Caught. Wedged on the back seat of a speeding car. Three men. Two handcuffed, one not. Maybe not enough cuffs to go around? He’s by the door. The door handle beacons. Should he make a run for it? He’s likely to be killed anyway, whatever he does. He’d chance it, go for it. No! the car is travelling too fast. At the traffic lights he’d make a break for freedom. The car speeds through. His hand taps the door handle. A tram is coming. Now’s his chance!
Beaten, imprisoned and locked away with many men. Interrogation awaits. This was Montluc prison. A place of despair and brutally. Nazi Germany had invaded France and pockets of resistance fighters kept chipping away at their captors. If they were caught they were brought here. A home to the Gestapo. Tortured, interrogated, broken and shot. Firing squads were heard on a daily basis but never seen. Death wasn’t far, spirits are crushed. No talking! The German soldiers are always there, always watching. The men need a purpose, to keep their low morale alive. Just a pencil would do for now. It’s a start.
Lieutenant Fontaine (François Leterrier) was a captured French resistance fighter. Now handcuffed in his tiny cell, 24 hours a day. What he needs is a safety pin. A little win! Now Fontaine can focus a goal in his mind. Escape. He’d play the long game, he knew it wouldn’t be easy, maybe impossible? No, don’t think that, keep that determination. Ambition and hope. It would take time. He had time, well until he was shot! He had to escape. It would keep him busy and active. The fear and paranoia was always there, around every single corner. It fed him. He was cool under pressure. The adrenaline kept him alert and focused. He had a plan. All he needed now was a…… spoon!
- A Man Escaped is directed and written by Robert Bresson. Himself, I read, spent time in prison as a member of the French Resistance.
- Robert Bresson won the Best Director Award at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival.
- You can read a very informative article, obituary of Robert Bresson in the Guardian from 1999 with his passing at the grand age of 98.
- François Leterrier didn’t really acted again after giving such a sublime performance but strangely he’d go off to directed Emmanuelle 3! Say whaaaat?
- The film is based on the memoirs of André Devigny a school teacher who’d joined the French Army at the outbreak of the Second World War. Later, as France fell, he’d helped the British Special Operations Executive whilst joining the fight with his French Resistance brothers-in-arms. Unfortunately, later getting caught by the Gestapo and sent to Montluc prison. Only to be tortured by the infamous Butcher of Lyon!
- A link to André Devigny wikipedia page where you can read some historical facts about the brave man. And here’s a photo of him.
A Man Escaped is a captivating and mesmerising story. It’s painstaking execution keeps you completely immersed in the danger, the heroics and the dread. It’s breathtaking and claustrophobic. The dialogue is kept to a bare minimum but still you feel for every expression caught in a glance or sorrowful, blank look. The German soldiers are rarely focused on, just their presence is enough to command fear. The firing squads are not seen yet it doesn’t make them any less terrifying. A Man Escaped is incredible and very thought provoking in it’s manner. I would say it’s truly essential viewing.
Have you seen this one? I’ve seen Robert Bresson’s fantastic Pickpocket which I really enjoyed. Feel free to recommend any other of his works if you wish and let me know what you thought of A Man Escaped.
Thanks for popping in on the wolf lair. All the best and keep watching those screens. Mikey