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Captured French Resistance fighter Lieutenant Fontaine awaits a certain death sentence for espionage in a stark Nazi prison in Lyon, France. Facing malnourishment and paralyzing fear, he must plot an extraordinary escape, complicated by the questions of whom to trust, and what lies beyond the small portion of the prison they are housed in.Written by
This forms the first of a loose trilogy by Robert Bresson of prison pictures, with the other films being "Pickpocket" and "The Trial of Joan of Arc". See more »
Le lieutenant Fontaine:
[Narrating, after giving his word to the prison warden that he would not try to escape again]
Who were we kidding? He certainly did not believe me. As for myself, I was determined to escape at the first opportunity.
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An excellent war movie portraying the final days & months of a convicted French officer trying to escape from a German Prison and a pending execution during WWII.
For the majority of the film we are like a fly-on-the-wall observing Lieutenant Fontaine (François Leterrier) come to terms with the fact that he is going to be shot very soon and that no one other than himself is going to come to his rescue.
In addition we share the confined cell with our pessimistic officer. Understatement swamps every scene - but this is very much a good thing. There are no heroics, loud explosions of gunfire, flag waving jingoism or tightened-square jaws here...this is very much reality.
Neither is director Bresson concerned about hurrying the film along. Instead every scene is measured to precision; every camera angle is clearly pre-defined; and every emotion & inner doubt from Leterrier is emphasised very simply.
The film is so claustrophobic that you feel you want to gasp for air such is the tightness of the cinematography and the relatively slow pacing of the plan to escape. But you can't break free, you want to stick with Leterrier and mentally urge him to escape from his appointment with the firing squad.
The last 20 minutes is perhaps marginally weaker compared to the rest of the film and Bresson does have an annoying habit of playing the same extract of dreary music when our prisoner wonders whether his escape attempt will ever happen.
BUT you must somehow track down this film. It is a classic film-noir with a heavy European styling, understated but consuming & passionate.
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