For Reel

Une Femme Douce (1969)
January 23, 2012, 2:11 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Robert Bresson

In his first foray into color, Robert Bresson adapted Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story “A Gentle Creature” as Une Femme Douce in 1969, which begins when a husband learns of his wife’s suicide and, through flashbacks, attempts to reach an understanding about what led her to the tragedy. The man, who serves as the narrator, is a despicable sadomasochist whose treatment of his wife does not stem merely from his own ignorance, but seemingly out of an impulse to assert dominance over someone that he feels he can easily control. Bresson scholar Tony Pipolo expands, “The very fact that he married such a young, unworldly girl speaks to his need for someone he can mold to conform to his requirements and endorse his delusive self-image.” His intentions of possessing her is alluded to in a number of imagesĀ  – a caged monkey at the zoo, the bars of the bed’s frame which, even in death, seem to imprison the body of his wife. While the husband believes that he comes to a satisfactory assessment of where he went wrong by the end of the picture, the final line emphasizes that his self-obsession is permanent. The film leaves one breathless, from its opening shots which elliptically illustrate the suicide of the woman through a sequence of images including a slowly falling patio table and a scarf adrift in the wind.