/ One-handed writing / What can today's creative generation learn from Robert Bresson's approach to cinema?  9 minutes to read

/ One-handed writing / What can today’s creative generation learn from Robert Bresson’s approach to cinema? 9 minutes to read

Dear friend,

Happy New Year’s Day. Has anyone written, created a small work, or is still resting, recharging the road ahead?

In the first days of the new year, let’s meet a character that is not new, but still unfamiliar with the public, or the Vietnamese creative world: Robert Bresson.

Who is Robert Bresson?

Robert Bresson (1901 – 1999) is a French director known for his ascetic filmmaking, amateurs and limited use of background music. His works are symbols of minimalism and slow cinema.

Robert Bresson

He is often referred to as the “patron saint” of cinema, not only because Catholic themes often appear in films, but because of the great contribution of Bresson for human cinema. He is one of the most highly regarded and influential auteur authors.

With a career in 13 movies spanning 40 years in the profession, Robert Bresson has been the inspiration of many directors both at home and abroad.

“He is a French film, just as Dostoevsky is Russian literature and Mozart is German music.”

– Jean-Luc Godard.

“I’m just interested in two people’s perspectives: one named Bresson and one named Bergman.”

– Andrei Tarkovsky

Bresson was, is and always will be a major movie monument. His filmmaking style, his name easily made people give Bresson an academic mark, as “idol of idols”. However, his movies are not easy to watch. If someone tells you that your film is as dry as tile, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration.

Obviously, it would be wrong to keep “respect” (respectfully) Bresson just because the community says it.

So, why do we need to learn Bresson? What can I learn from this man?

1. Feel before trying to understand

Bresson is a symbol of autonomous authors, whose agency results in works that cannot be imitated or repeated. He has his own visions, intuitions, and rules, and he closely follows them from the first movie to the last.

L’Argent (The Money)

For Bresson, emotions are a cornerstone of the film rather than intellectual understanding.

“I like people to feel a movie before they understand it.”

– Robert Bresson.

This sounds easy to say, but if you think about it, it’s harder than it looks. We humans like to find meaning in things, or try to attach a certain meaning. When we watch a movie scene, we often try to find out what it means. Nonsense, obscurity, generally makes people uncomfortable.

This syndrome is even more severe and more common in professionals. Creators tend to judge, analyze techniques rather than actually enjoy the work as the audience chair we are sitting on.

The power of cinema, or a work of art, lies in the emotional experience it stirred up in the hearts of the audience. It is that emotion that creates the meaning and truthfulness of the work. True cinema is the cinema of feeling.

Sometimes, we need to learn to relax, relax, feel a work of art. Let all details come naturally, without pressure. If you’re excited enough, or uncomfortable enough, you will definitely take the time to review them again and dissect them more thoroughly.

2. Look and see

Before making movies, Bresson was an artist.

However, may I be reminded again, with the utmost respect and love: Bresson’s films are as dry as tiles. His film does not contain heart-catching dramatic scenes, stunning scenes, flattering visual effects.

A Man Escaped

Minimalism and austerity. These words have been used many times, and will probably be used again and again when referring to Bresson or his approach to cinema.

Don’t use two violins if one is enough. ”

– Robert Bresson

Why shoot an expensive action shot if an out-of-frame noise is able to express it? Why let characters talk if a single track can convey the entire scene?

Au hasard Balthaza

He forced himself to exhaust the scene, squeeze out the props, so that every element of the film can best express the message and feeling behind. Bresson does not like frills. Let’s see how he used his hands to tell a story:

In addition to rejecting the flowery image, Bresson’s later films also give up “beauty”. None of his amateur actors were handsome in a superficial sense. One’s first impression of seeing Claude Laydu (priest in Diary of a Country Priest), Francois Leterrier (Fontaine in A man Escaped), Martin Lassalle (Michel in Pickpocket), and Florence Carrez and Jeanne in The Trial of Joan of Arc), is boring.

Suddenly, at some point in the movie, they find them extraordinarily beautiful without any additional makeup.

In choosing this minimalistic approach to cinema, Bresson invites audiences to pay attention to small details that can be overlooked in a number of other contexts.

In other words, a sound can only be discerned when compared to the calmer state.

3. Get the audience involved in the “conversation”

Cinematography: New way of writing, therefore of feeling.

(Cinema: A new way to write, words that feel)

– Robert Bresson

For Bresson, cinema is, above all, a language.

A language, a form by which one can express one’s thoughts, no matter how abstract they are, or translate his obsessions, as in an essay or a novel. theory …


In a movie, each shot is like a word, itself has no meaning, or rather there are too many meanings that make the result meaningless. But a word, when placed in a poem, is transformed, its meaning becomes precise and unique, by placing it in relation to the words around it: just like how a scene in a movie. is assigned its contextual meaning, and each shot modifies the meaning of the previous scene until with the final shot, an overall, undisturbed meaning is conceived.

The Devil, Probably

Instead of narrating the events that happened, acting like on stage, the director will use his cinematic pen (caméra-stylo), turning every element of the film into a means of writing. moving and delicate like writing.

Bresson’s editing rhythm holds us a beat before leaving a hallway, wall, or door, creating a tremendous sense of time. We are acutely aware of our surroundings and sounds that help define both what cannot be seen in the frame, and outside of the frame.

For what?

Let his moviegoers have the joy of communication, brain movement. When watching his movies, people are not only satisfied with the sight, the ears, but also the thinking. With his evocation, Bresson invites the audience to imagine an entire scene out of the frame with just the sounds, or pair the details of a scene to deduce the previous scene.

He took a step back, to create space for the audience to approach his film, to watch it actively.

A Man Escaped

This mindset of respect for the audience is even more valuable in today’s context, when our audience is terrorized by tons of dazzling images and sounds. They get to mouth every piece of information, and the media products are increasingly more direct, with shorter duration, more quantity.

It is Bresson’s austerity that teaches us to respect the audience more, as well as respect what we do.

Let your audience have fun participating in creative activity. Give them 2 + 2, instead of 4.


The lessons that Bresson brings to us are certainly more, but within the framework of the article, the writer can not include without spoiling (revealing) to you about the details in Bresson movies. It also spoils everyone’s self-interest in information, which no one wants.

If you are interested in this man, let’s start with Pickpocket, The Money or A Man Escaped. Next are other works, especially masterpieces Au hasard Balthaza.

In addition, Bresson left a book with the name Notes on Cinematography, including brief records of his cinematic views.

Wishing everyone a happy, creative new year.

Article: Sleeping Cat
Paul Schrader, Transcendental style in film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer
Susan Sontag, Spiritual Style in the Films of Robert Bresson
Robert Bresson, Notes on Cinematography
and many other interviews by Robert Bresson

/ One-Handwritten / is a column for iD’s co-readers, to become a place where you can share your views and artistic knowledge and creativity with the community. Submit articles to hello@idesign.vn or post articles on the Self-Management Initiative Group.

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