Life is the only chance for the hero of Bresson’s film to meet other human beings and god within the same environment. It is not surprising that they come to us together – they are two halves of the very equation of life. In the very face of the country priest (Claude Laydu) we see his equal dedication to god and to human beings, his non-sentimental and non-authoritarian loving respect for god and equally serious (without vignettes of vanity) loving respect for human beings in their spiritual potentials. In the soul of our country priest both dedications found balance and became one. The chaste acting of Claude Laydu connects them together in a single emotional symphony.

The more the country priest cares about god the more he cares about his fellow men (in their fallen condition and openness to alternative). So, one of his main tasks is to help people to understand god better. In their consumerist innocence people imply that god’s task is to serve their ancient and unchanging pagan habits which they identify with “their human nature” and with “their right” to project their narcissism into the world. By trying to “defend” Christ against people’s blind greed and despotism the country priest simultaneously tries to mediate between people and protect them from their angered irritability. To defend Christ from people and people from each other (from their righteousness and self-aggrandizement) became for the priest semantically identical task.

By trying to soften and dissolve the “incompatibility” between the Count’s young mistress Miss Louise and his daughter Chantal, the priest finally succeed by taking to himself the role of scapegoat, by making it obvious for all the tree persons involved (without verbalizing it, of course), that the ultimate reason for intolerance and animosity in Chantal’s soul is the count’s position of self-indulgence in his desire to transform his flame of love (for Miss Louise) into a bombastic plans for a conventional marriage with power-games inseparable from it, and that he uses both, miss Louise and Chantal, as pawns in his game of self-pleasing. It is a lack of humility in the father created the fire which began to burn not only the beautiful young woman, but the adolescent girl (who deserves to be free to invest her soul in a much more disinterested areas than possession of family status).

Even more psychologically intricate and difficult task the priest opened himself to, is the situation with the old Countess who learned from the priest in spite of his much younger age that the untimely death of her son wasn’t intention of god but rather his inability to prevent such tragedy, that god suffered for what happened not less than she. There are situations when to continue to live can be determined by the fruitless aggressive energies (when human being whose soul is impregnated with negative vitality lives only to revenge and by this to triumph over others) – the priest was able to liberate the countess from this burden.

Consumers of mass media images today are bombarded by the expressive vanity of the characters of Hollywood- and TV soap entertainment, where emotional and physical aggression, foolishness, sentimentality and self-indulgence are blended in an over-tasty cocktails of entertainment rooted in righteous psychological immaturity. For many viewers in the 21st century watching a “Diary of a Country Priest” can be like entering a pure, cool spring in a resort on some another planet. Even just to look at and to hear the young priest and vicar’s of Torcy (Adrien Borel) conversations is a purifying experience. The film deserved to be rescreened for the American audience of today.

Chaste acting by Claude Laydu when no vain emotions are involved and when human reactions on the world come from spiritual potential of the human soul, stay with viewers.

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Robert Bresson (1901 – 1999)

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The country priest’s equally intense dedication to god and human beings encourages him to think about existential frame inside which both appear together

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The country priest is embracing the monstrous tree symbolizing for him his rapidly nearing death

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The young priest looks at the common stem of life and death, while his mentor and a tough friend, priest of Torcy is dedicated to help him in his daily work and his destiny

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The country priest talks to Miss Louise, the Count’s mistress and his daughter’s governess, whom the Count plans to marry in spite of the psychological whirlwind this decision produces in his family.

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The young priest feels overwhelmed by Countess’ suffering, while being critical of her position towards Christ (her “mistreatment” of Christ). Pay attention to the composition of this shot and explain it in terms of interaction between the priest and the countess.

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While making an entry in his diary, the country priest is looking directly into the world he is a part of. But his diary is not a purely secular document. It is rather a spontaneous attempt at combining of both – humanness and spirituality, existential limitedness and spiritual unlimited-ness, of living and sublimation of vitality, of will and humility.

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Is the priest, looking into the interior of the house, sad because of how heavily human beings settle in the world and forgetting the Creation, or is it because he doesn’t belong inside and is an outsider, homeless and has nothing except a giant memory?

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The young priest never felt himself as one with his own body, as a biological and psychological substance. He is an event – he is on the way to elsewhere, he personifies “creatureliness, a dimension of ontological vulnerability that permeates human being whose essence is to exist in forms of life that are contingent, fragile, and susceptible to breakdown.” (Eric Santner, “The Royal Remains (The People’s Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty)”, Univ. of Chicago press, 2011)

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The country priest and Seraphita, the impish angel, both look at light – not from the sky, not from the earth, but from the human awkward creative efforts

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The country priest didn’t just lose consciousness because he is very ill but during a vertiginous spell he bids farewell to earth.

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And while lying in the mud he also bids farewell to the sky. By being by spiritual type an equal existential combination of earthliness and sky-ness he, with his death, is going to lose both, in the bliss of forever.

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Robert Bresson

Posted on June 22, 2015-  Robert Bresson’s “Diary of A Country Priest” – 1951 (Based On Georges Bernanos’ Novel) – Participation In Experiencing Life Rather Than Encountering It, As If, From Outside by Acting-Out Politics