[Film Review] The Devil, Probably (1977)

The Devil Probably poster

English Title: The Devil, Probably
Original Title: Le diable probablement
Year: 1977
Country: France
Language: French
Genre: Drama
Director/Writer: Robert Bresson
Music: Philippe Sarde
Cinematography: Pasqualino De Santis
Antoine Monnier
Tina Irissari
Henri de Maublanc
Laetitia Carcano
Nicolas Deguy
Geoffroy Gaussen
Régis Hanrion
Rating: 7.0/10

The Devil Probably 1977

Robert Bresson’s penultimate film, THE DEVIL, PROBABLY definitely is one of his less appreciated work, at the age of 76, his structurally rigid study of a young generation’s disillusion and voluntary ostracism towards the society comes off as an aloof, poker-faced but penetrating treatise about ultimate taedium vitae as the zeitgeist of its time, and invites rumination afterwards.

A pre-announced death of a young man Charles (Monnier), leaving a question mark hovering above viewer’s head, is it a suicidal case or actually a murder, the picture jumps forwards six months earlier, then steadfastly guides us into Charles’ self-rejected life philosophy and the activities happening around him and his friends. Barely any figure of an older generation exists in the story, Charles has a sharp mind (he is good at maths), and alternately stays with two girlfriends: a more sensitive Alberte (Irissari) and a more freewheeling Edwige (Carcano). Meanwhile, a common friend Michel (Maublanc) falls for Alberte and stands by her side each time she feels insecure in Charles’ absence.

Charles in not afraid to die, but suicide is something he detests, like politics, religions and the world itself where vice and cruelty are rampant, he refuses to interfere with the world he lives in, and nobody can inveigle him into giving up his belief. As he tauntingly reveals his thought to the psychoanalyst (Hanrion), the pleasure of despair, derived from his no-action, is the sole reason why he lives, once that fades away, there is only one egress for him.

Bresson integrates documentary footages apropos of environmental damage caused by human activities and its repercussion (rickets in Japan after nuclear radiation) into the disjointed narrative, a tough scene, where one can see a seal being battered on its head by a man, and also the montages of trees being felled, monotonously remind us of our sinful acts, 40 years and so on, to this day, the situation only aggravates, that’s the main reason why some of us are so pessimistic towards the world.

Employing non-professional young actors and firmly fixating his frame on the lower part of the bodies, the film itself is just like Charles, detached but dogged, as fearless and indecipherable as him, lectures us about a radical but possibly influential ideology, whether or not resonance can be induced, has become irrelevant.

Oscar 1977  The Devil Probably


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