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Charles drifts through politics, religion and psychoanalysis, rejecting them all. Once he realises the depth of his disgust with the moral and physical decline of the society he lives in, he decides that suicide is the only option...Written by
Michael Brooke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I just saw this film and found it to be one of the best depictions of this century's malaise I've ever seen, viewed through the eyes of the character Charles and his friends.
Charles is a nucleus of concern for his friends Micheal, Alberte, and Edwige. They devote much of their time doting on him and worrying over him, because he cannot find solace in anything...consumerism, environmental destruction, and greed have created a vacuum of disillusionment that these young characters live in, and Charles, above all, sees no way out--he finds this world disgusting, but dying to escape it just as pointless as trying to succeed in it and contribute to it.
Every scene and shot in this film is drained of warmth and vitality. It is as though everyone in the world has succumbed to the acceptance of industrialized mechanization and their own resulting powerlessness. Many shots do not even show the faces of people, just their anonymous bodies walking, their heads cut off. The acting is deliberately minimal and understated. In this drained world, there is never a glimmer of hope depicted for anyone.
But this isn't bad! What makes this film so great, in essence what I think makes much of Bresson's work so powerful, is its simple willingness to show things as they really are. While the others in the film cling to naive hopes for a "revolution," Charles has crossed over to an existential enlightenment of sorts...he fully sees that overthrowing the government or any challenge to authority is useless when it is all of humanity itself that guides and allows for the persistance of a destructive status quo. As he tells the psychologist: "My only problem is that I see too clearly."
And that is a problem, if one doesn't have any means for spiritual sustenance or some way to move on from there...and many people don't. Le Diable probablement makes it clear that for some, there are no institutions, no places in society to ultimately gather strength or support from. Giving up is their only option. As in his film Mouchette, Bresson depicts just this type of person as acheiving almost a state of grace in their refusal to accept what they are expected to accept...and paying the ultimate price for it. While suicide should never be celebrated, the beauty and clarity of the depiction of the mechanisms that lead to the character's suicide in Bresson's films is to be applauded.
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