An Analysis of Robert Bresson’s a Man Escaped
Robert Bresson’s 1956 film A Man Escaped, is a film that is based on the true story of Andre Devigny, a member of the French Resistance who managed to break out of prison just hours before he was to be executed. In the opening sequence of the film the viewer is able to establish that the main character Fontaine, (Played by Francois Leterrier) has been escorted to prison. Fontaine notices that the men beside him are cuffed, but he is not. He tries to get away when the car stops but is recaptured and beaten upon the head.
From his actions, the viewer is able to recognize Fontaine’s intelligence and that he is insistent on making an escape. The title of the film is a forewarning to the viewer and that “A Man Escaped”, and that warning causes the viewer to question if the title alludes to Fontaine, or another prisoner.
The drama is built upon that upfront information and it is heightened the further into the duration the viewer gets, up until the final escape sequence. The scene for analysis takes place at approximately Twenty minutes into the duration of the film.
The scene opens with a medium shot focused on Fontaine amidst his isolation. Fontaine looks up toward the ceiling with a facial expression that reads as saddened or lonesome, which slowly fades out, and fades back in, to a medium long shot of the character crouching in a vulnerable position next to the door. A close shot of Fontaine’s face really shows his emotion, very saddened and depleted of hope.
It appears that Fontaine is analyzing the wooden door.
From his remarks, the viewer can gather that the character has previous knowledge of wood and that dismantling the door is a possibility in his plan to escape the prison. Bresson is persistent on the close-up of the potential escapist’s hands, feeling the wood, working with tools, etc. The character receives an iron spoon, an item that will aid him in moving the panels in the door. Followed by another close-up of the main characters hands, sharpening his new tool, which dissolves into the next medium shot of him standing in his prison cell.
Fontaine is able to pry the panels of wood apart. Fontaine hides his new tool and moves toward the window in his cell, The camera pans up, following him, and the scene fades out. This is one of the most important scenes in the film, and really is the turning point for Fontaine because he acknowledges the possibility in getting through his prison cell door and acquires a tool that is capable of helping him “dismantle” the panels in the door. I think this gives him a small amount of hope and a goal to work towards.
Bresson’s minimalist approach to the cinematography intensifies his use of non- diegetic sound in the film.
Bresson uses sound beyond the image, to inform the viewer of actions going on around Fontaine’s prison cell. like footsteps outside the cell or noises made by other prisoners. Sound is used to put emphasis on Fontaine’s actions, like the chiseling of the panels or the sharpening of the spoon. As with the images, dialogue is reduced to the essential. Fontaine does the narration in the film and he only indicates the most important details to the viewer.