A Condemned Man Escaped

Based on a newspaper narrative by Resistance leader Andre Devigny of his escape from a Nazi prison in Lyon just hours before he was to be executed, A Condemned Man Escaped undertakes to construct from his most “external” or social of acts (involved, as it is, in: wartime, resistance, escape, heroism) a film in which “the drama is all within.” The first step? Bresson eliminates the suspense. There is no race against time, because Fontaine has no idea when he is to be shot. The next step? Minimize the “drama” of prison life, which Bresson does by concentration on his character's solitude. He emphasizes the material preparation for escape - the spoon Fontaine has to steal, then shape into a cutting tool; the grate he must transform into a hook; the bedding he must braid into rope. Paradoxically, Bresson's techniques work: minimal images, a spare commentary, a few bars of Mozart's C Minor Mass, it all adds up to a profoundly moving experience.

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