Au hasard Balthazar
Anne Wiazemsky, François Lafarge, Walter Green, Philippe Asselin,
Inspired in part by the donkey anecdote in Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, Bresson cast Balthazar the donkey as the central character. Passed from one owner to the next, Balthazar is both witness to and victim of their stories, their suffering, their violence. His life and death are as mysterious, if not meaningless, as any of theirs. If anything, Balthazar’s deep eyes, as captured in Bresson’s fragmented framing, intimate an understanding lost to the blank-faced peasants. He is the transcendent Bressonian actor. The other main figure in the film is a young farm girl who befriends Balthazar and suffers some of his fate in the grip of her passion for a leather-jacketed motorcyclist. Bresson was interested not only in the biblical image of the donkey—his patience, his humility—but in the Greek and Roman concept of the donkey as a symbol of sexuality. The film is at once extremely sensual and a work of unearthly sensitivity.