Monday 25 May 2015

Au Hasard Balthazar review

All cinema isn’t drama. Sometime, someplace, some blessed moment it gives you something so close to reality you feel like witnessing life itself on the screen in front of you. Au Hasard Balthazar is one such saintly film, a blessing in disguise.

On the surface, it is a fairly simple story. There is Marie (Anne Wiazemsky) whose family takes a donkey while Marie is a child and names it Balthazar. Years soon pass as we go through the twists and turns the respective fates of these two protagonists have taken over the years. We see how both of them live a life of humiliation, subjugation and abuse. We see how their lives cross paths each time the pain in their lives reaches its peak. There is a difference though. Balthazar is a victim of a fate that is natural to the beast he is. He is flogged, beaten yet keeps on doing his work. “He’s a saint”, says Marie’s mother. Marie on the other hand is not such a sympathetic figure. She has chosen nearly all the abuse that she is subjected to. She can easily choose an easy life at multiple points in the film but she doesn’t. She may not be the villain in the story but she is a sinner. The movie thus, is all about what becomes of the two and in the process, how they influence the lives of people around them.

Robert Bresson has filmed it in a style so close and yet so different from his usual theory of ‘pure cinematography’. At times, it looks like the events are taking place in a milieu that every viewer experiences in his day to day life. At other times, it appears they are so over the top dramatic that they belong to a college fest stage. Bresson achieves this by choosing a cast that is as blunt as a stone. They speak their lines without any regard to their meaning. This brings about the symbolism that he tries to achieve through his film, the seven deadly sins, ‘Balthazar’ as the archetype of Christian faith and the destruction of a life that isn’t based on principles.  It takes patience. It gets outrageous, sinister, evil, sad and yet you sit through it because as humans, we expect a catharsis to life’s problems and as humans we believe in forgiveness. We never really blame Marie. Our sympathies lie with Balthazar even when he does not ask for them. Bresson teaches us a lesson here- a lesson in humanity through the life of a beast. That our forbearance is as helpful in changing lives as our willingness to yield to it and that cruelty and sadism are but a matter of perspective.

Bandwidth verdict- The blog isn’t worthy of passing a verdict on the film or to rate it. Having said that, you should get the idea.

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