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Au Hasard Balthazar (1966 – Robert Bresson)

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Au Hasard Balthazar is a 1966 French Film which was directed by Robert Bresson.

Au Hasard Balthazar is a film about the life of Marie, a shy farm girl and her donkey, Balthazar, showing the progress over the years. However, as Marie grew, the pair got separated. This film shows what life is about and how Marie as well as Balthazar took abuse in all forms from the people they meet throughout the years.

The owners that Balthazar had after Marie, treated him cruelly and he bore this suffering with the nobility as well as the wisdom, becoming a saint in the process.

The simplicity of this film is just showing what the life of a donkey as well as the life of a human being is like. Robert Bresson did not show the donkey as the ones in those cartoon films where the animals can talk. He simply put a donkey.

In the beginning, Bresson showed a scene where Balthazar was taking his first unstable steps and it was seen that three children sprinkled some water in Balthazar’s head and baptized it. Bresson might be suggesting that God not only has a place for humans but also other creatures that He has created as well.

Bresson has shown the reactions of Balthazar differently as compared to other animal films, other animals would stomp their hooves or roll their eyes but for Balthazar, it’s different. An example would be, Balthazar would simply walk or wait, despite everything with the clarity of a donkey who knows that is is a beast of burden and that life has it’s ups and downs, and the feeling of pain and pleasure are normal in life.

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Balthazar does not show its emotion to the viewers but instead it communicates through its physical feeling in universal terms like, Balthazar being covered in snow – it is cold, it’s tail on fire – it is frightened, eating it’s meals – it is contented, overworked – it is exhausted.

Bresson is trying to tell the viewers that we are some what similar to that of Balthazar. Even though we have dreams and aspirations, the world is cruel and will eventually do with us what it does. No doubt that intelligence s needed but it does not comprehend the power of fate. We cannot control God’s doing but we can try to shape what we want our lives to be like in the future. Bresson has incorporated in his film that if we sympathize with how others feel, we might end up with a thing we call “Social experience”, instead of suffering life alone.

Au Hasard Balthazar won the Critics Award in 1967  for Best Film as well as it won the OCIC Award in 1966.

Au Hasard Balthazar is a very different way of showing how life is like, it is interesting in a way where we can learn from the film. Bresson uses a donkey and also incorporated humans to his film, however, the main focus in this film is not Marie, the shy farm girl but it is the donkey, Balthazar. Bresson showed viewers how some animals are some what similar to humans, in a sense where we treat people the way we want people to treat us. The ending of this film is also relatable to us, in a way, that we will die alone and we will die like how we were once born. For example, in this film, Balthazar is old and goes back to where it’s life began, from a herd and that is where it died as well.

This film is really interesting to watch in a way that I got to learn many different perspectives in life. The way you want people to treat you reflects in the way you treat people. As well as, we do not have to say anything in order for people to know what our feelings are, for example, if we frown, it means that we are unhappy about something and if we cry, it means that we are hurt and sad. It is also shown in the film that not only humans get a place in heaven but also creatures that God created gets a place too, as shown by the sprinkling of water – baptizing Balthazar by the three kids.

In Balthazar, the film is less about the cute triumphs of the animal lead, but instead about more cerebral topics, like faith, capitalism and suffering.  Therefore, in utilizing abrupt transitions throughout, Bresson prevents the audience from becoming swept up in emotion or narrative, forcing instead the audience to consider Balthazar and the other characters in an objective manner.  What this does is essentially place the audience in an enlightened state of mind.

In a single shot, Bresson says what a less audacious director could spend an entire scene drawing out. A prominent example is the iconic shot of Marie huddled against the wall. He could have shown us more, but such gratuity was unnecessary. As is frequently the case with horror films, what isn’t shown is infinitely more horrifying than most on screen brutality could ever hope to be.

About the Author: Syara Shah loves doing sports, dance and starts her creative juices going once she’s in her zone. She aspires to be a director/ an entrepreneur.

References:

  1. Reviews: Au Hasard Balthazar – Roger Ebert on March 19, 2004. Retrieved from Chicago Sun-Times on June 22, 2013.(http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-au-hasard-balthazar-1966)
  2. Au Hasard Balthazar (Opening Sequence) – Kutrna on January 20, 2008. Retrieved from YouTube on June 22, 2013.         (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pt4zCZh__6Y)
  3. Au Hasard Balthazar (Trailer) – UmbrellaEntAU on November 15, 2011. Retrieved fromYouTube on June 22, 2013.          (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLj-ILhNChU)
  4. Regrettablesincerity.com. 2013. Au Hasard Balthazar | A Regrettable Moment of Sincerity. [online] Available at: http://regrettablesincerity.com/?p=1230 [Accessed: 8 Jul 2013].
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One thought on “Au Hasard Balthazar – 1966

  1. A well-thought-out analysis of the film! Themes were properly analyzed and I really like that you gave an opinion of the film after thoroughly understanding the themes! However, I think that you focused too much on the film itself and gave a lot of details of what’s in the film.

    To improve the essay, maybe you can focus on the historical breakthrough or impact of this film and also the aesthetic appeal of the film. Critics’ take on this film can also be incorporated! I’ll add some stuff later to prompt the angle of the essay!

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