A Man Escaped
A Man Escaped or: The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth (French: Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut) is a 1956 French film directed by Robert Bresson. It is based on the memoirs of André Devigny, a member of the French Resistance held in Montluc prison by the occupying Germans during World War II. The protagonist of the film is called Fontaine. Bresson himself was imprisoned by the Germans as a member of the French Resistance. The second part of the title comes from the Bible (John 3:8).
|A Man Escaped|
|Directed by||Robert Bresson|
|Produced by||Alain Poiré|
|Written by||Robert Bresson|
Charles Le Clainche
|Music by||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart|
|Edited by||Raymond Lamy|
|Distributed by||Gaumont Film Company|
The soundtrack uses the Kyrie from Mozart's Great Mass in C minor, K. 427. The film was entered into the 1957 Cannes Film Festival, and has been one of Bresson's most renowned works since its initial release.
After the establishing shot of Montluc prison, but before the opening credits, the camera rests on a plaque commemorating the 7,000 prisoners who died at the hands of the Nazis.
On the way to jail, Fontaine (François Leterrier), a member of the French Resistance, seizes an opportunity to escape his German captors when the car carrying him is forced to stop, but he is soon apprehended, beaten for his attempt, handcuffed and taken to the jail. At first he is incarcerated in a cell on the first floor of the prison, and he is able to talk to three French men who are exercising in the courtyard. The men obtain a safety pin for Fontaine, which gives him the ability to unlock his handcuffs. This turns out to be needless as a means to help him with any escape plans he may already have, but it allows him at will, to remove the handcuffs which are kept on him 24 hours a day. He eventually gives his word parole to the German magistrate he is brought before, not to escape, and is moved to a cell on the top floor without handcuffs.
Once in the new cell, Fontaine begins inspecting the door and discovers that the boards are joined together with low-quality wood. Using an iron spoon he deliberately neglects to return after a meal, he begins to chip away at the wood. After weeks of work, he is able to remove three boards from the door, roam the hallway, get back in his cell and restore the appearance of the door.
Fontaine is not the only prisoner trying to escape. Orsini (Jacques Ertaud) makes an attempt, but fails to get very far because his rope breaks at the second wall. Orsini is tossed back in his cell, beaten up by the guards, and executed a few days later. Fontaine is not deterred from his plan. He makes hooks from the light fitting in his cell, fashions himself ropes from clothing and bedding and fastens the hooks to the rope with wires taken from his bed. The other prisoners grow somewhat skeptical of his escape plans, saying he is taking too long.
After being taken to Gestapo headquarters to be informed that he is sentenced to execution, Fontaine is taken back to jail and put in the same cell. Soon he gets a cellmate, François Jost (Charles Le Clainche), a sixteen-year-old who had joined the German army. Fontaine is not sure whether he can trust Jost (whom he sees speaking on friendly terms with a German guard) and realizes he will either have to kill him or take him with him in the escape. In the end, after Jost admits he too wants to escape, he chooses to trust the boy and tells him the plan. One night, they escape by gaining access to the roof of the building, descending to the courtyard via a rope, killing the German guard there, and climbing over two walls. They drop down into the street undetected and walk away.
- François Leterrier – Lieutenant Fontaine
- Charles Le Clainche – François Jost
- Roland Monod – Le Pasteur
- Maurice Beerblock – Blanchet
- Jacques Ertaud – Orsini
- Roger Treherne – Terry
- Jean Paul Delhumeau – Hebrard
- Jean Philippe Delamarre – Prisoner No, 110
- César Gattegno – Le Prisonnier X
- Jacques Oerlemans – Chief Warder
The film is based on the memoirs of André Devigny, who escaped from the Montluc prison in Lyon in 1943, during World War II. Bresson said in an interview that with A Man Escaped he "wanted to achieve a great purity, a greater asceticism than in Diary of a Country Priest", noting his use of nonprofessional actors.
DVD and Blu-ray release
New Yorker Video released the film on Region 1 DVD in 2004; it is currently out of print. Artificial Eye brought out a Region 2 version in the UK in April 2008. This disc contains a superior audio/video presentation and contains a Dutch documentary, The Road to Bresson, as an extra. Madman Entertainment released a Region 4 Australian DVD in July 2009. This release contains a scholarly audio commentary by Professor Ross Gibson of the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.
Scholarly and critical reception
A Man Escaped was named by the National Board of Review as one of the best foreign films of 1956, and Bresson won Best Director at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival. Today, the work is sometimes considered Bresson's masterpiece.
- Richie, Donald (1998). "Bresson and Music". In Quandt, James (ed.). Robert Bresson. Toronto: Toronto International Film Festival Group. p. 300.
He employed Mozart, the Kyrie Elieson [sic] of the Mass in C Minor, music which had a "colour," he said, matching that of the film. ... The music is heard in seven sequences, in all of which the prisoners are communicating with the condemned man, when they are no longer alone.
- "Festival de Cannes: A Man Escaped". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-02-08.
- Cunneen 2004, p. 59.
- Cunneen, Joseph E. (2004). "The Spirit Blows through Prison". Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 58–70. ISBN 0-8264-1605-5.
- Cunneen 2004, p. 60.
- "Un condamné à mort s'est échappé (Blu-ray)". amazon.fr. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
- Cunneen, Joseph (2004). Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film. A&C Black. p. 59. ISBN 0826416055.
- "UN CONDAMNE A MORT S'EST ECHAPPE - Festival de Cannes (International Film Festival)". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
- "A Man Escaped: Quintessential Bresson - From the Current - The Criterion Collection". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- "A Man Escaped (Bresson, 1956)". 1More Film Blog. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- "A Man Escaped (1956)". Stanley W. Rogouski. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- "DVD Review: Bresson's A Man Escaped (1956) - New Yorker Video DVD". People.ucalgary.ca. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
- A Man Escaped on IMDb
- A Man Escaped at Rotten Tomatoes
- A Man Escaped: Quintessential Bresson an essay by Tony Pipolo at the Criterion Collection