Editor: Marinos Sklavounakis
In order to approach minimalism we should consider how it’s expressed in other forms through cinematography. Robert Bresson is also considered as one of the main representatives of minimalism of the (monetaristic) cinematography in the 50s and 60s. But his minimalistic approach significantly differs from Antonioni’s. Let us not forget that Antonioni was an atheist and expressed the emptiness of the human existence. Bresson’s work on the contrary is distinguished for its Catholicism and its ascetic, grave and restrained manner that gives his movies an exceptional spirituality. The minimalistic style in Bresson’s direction is expressed in various ways: he avoids the use of music (unless it fits with the narrative), he uses his sets and costumes frugally, but most vividly and that simplicity and frugality is demonstrated to the performing style he imposes on his actors. Bresson forced the actors to constantly reiterate and rehearse, until they could mechanically repeat their role and their gestures without any sentimentality and exaggerations, so as to expunge the sense of ‘reenactment’. That way we can watch the actors perform in a very cold and raw but at the same time very implicate way, with subtle variations and a persistence to detail, resulting to exceptional moving and profound renditions.
He mostly preferred non-professional actors, or very young amateurs and his purpose was to transform them into actors. In the movie “By chance Balthasar” (Au hasard Balthazar, 1966) the leading figure is a donkey (Balthazar), one of the most moving appearances in the history of film.
In Bresson’s sparing writing the scenery is not that important while he subtracts anything redundant from the narrative, the dialogues and the plot, thus providing clarity and spirituality in his stories. Additionally, the subject of faith and religion is present in his entire work under the basic forms of repentance and guild. His directing is also sparse and constrained: he prefers his mid-shots emphasizing to the actor’s body and face, while always using 50mm lens, for an undistorted image and a more natural outcome.
It is also important to mention that during the WWII, Bresson was captured and imprisoned in a concentration camp, an event that deeply influenced him.
The particular movie (Au hasard Balthazar, 1966) is considered his masterpiece and one of the world’s best movies. Minimalistic in both the narrative but even more in the acting level, Bresson asks from the audience to come closer to the character and not the opposite.
He bemoans for the fate and cruel reality of every living thing. He also laments because nothing is under our control. Our intelligence as humans is different from Bathazar’s, because it allows us to observe our fate, which we can’t control or change in any way. Bathazar doesn’t contemplate on his fate but only to his present state. The only thing that he can do in such an incomprehensible world is to patiently bear his imposed torments.
In the movie we see the life of Balthazar primarily depicting the life of man. He spends his first years playfully and joyfully, then he spends his time working, after that there is a period of talent and intelligence and at the end there comes a mystical age that is symbolized by death.
Bresson implies that we’re all Balthazars.
No matter how many high hopes or plans one has, life and reality will do what it will do.
Luckily Bresson doesn’t abandon us that way, but proposes compassion towards other people as a resolution.
That would give us consolation when experiencing segregation from the others.