DVD Review: The Devil, Probably

STUDIO: Olive Films | DIRECTOR: Robert Bresson | CAST: Antoine Monnier, Tina Irissari, Henri de Maublanc, Laetitia Carcano, Nicolas Deguy
RELEASE DATE:
9/18/12 | PRICE: DVD $24.95
BONUSES:
none
SPECS: NR | 95 min. | Foreign language drama | 1.37:1 widescreen | stereo | French with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

 

How do you make a movie about nihilism? Master filmmaker Robert Bresson pointed the way in 1977 with The Devil, Probably, a bleak, brilliant character study of a young man whose worldview is handily summed up in the phase “There is no point.”

Bresson starts the film with newspaper headlines that announce the suicide of a young man (Antoine Monnier) — or was it murder? We then backtrack to discover the reasons why he would want to die: It seems to make no sense, as he has no monetary problems, is obviously very bright and has not one but two young women interested in him.

The Devil, Probably movie scene

Antoine Monnier is down in The Devil, Probably.

However, he shares his friends’ disillusionment about politics and religion. His politically active friends have taken to sitting around and watching footage of environmental disasters while cataloguing the wrongs of capitalism but doing nothing to protest them.

The overall tone is one of malaise, but Bresson’s exquisitely minimal visual style makes the film imminently watchable and, despite his trademark distancing effects, incredibly poignant. The film’s conclusion, although not surprising in the least, is still emotionally devastating.

Bresson’s filmmaking philosophy downplayed the importance of the actors (his book Notes on the Cinematographer
is as a spare and rigorous as his films). In spite of this, Monnier and his fellow performers do an admirable job of depicting their characters’ rootlessness and confusion.

The release contains no extras, but the film speaks for itself. It isn’t the best introduction to Bresson’s work for the uninitiated (Pickpocket, Diary of a Country Priest or Balthazar are more apt choices), but it is a film that, although it contains many Seventies “signposts,” remains incredibly timely.

 

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About Ed

Ed Grant has written about film for a wide range of periodicals, books and websites. He edited the reference book The Motion Picture Guide Annual and, since 1993, has produced and hosted the weekly cable program Media Funhouse, which Time magazine called “the most eclectic and useful movie show on TV.”