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  • Writer's pictureValerie A. Higgs

#95 BFI: A Man Escaped (1956)


Captured by the Germans during WWII, a member of the French Resistance is intent on escaping the prison and will do whatever it takes.

You don't really need much of a set when a film is set in prison. While other movies might get into the details of the surroundings, director Robert Bresson doesn't want to focus on that. That is not the most important part of the story.

The prison is a like any other. Nothing extraordinary about it. What is extraordinary is the prisoner Fontaine (François Leterrier) and his attempts to escape.

The movie opens with an attempted escape from a car on the way to the prison. He is quickly captured and warned to stop trying to escape. He is undeterred.

He is put in solitary for a time after being beaten for trying to escape as well as (probably) whatever role he played in the French Resistance. We learn that he was arrested for orchestrating the bombing of a bridge.

After some assistance from men in the camp and some women from the women's camp, he ends up in a regular prison cell and starts planning his escape. Most of the prisoners know what he is doing, and he eventually starts worrying that one of them could be spying on him.

After a comrade's failed escape attempt, resulting in his execution, Fontaine becomes even more intent on getting out. When the results of his trial are in, he knows he has limited time. Simultaneously, due to crowding, another prisoner ends up sharing his cell. Is he a spy? Running out of time, Fontaine decides to let him in on the secret anyway. What does he have to lose?

I was watching the last 30 minutes with my partner, and he said he thought it was "slow". This is another movie I think is not suitable for today's audiences. He hadn't watched the first hour and ten minutes, so he hadn't experienced what I had. I, on the other hand, had been engaged since the beginning, so it was just a build-up to a great climax.

As I've mentioned before, if the story is good, and the actors are excellent, I don't care how slow the movie is. If it's moving at all, that's a win. But character development is one of my favorite things. I cared about Fontaine's attempts at escape.

I will say that I wasn't exactly hanging on the edge of my seat until the very end, but it was a great ride to be on.

I can see why it is considered one of the greatest movies of all time. Great story and the Bresson knew exactly how much he wanted to reveal.

Leterrier spent a lot of time on-screen, but he was never boring. The viewer was with Fontaine from the beginning. We were on the trip with him and it felt as though the stakes were just as high for us as it was for him. Very good storytelling!

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