The saint and the artist
Men apart
in Maurice Pialat
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This chapter discusses the different genres of Maurice Pialat's films. Nothing could have seemed more astonishing than Pialat's decision to follow Police with an adaptation of Georges Bernanos's 1926 novel Sous le soleil de Satan. A novel of the supernatural incarnate—complete with a false miracle—written by a fervent Catholic, it had impressed contemporary critics with its evocation of the mysterious reality of evil and of Satan. Pialat whose realism seemingly excluded supernatural or fantastic subjects appeared to have mistaken himself for Robert Bresson. Pialat's choice of Depardieu—as he appears in the role: heavy, plodding, out of breath, seemingly dazed and frequently unsteady on his feet—is emblematic of the difficulties faced by a realist filmmaker attempting to portray the invisible and ineffable mysteries of faith and of spiritual vocation solely through material means. If Pialat attempts once to use the tool of the voice-over to convey the priest's innermost thoughts, he then abandons it as an option. There is no other articulation of the priest's convictions, motivations, physical or spiritual anguish other than his gestures, exchanges with others and the brief moments in which he talks to himself.


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