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Diary of a Country Priest (1951)

Journal d'un curé de campagne (original title)
Approved | | Drama | 5 April 1954 (USA)
A young priest taking over the parish at Ambricourt tries to fulfill his duties even as he fights a mysterious stomach ailment.

Director:

Writers:

(novel),
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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 7 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Priest of Ambricourt (Curé d'Ambricourt)
Jean Riveyre ...
Count (Le Comte)
Adrien Borel ...
Priest of Torcy (Curé de Torcy) (as Andre Guibert)
Rachel Bérendt ...
Countess (La Comtesse) (as Marie-Monique Arkell)
Nicole Maurey ...
Miss Louise
Nicole Ladmiral ...
Chantal
Martine Lemaire ...
Séraphita Dumontel
...
Dr. Delbende (Docteur Delbende) (as Balpetre)
Jean Danet ...
Olivier
Gaston Séverin ...
Canon (Le Chanoine) (as Gaston Severin)
Yvette Etiévant ...
Femme de ménage
Bernard Hubrenne ...
Priest Dufrety
Léon Arvel ...
Fabregars
Martial Morange ...
Deputy mayor (L'Adjoint)
Gilberte Terbois ...
Mrs. Dumouchel (Mme Dumouchel)
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Storyline

In Ambricourt, an idealistic young Priest (Claude Laydu) arrives to be the local parish priest. He attempts to live a Christ-like life, but his actions are misunderstood. The community of the small town does not accept him, and although having a serious disease in the stomach, the inexperienced and frail priest tries to help the dwellers, and has a situation with the wealthy family of the location. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

5 April 1954 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Diary of a Country Priest  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Tobis-Klangfilm)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The main character's bizarre, unhealthy eating habits, not to mention his obsessive isolation and loneliness, were reportedly an influence on the character of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976). See more »

Quotes

Curé d'Ambricourt: Our hidden sins poison the air that others breathe.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Histoire(s) du cinéma: Les signes parmi nous (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Pretty much perfect.
26 February 2004 | by (San Diego) – See all my reviews

*Diary of a Country Priest* is a nearly perfect film. Made in 1950, this film benefits from Bresson being at the height of his powers. As he aged, the slow, measured, static style became more and more mannered, or more and more intolerable, shall we say. But here he doesn't go overboard: the mood is portentous rather than pretentious. And in any case, it's not as slow as you may think: there are probably hundreds of cuts in the film (this ain't no Carl Th. Dreyer movie). Along those lines, Bresson's method of adaptation -- which is to distill the ESSENCE of the chosen work -- is stringently economical and pared to the bone. In other words, the thing doesn't simply dawdle along. Based on a 1930's novel by a right-wing Euro novelist, *Diary* details the sad experiences of a young priest with health problems who is assigned to a new parish. The villagers treat the young man with hostility and downright scorn. Sensing and resenting the new priest's obvious holiness (everybody hates a saint), they ridicule him, shut him out of their confidences, send threatening anonymous notes ("I feel sorry for you, but GET OUT") . . . to all of which our hero responds with a sort of confused empathy. Meanwhile, Bresson uses a striking narrative device: we see the priest writing in his diary, while VOICING OVER what he's writing, and then there's a cut to a scene which SHOWS the action the priest has just been writing (and narrating) about. This complex, layered style proves to be more than a fair trade-off for the paucity of actual narrative incidents. We're invited to ponder an event's significance -- a lucky thing, because the action is quite often so psychologically complex that we need room to breathe, to think things over. Don't presume to form an opinion of *Diary* until you've seen it at least twice. Sounds like homework, I know, but so does *King Lear*. Great art IS homework.

Perhaps the film's true value is its delineation of just how stagnant and unpleasant little towns can be. Again Bresson is inventive: rather than simply show us the putrid little village, the director instead opts for an oblique approach, inviting us to IMAGINE just how putrid the village actually is, usually by heightening off-screen sound effects. Quite often, we hear unpleasant things like motorcycles backfiring, rakes running over asphalt, crows screeching, mean-spirited giggling outside a window, iron gates slamming shut, and so on.

And finally, it must be said that it's surprising how avowed agnostic directors make the most persuasive religious movies. In my view, this film and Dreyer's *Ordet* remain the greatest films about Christianity in the history of cinema (the conversion scene in the middle of *Diary* might prompt you to go to church next Sunday). Anyway, *Diary of a Country Priest* is an unassailable, influential masterpiece that's a MUST-OWN for the true cineaste, and a possible education in art for everybody else. Get the new Criterion edition, watch it twice, and listen to Peter Cowie's commentary. I assure you that it won't be a waste of your time.


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