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This DVD is a rerelease from 1977. 1977 was 9 years after the height of the political activity in 1968 France. The attempted overthrow of existing power structures had failed. The characters in Bresson's film, in their twenties, are especially aware of the ecological destruction of the earth that was taking place at an alarming rate, although not as alarming as it is now. In their twenties, they despair of political activity. They also conclude that love just leads to pain, religion is a hoax, and they have no interest in the comforts of middle class life. They are worried that one of their number, Charles, is suicidal. He wanders around Paris observing others, thinking about ways to kill himself. Bresson's slow-moving film meditates on how to live in a pointless and horrific world, and how to respond to someone who has given up hope. Charles himself denies that he is depressed, and insists he just wants to be himself in a world that insists he conform himself to the expectations of others. He sees a psychotherapist briefly, but psychological help turns out to be just as pointless as everything else. Thirty years after it was released, The Devil, Probably seems mannered and clumsy in its examination of politics and psychology, yet it also remains unusual in its pressing of such concerns. Its focus on pollution and the damage we are doing to the earth seem prescient and will help the viewer forgive its self-indulgence. The dilemmas of post-1960s European politics and culture seem largely irrelevant to life today, and Charles is so laconic and deadpan that it is hard to take his existential crisis seriously. Yet, it is precisely this emotional shallowness, not only of Charles but of all the characters, that makes the film memorable. When his friends are saying it how urgent it is that they find Charles before he kills himself, they talk in monotone and walk slowly. The camera often does not even point at people's faces, but rather shows their hands or feet, and the photography is extremely static, letting the camera linger on a place for many seconds after the characters have departed the scene. The quirks of the plot end up being more interesting than the main ideological debate, leaving the viewer wondering what motivated Bresson to include them. This is a film mainly for aficionados of the works of Bresson or 1970s French cinema, but it is interesting. The DVD has no extras worth speaking of, but the image quality and subtitling are excellent.
Note that this DVD is not available in the USA. The Region 2 DVD is available through Amazon.co.uk
© 2008 Christian Perring
Link: Artificial Eye site.
Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.
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