Over the years, countless reams of film scholarship have been written about the work of French director Robert Bresson (1901–1999). Within those lofty tomes, it’s doubtful you’ll find precise agreement from any two critics on the true nature of Breeson’s oeuvre, or the universal truths hidden in the director’s obtuse messaging. Bresson’s meaty, meticulous films are comprised of vague allegories and faint adumbrations, begging to be analyzed and dissected down to the granular level. Yet his filmography’s cinematic DNA remains a sublime mystery, as his films manage to edify and illuminate, often while leaving his viewers utterly dumbfounded.
For the viewer, there is much here to unpack as Breeson spares no biblical allusions or religious iconography in the unspooling of his parallel stories. At times, Au hasard Balthazar feels like a grafting of a Disney film unto The Passion of the Christ, as Balthazar’s tortured struggles lend him a saintly, sacrificial air. One could also make a case that Au hasard Balthazar is an unadorned, no holds barred feminist homology, as Marie and Balthazar often find themselves exploited by the same slack-jawed male miscreants, and always for reasons that boil down to ego and avarice.