Thursday, January 05, 2006

Bresson's Saints (Notes)

Bresson's characters are ideas, if not modernized archetypes; there is not psychological identification with them, as in action driven plots, but certain ideational-emotional investment (as in great metaphysical theater: Shakespeare, Stein, Beckett, Foreman).

The interior lives of Bresson's characters are exteriorized making for a purer interiority, an interiority of surface, and in this way they are both like animals and saints: animals incapable of a knowable interior life; saints praying towards an interior limit which produces the outward appearance of grace -- demonstrations of graceful demeanor and speech, perfect emotion.

As in Stein's saints, the saintly (including her saintly words) should move as little as possible (the words of serial?), grace being a quickness in calm (Badiou's dancer after Nietzsche who is fast because they conceive the world slowly, deliberately). In constant prayer (their lives of prayer) the saint is a dancer making grace visible by a rigorous interior life. This depth of ontological interior is not of psychological perception, but rather a depersonalized depth of shared voice / mind in prayer (immediate or direct reflection).

Someone once told me that Chris Marker had written one typically taciturn sentence addressing Bresson's work: the gist of the remark, as I remember it, that a single frame of any of Bresson's films contained more significance than the majority of films taken in their entirety. I take this as a comment on the perfection of Bresson's craft as an artist, but also as addressing the saintliness of Bresson's films. For the significance or saintliness of each frame derives not only from an economy of dialogue and action made possible by careful editing and cinematography, but also an economy of character. In using models and non-professional actors Bresson probably did so to capture the interior limits of the saintly by its inverse: the radical emptiness and pure objecthood of the non-actor / model completely directed, or chosen by the director for their appearance and disposition to certain movements and expressions.

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