Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut
Robert Bresson is the kind of director that not everyone gets and likes. Almost everyone of his films involves religion and faith in some manner. With Un condamné à mort s'est échappé, Bresson applied his "cinematographer" theory to film making. It involves a non-professional cast, few music except at the end, and a very minimalist mise en scène. One could say that it was a Dogme 95 of the 1950's. Adapted from the memoirs of André Devigny and scripted by Robert Bresson himself, Un condamné à mort s'est échappé is one of the most interesting if not the best jail movie.
Fontaine (François Leterrier) is a French resistant emprisoned during the Nazi occupation in France and he is condemned for a death sentence. Even before entering in the prison his thoughts are centered around a way to escape. During a long but untold lapse of time he concocts and study his plan to get out of jail. We follow the evolution of his plan and every thought and hesitation with a voice over by Fontaine himself. The minimalist locations of shooting, the cell, the prisoner yard, and the staircases are among the few places Bresson films. Everything is done with the fewer means possible. As the viewer is totally concerned with the dramatic escalation of the story and the climax. This is the most gripping film Bresson has ever made and the theory of the "cinematographer" is superbly executed and applies perfectly with the subject of the jail escape.
This is also a film about hope and expecting what you can do when you are determined to achieve and success. The whole idea of faith and belief is also mentioned in a conversation with the Priest of Leiris (Roland Monod) while in an argument that one must pray to the lord but also act to get he asks. An interesting fact about Fontaine and Bresson is the fact that the director himself has been in the French Resistance and that like Louis Malle who was a collaborator to the Nazis, made a film about a personal experience. His heroes, or as he liked to call them models, are often expressionless and antipathetic characters. It is one of the elements that makes it difficult to rely to when one wants to discover Bresson's work. However, Un condamné à mort s'est échappé was brought to me by Mediafilm's Masterpiece list and I must completely agree with this institution: this is a masterpiece and Robert Bresson's greatest film.
Doomed he was when he arrived. Fontaine however came with his hopes and determination. Even if the Nazis beat him with iron bars his will to escape was stronger than any kind of repression.