Robert Bresson was at the age of 70 when he made his 12th feature which also marked his second last film. The style is pure Bresson for its dogmatism of ideas and characters. Precise 'mise-en-scene', perfect development of aesthetics and astonishing construction of state characterize the stylistics of Bresson. The Devil, Probably is for its world view one of Bresson's most inconsolable films. It portrays Parisian youth and its consciousness but at the same brushes many current topics, such as; pollution, profusion of wood industry, slaughter of baby seals, the threat of ecological disaster, the decay of religion and politics, the cruelty of all social institutions and, the absurdity of consumer society. But as usually in the films by Bresson the essential battle is being fought inside man - in the zone of personal emotion, faith and morality.
The protagonist of the film refuses to be a part of this society. He doesn't want to compete in this rat race whose values he seems as absurd. In the middle of materialism and superficial values he tries to find spiritual deliverance from his friends and family - but can't, because they all are already slaves of this society. Eventually his friends suggest him to see a psychiatrist - the culmination of blind appreciation in our world. Thoughts of suicide begin to fill his mind, even that he can't bear the idea of being unable to see, experience and hear - Mozart's music. In the end he understands that any decent action in a corrupt world only reinforces the corruption of it and, intrinsically for a materialistic world he has to buy his own death.
An important observation is that in the development of aesthetics Bresson very rarely moves his camera. He edits and uses montage instead. This is Bressonian aesthetics; perfection of the state and composition. There are several unforgettable images in the film and together they form a spellbinding synthesis - the art of continuity; the film starts with an image where a boat suddenly enters the state and, ends with one where a man exits the state. The minimalism can be seen in both, aesthetics and narrative, and it reinforces the overall distressing atmosphere of the film.
The Devil, Probably has an incredibly pessimistic world view of the destruction of civilization but, at the same, it proves that there still is hope. How else mankind could have made a masterpiece like this? The images we observe force the viewer to think, watch closely and see the beauty in simple things. There is no love, nor hope to save the protagonist as there was in earlier films by Bresson but his unsentimental death will be remembered as the culmination of life and the mystery of it.
During the protagonist's conquest he seems to be failing miserably because there is no spiritual deliverance for him. This is the thesis of the film but, as an atheist, the Christianity of the film didn't bother me at all. The protagonist could just as well be searching for philosophy, for a deeper meaning in life - not necessarily from religion. Even that the title refers to Bresson's Catholicism it can also be read as an allegory. The Devil is the one who pulls the strings and enslaves us in this absurd consumer society. There is something much deeper, something that goes beyond the limitations of religion.
Ecology and other current issues are just part of the frame-story. The film goes much deeper in humanity studying themes, such as; the fragility of materialism, pressure of urban living, soul searching, superficiality and vacancy of modern life. In addition for its pessimistic world view of the destruction of civilization, the film is a remarkable masterpiece which proves that there still is the consciousness of man that will set us free from the chains of materialism and irrationality.
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Charles drifts through politics, religion and psychoanalysis, rejecting them all. Once he realises the depth of his disgust with the moral and physical decline of the society he lives in, he decides that suicide is the only option...
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May 23, 2022 at 04:56 AM