{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bresson's Mouchette

Q: What's this film all about?
A: It's about a girl, a sad story of a girl.

Q: Did you like the movie?
A: Yes.

Q: What did you like?
A: The whole film.

Q: Anything specific...
A: Yes, there are lots of things I liked. The scene in the carnival bumper car, the one where the girls sing at school, the one where a neighbor offers Mouchette coffee, the one where Mouchette sings for Arsene and many more. Actually, Mouchette's last morning has some very good and incisive episodes.

Q: Why is this girl suffering?
A: No reason is given. It's like everyone suffers.

Q: Has her plight some deeper meaning, the plight of humanity etc.
A: I think so, and thats why it is gloomier than it seems.

Q: Are there some metaphors here.
A: I thought the first shot was a metaphor - the one with the bird and the snare, but later I thought I was wrong.

Q: Are the performances good.
A: They are really good. I liked the mother; she has some God-like presence. She is horrifying at times.

Q: Why do you think so?
A: Actually it's because of the opening lines she says and because she is always ill, not caring or not able to care.

Q: What is the opening line.
A: What will they do without me?

Q: You are again thinking about symbols and metaphors, are you wrong again ?
A: May be.

Q: Is Mouchette an endearing character ?
A: No, she is not. She has some mixture of vulnerability, ferocity and innocence. She shows some gestures of compassion, but she is not endearing. And that has lot to say about our narrow definition of being endearing.

Q: Is she pitiful.
A: Yes, I think so.

Q: Is she human.
A: Definitely.

Q: What do you think of the rape scene?
A: It was very meticulously done. The way Mouchette puts her hand on the rapist's shoulder is particularly heart breaking. I liked the scenes preceding the rape scene very much, the way Mouchette starts caring for Arsene.

Q: Did you watch the film alone.
A: Sort of, my friend slept off

Q: What about the last scene
A: Mouchette commits suicide. Its staged as if Bresson is doing rehearsal for the shot.

Q: Why she commits suicide ?
A: I think their can be very personal answers to such questions. Director doesn't give you one. There are two animal sequences in the movie, and if you want to draw some analogies of battle of survival or misery of existence, in which we eventually succumb, you can.

Q: What's your answer for it?
A: I will again resort to metaphors and stuff and I will be wrong again. I think labelling metaphors and symbols reduce the directness of the art. They help at times, but not always.

Q: What do you think is the theme of the film?
A: I think it about suffering and indifference of one person to the suffering of others.

Q: That's a big theme, don't you think you are giving a vague answer.
A: Actually, I think it's about suffering and if we try to associate any big metaphors to it, it will remove the immediacy that this movie has. 'Everyone suffers like Mouchette did' may seem to be the right thing to say but will put the whole effort at a distance and in indifference.

Q: But Bresson himself said "Mouchette offers evidence of misery and cruelty. She is found everywhere: wars, concentration camps, tortures, assassinations."
A: Yes, he said. But Mouchette just becomes a testimonial and evidence, not an image of plight. No one can say that young girls always suffer or orphans always suffer. One can say, there is suffering in the world. Its an acknowledgement of suffering, not its trivialization.

Q: I think you are contradicting yourself .
A: May be.

Q: Is Mouchette doomed by her own actions of hatred.
A: I don't think so. In a potentially happy scene (it reminds me of a scene of Bresson's "Diary of Country Priest" where the young priest go on for a motor bike ride) it is shown that if given the situation/chance Mouchette can really enjoy. She wants to be happy. Her actions are almost immaterial to the surroundings, nobody cares. In a way, her desire to connect to any human being, even a stranger, leads to her rape.

Q: What would have helped Mouchette?
A: What's provided in the film, it seems she is doomed to be unhappy. May be after the motor ride, if she would have talked to the Youngman, she could have found some temporary happiness. But the film is not about Mouchette finding happiness.

Q: I mean, she being good to the people around him. Caring more and stuff.
A: I don't think so.

Q: What good a film is, if it shows just a picture of doom.
A: It shows it exists, and that's its strength. It shows it exists and doesn't give any reason, it shows its universality.

Q: I think you are contradicting some of your previous statements.
A: It's difficult to be consistent. Consistency is overrated.

Q: Will you write about on your blog.
A: I will try, do read it.

Q: Sure. Is there a spiritual current in the film, Bresson is called a Catholic artist.
A: You are again pushing me to contradict myself. I sometime think Bresson want to say that amidst all this selfishness, there is some goodness and that can save the humanity, but we are always brutally raping that goodness, crushing its spirit. And he shows 'Good' suffering like the Christian God, but it ultimately finds grace. I believed this statement more strongly before watching Mouchette.

Q: Tell one cliché you would like to say honestly now.
A: This film is a masterpiece.

Q: Will you recommend the movie.
A: Yes, there is no reason not to. Even if you don't like it, you will think about it.

Q: Your friend slept off in between...
A: Should it matter?

Q: Did you find it depressing
A: It's not depressing but it has a feeling of doom. It seems everyone and everything is going to die, it's like a cold hell.

Q: One last question, do you feel Mouchette is saintly.
A: Yes, the film and the girl, both.


Alok said...

Good interview. Is it coming elsewhere also, I mean in papers? ;)

First, put a spoiler alert in the beginning. Not that it matters but still.

She shows some gestures of compassion, but she is not endearing. And that has lot to say about our narrow definition of being endearing.

this is the most remarkable thing that you have pointed out. he could certainly have made her "cute" and the whole thing could have become artificial.

also I hadn't seen her mother as a "God like presence", but yes the opening dialogue is haunting.

Indrajith said...


anurag said...


hehe, Should I contact TOI :)

Spoiler alert... ummm

"This interview contains spoilers" sounds bit funny :)

I am planning to write about that haunting first scene. Its as best as an open scene can get.

Indrajit, thanks

km said...

LOL...this is an excellent review!

anurag said...

Thanks km.