For Reel

Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971)
February 8, 2012, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Robert Bresson

His second film in color, Robert Bresson’s Four Nights of a Dreamer is an adaptation of the Fyodor Dostoevsky novella White Nights. The plot is simple: Jacques, a young artist and the titular dreamer, encounters the beautiful Marthe as she readies herself to commit suicide, having been neglected by the man whom she had intended to marry. Both are swept away by romantic delusions – while Marthe is fixated on the lodger that she had lost her virginity to, Jacques attention is erratic, and, as the number of unfinished paintings in his flat suggests, is unlikely to see anything through to the end. The apparent budding romance between them (at least as he visualizes it) is embodied in Paris itself, here an almost utopian setting in which, uncharacteristically, Bresson glamorizes through the hypnotic tonality of North and South American folk music and a dreamlike glimpse of a luxury liner floating down the Seine. In one of the film’s most revealing and sublime images – of which there are many – Jacques and Marthe stand shoulder-to-shoulder, with Jacques’ eyes positioned stubbornly towards the sky and Marthe’s focused street-level at the arrival of her lover, perfectly economizing the nature of both characters within a single frame. The film is tragically unavailable for home viewing in acceptable quality, however it is not to be mistaken as lesser Bresson – it is a masterpiece.