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The Diary of a Country Priest (Criterion Collection) (1950)

Cast: Claude Laydu, Claude Laydu, André Guibert, more...
Director: Robert Bresson, Robert Bresson
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Studio: Criterion
Genre: Classics, Drama, Foreign, France, Classic Drama, Classic Drama, Criterion Collection
Running Time: 115 min.
Languages: French
Subtitles: English
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An austere look at the experiences of a young priest in a small French parish, Robert Bresson's masterly Le Journal d'un curé de campagne (Diary of a Country Priest) presents a powerful, complex exploration of faith underneath a deceptively simple exterior. Drawn from a novel by Georges Bernanos, the film centers on the priest of Ambricourt (Claude Laydu), a withdrawn, devout young man whose social awkwardness leaves him isolated from the community he is meant to serve. Further problems derive from the priest's ill health, which limits him to a diet of bread and wine and hinders his ability to perform his duties. Growing sicker and increasingly uncertain about his purpose in life, the priest undergoes a crisis of faith that threatens to drive him away from his village and from God. Bresson presents his spiritual tale in a minimalist, unadorned style, relying on a rigorous series of stripped-down shots and utilizing non-actors in many of the supporting roles. The approach may initially seem distancing or ponderous to a contemporary audience, but the cumulative impact of the brilliant visuals and Laydu's powerful, restrained performance is unquestionable. Almost universally acclaimed, this searching drama is generally considered one of Bresson's finest works and a crucial classic of world cinema. ~ Judd Blaise, All Movie Guide

Special Features:

  • Commentary by film historian Peter Cowie
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Essay by film critic Frederic Bonnaud

GreenCine Member Reviews

Most Terrific Character Depiction by JMVerville October 24, 2004 - 5:42 PM PDT
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful
This story was very influential and moving in many ways, seeing the afflictions of the Priest and the way that he deals with the animosity of his town are truly interesting. It depicts, very well, the life of a young man (who appears very boyish throughout the entirety of the film) not just living as a Priest, but also living as a sort of outcast -- it shows very well what the inter-workings of this Priest's, this outcast's brain is like, and it shows the human emotionality very well.

From the beginning to the end of the film I was fascinated with the main character, and his goals and his aims, his beliefs and his passionate inclination to helping others -- rarely do you see such great work done in putting the spotlight on the character. Bresson truly shows himself to be a master of character depiction. Anyone who has ever experienced awkward social circumstances or has ever felt alienated can immediately relate to the Father.

I found the dialogue in this film to be at times absolutely shocking & amazing, and the actors to be filled with a lot of feeling; there are parts in this film that I will remember forever because of the fabulous writing and acting. You rarely see a film with as much poignant & sharp character interaction as this; I found myself always anticipating the next meeting that the Father would have with certain characters, always anticipating more of the amazing dialogue.

For those who are interested in religion, this film really hits the nail on the head. I feel that, although it is very much inclined towards Christianity and Christian thought, it was in no way overbearing and nor would it take away from the film for a non-Christian. In fact, what makes the dialogue so sharp is the debates and self-doubt that we see the Priest have from time to time. Overall, a terrific film and study of social relationships.

The priesthood, politics, economics and people by talltale September 28, 2004 - 7:31 AM PDT
4 out of 5 members found this review helpful
I haven't seen that much of the work of Robert Bresson, having been introduced to him in the 60s with "Au Hazard Balthazar" and "Mouchette," both of which I found boring and amateur in the extreme. But his earlier work DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST (from 1950) holds up pretty well. The movie features a staggering amount of first-person narration (accompanied by close-ups of the "tortured" face of the priest) as it focuses on the denizens of a small French town and their relationship to this new, very young and untested "boy of god." This is a strange, cruel, sad and finally (whether you buy into Christianity or not) moving piece of filmmaking. It's good enough to make me wonder if I ought to try watching Bresson's other films again....

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.81)
149 Votes
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