Au Hasard Balthazar


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Au Hasard Balthazar
"What gives the film its strength is Bresson's refusal to compromise truth for the sake of expedience."

Robert Bresson invites his audience to anticipate the balm of sentimentality. Balthazar is a donkey. The children hug him and play with him. And leave him. Time passes. Children grow up. They change.

The donkey is sold, moves away, is beaten, kicked and treated like a dog. He escapes and comes back and for a moment is safe. The moment passes. The little girl who had been his friend finds that life is full of fear. There are boys who want to harm her. They want to take off her clothes and kiss her. They want more. She is driven stupid by fear.

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In Au Hasard Balthazar Bresson sets up a situation, only to knock it down. There is no sentimentality. The donkey and the girl are victims of male cruelty. The world is a dangerous and confusing place, even more so in the country. The ideal of rural innocence is given short shrift, or no shrift at all. The message is clear. Dumb animals, like dumb girls, are anyone's. Love and compassion is fickle, the only constant being graft.

Made in 1966, the film has an episodic structure. The acting appears homegrown. What gives the film its strength is Bresson's refusal to compromise truth for the sake of expedience. A donkey is a donkey is not a soft toy. Despite that, Balthazar has genuine personality. If he could speak, he would say, "The exploitation of working beasts is a crime against animality." As for the girl, she doesn't know what she wants.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The story of a maltreated donkey.
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Director: Robert Bresson

Writer: Robert Bresson

Starring: Anne Wiazemsky, Walter Green, Francois Lafarge, Jean-Claude Gilbert, Philippe Asselin, Nathalie Joyaut, Pierre Klossowski

Year: 1966

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: France


EIFF 1999

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