Mouchette (1967, Robert Bresson)

Mouchette has a crappy home life and actively hates everyone at school, throwing clumps of mud at them every day after classes. Her dad shoves her around, prevents her from having any fun, and her mom is dying, leaving Mouchette to take care of the baby. Meanwhile trapper Arsene and groundskeeper Mathieu have a Rules of the Game rivalry going on, also a romantic rivalry for the local barkeep. Mouchette sulks silently, preoccupied with sex and death, is raped by Arsene during a rainstorm, has a series of unsympathetic encounters with the townspeople after her mother dies, then drowns herself.

Bresson: “It can’t be summarized. If it could, it’d be awful.”

Pay close attention to the words of a song sung at Mouchette’s school and you can detect references to the overall theme of the film:

Opens pre-credits on Mouchette’s mom crying alone, before we know who she is, “What will become of them without me?” Tony Rayns in the commentary says the movie is about the disappearance of a person from human society. Sound effects from footsteps and futzing about with props are prominent, like in Rivette movies, although sometimes looped audio (and even visuals in the final shot) is noticeable. Camera focuses on hands and bodies, moving away from downturned faces. It’s a short movie, setting up all the players and conflicts efficiently in its first ten minutes with spare dialogue. Adapted from the same novelist as Diary of a Country Priest.

Godard made the trailer, in which a voiceover says it’s “about the rape of a young girl – in short, a film that is christian and sadistic.”


RB: “Adolescents are more flexible than adults. They’re interesting because of their mystery, their inner force. What I find interesting is thrusting a child, a young girl, into a situation that’s terribly mean, even nasty, and seeing how she reacts.”

R. Polito:

Shooting on Mouchette started soon after Bresson finished Au hasard Balthazar, and Mouchette seems a combination of the suffering Marie and the donkey, Balthazar, much as the hunting (rabbits) and poaching (partridges) episodes once again analogue human and animal misfortunes.