Robert And His Donkey: “Au Hasard Balthazar” (1966)

Cover of "Au Hasard Balthazar (Criterion ...

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If it is a Christian who is baptized (excluding the infants), the baby donkey baptized by children in Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) is a Christian—or, rather, a “Christian.”  He is a “Christian” in the sense of a suffering servant—“an epitome of passive suffering,” says Vernon Young.  He is frightened and scorned and abused by men, while, on the other hand, a girl named Marie (Anne Wiazemsky) loves him as a pet.  But Balthazar, the donkey, is removed from Marie, and Marie—virtually the Mary Magdalene of the film—removes herself from respectable company.  Not only does she love the vile hoodlum Gerard (Francois Lafarge), she also resorts to prostitution.  Balthazar must live with the earthy, earthy reality.  Marie chooses to live with, to embrace, the worldly.

Its flaws keep Au Hasard Balthazar (At Random, Balthazar) from being as powerful as it could be.  All the same, it manages to be one of the good movies of Robert Bresson (unlike those he made in the Seventies), a profound Christian opus acknowledging that there is Christological truth in the natural world.  It also conveys that the sufferer is superior to the sinner, albeit Marie too, after sinning, suffers.

(In French with English subtitles)


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