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A sick young priest struggles to fit into a hostile rural community in Robert Bresson's sombre film about religious devotion
A turning point in the career of one of European cinema's most uncompromising talents, Bresson's sombre adaptation of George Bernanos' novel uses an amateur cast to document the spiritual salvation of a dying priest.
The nameless cleric (Laydu) arrives in the small French village of Ambricourt where, subsisting solely on bread, sugar and wine, he's met with indifference by villagers who try to get cheap funerals out of him. Idealistic in the extreme, the priest brings a bitter, atheist aristocrat round to an acceptance of God before succumbing to his own fatal stomach cancer.
Comparatively talky by Bresson's standards, Diary Of A Country Priest (Journal D'Un Curé De Campagne) eschews conventional plot, instead relying on grave recitations from the priest's journal to demonstrate how his purity of spirit is at odds with a harsh, Godless world.
Bresson was a director who believed in the transcendental properties of film and he was unafraid to tackle issues rarely dealt with. Here the result is tightly focussed, ruthlessly austere and in the final image - of a single, secluded cross - immensely powerful.
Bleak, complex and undeniably demanding, this is a rewarding example of a singular talent stretching himself and his medium to the absolute limit.
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