A Man Escaped-attachment0

A Man Escaped

Movie Information

In Brief: Robert Bresson's entertaining but overrated 1956 "true story" (he claims it as such) — about a man's escape from a Nazi prison in France during World War II — has the distinction of being one of the director's few profitable film, probably because it's the most accessible. The escape itself is very well-done and the film is solidly made, but whether it's anything notable in the realm of prison escape stories is debatable.
Genre: Drama
Director: Robert Bresson
Starring: François Leterrier, Charles Le Clainche, Maurice Beerblock, Roland Monod
Rated: NR

“This is a true story. I have told it as it happened, without embellishment.” Such is the claim of Robert Bresson at the beginning of his 1956 film A Man Escaped. While I suspect this is more truthful than other claims of “true stories” in movies, I’m still not taking that as absolute fact (though I suspect Bresson would claim that any embellishments were inherent in the memoir from which he adapted the film). Given Bresson’s penchant for a seemingly unadorned style, it’s probably as true as it can be, but let’s face it: The minute a filmmaker chooses his camera placement, settles on a take, or makes an edit, he has already embellished the truth to suit his idea of it. Despite that, A Man Escaped is a unique movie in Bresson’s filmography because it’s the only one of his films that can said to have been a hit with the public. Though much prized by the cognoscenti, Bresson was never a popular filmmaker with the broader moviegoing public. So what’s different here? Well, this film is much more accessible than most of his work. This film tells the story of a Frenchman (François Leterrier) imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II for sabotage activities is very straightforward — and whether it mattered to Bresson or not, the very nature of a man escaping from a well-fortified prison is inherently suspenseful. (Bresson plays down potentially big scenes like when our main character strangles a guard offscreen. But the material simply is suspenseful.) For me, it’s a bit on the overrated side (but I’d say that of any Bresson film). It’s effective and well-done, but I question that it’s all that special — it’s not Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion (1937) is — but Bresson’s adherents would say that I simply don’t “get” Bresson. And, that may be the case.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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