Los Angeles, May 19, 2012
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Sunday, May 20, 2012
Robert Bresson | Le diable problement (The Devil, Probably)
witnessesby Douglas Messerli
From the very first scene to the final images of the film, Bresson makes it quite clear that, even though his androgynous hero chooses the solution of suicide to cure his illness of "seeing too clearly," his commitment is to life. But then Bresson's heroes, from Mouchette and the Country Priest to his compulsive pickpocket, all choose routes to salvation that might be damned by their faith. That is the way it is with such a great deep moralist as Bresson: for individuals faced with the evils of the world, probably the work of the Devil, there is no easy decision in knowing how to survive and react.
Much like a kind of hippie cult leader, Charles (Antonie Monnier) collects a small group of people around him—Edwige (Laetita Carcano) and Alberte (Tina Irissari) as well as the drug addict Valentin (Nocolas Deguy) and Edwige's former boyfriend, Michel (Henri de Maublanc)—as they undergo a series of what might be described as educational explorations of the decline of contemporary society. Unlike some cult leaders, he asks only that, with him, they witness discussions of the societal problems. In return he offers each of them a deep love—which we observe most intensely when Valentin is desperately in need of a fix and suffers withdrawal symptoms, Bresson showing Charles not only obtaining the drugs but gently pulling the covers around his suffering friend. At one point, Charles even offers to marry the more needy of his two women friends.
It is almost inevitable, we come to see, that the sensitive Charles should chose to commit suicide; certainly his friends fear for it. But as he tells his psychiatrist, he does not really want to die; it is simply that in such a world he cannot sanely go on living. Like the Romans, accordingly, Charles chooses another—in this case, his drug-needy friend—to carry out his wishes. Always in need of a quick fix and the money to find one, Valentin agrees to become Charles' Judas, carrying out the awful deed only too well, shooting and killing his loving friend mid-sentence, as if to cut off any possibility of regret or his friend's ability to talk his way out of the end he has determined for himself. In his suicide-murder, Charles is also, probably, a kind of devil, but at least he has been saved from seeing, like Cassandra, everything he has predicted come true. Whereas, unfortunately, we must now daily face just those horrors which Charles and his friends already witnessed, as well as facing all those still in denial today.
Los Angeles, May 19, 2012