Diary of a Country Priest
(Le journal d'un curé de campagne)
Introduction and Post-screening Discussion
Tony Pipolo is professor emeritus of film and literature at the City University of New York and author of Robert Bresson: A Passion for Film.
Claude Laydu, Nicole Maurey, Jean Riveyre, André Guibert,
Georges Bernanos’s novel concerns a young country priest who, in his simplicity and purity, suffers the scorn of his parishioners. Bresson faithfully adapted the novel to the screen, using Bernanos’s original dialogue and diary entries; what he cut from the novel seems only to add to this fidelity. The essence of Bresson’s film écriture, the narrative is punctuated by images of the priest’s journal accompanied by a low-toned voice-over reading. Episode by episode, in his loneliness and then in illness, like stages of the cross, the priest progresses through pain to grace. Claude Laydu, a Swiss stage actor, fasted for periods in order to achieve the authenticity of his role, which is one of exterior passivity and interior strength. He effects Bresson’s most intimate excursion into the soul, and what Gavin Lambert called the director’s “exalted pessimism.”