground tunnels. So being familiar with this popular method of escape, I sat down to Bresson's A Man Escaped and was almost relieved it didn't involve men scraping through the ground for freedom. The main character in the film, a French WWII prisoner named Fontaine, meticulously plans his escape using various tools. Tunneling isn't an option since each prisoner is confined to an individual cell. His first job is of course to figure out how to open the cell door. The beginning portion of the film involves him using a spoon to chip away at the wood until he can open it from the outside. He'll also have several walls to get over, so his main task after that is to get a rope for the job. Since real rope isn't an option, he's forced to get creative by tearing about bed sheets and even a new set of clothes he receives in the mail. He keeps it sturdy with the wire from his bed spring. A Man Escaped is chiefly about what the title suggests. The subplots are few. Besides some scenes with the prison community, the movie mostly takes place in Fontaine's cell. Yet through Fontaine's mission, Bresson tackles the theme of faith, both in one self and in others (the latter concerns a young cell mate Fontaine gets near the end of the film). This is probably the most accessible and popular of Bresson's work. For a prison movie, it's a bit unorthodox, but for a Bresson film, it's fairly straightforward, yet no less exceptional than his most boggling efforts.