Director: Robert Bresson
Original Release: November 11, 1956
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Fontaine (François Leterrier), a member of the French Resistance, is held in a Nazi prison during World War II. He awaits likely execution. A Man Escaped tells the tale of his complicated scheme to break out. It's based on a memoir by André Devigny.
Fans of Shawshank Redemption will feel right at home watching Fontaine's patient, methodical approach to his escape. Letterier even looks a bit like Tim Robbins. I've found no direct inspirational link between this movie and the 1994 film, nor Stephen King's original novella but there are obvious similarities in the stories. Regardless, A Man Escaped would fit in well with any prison film binge fest.
The power of A Man Escaped lies largely in what one doesn't see. In the opening scene, while riding in the car to the prison, Fontaine makes a run for it. We hear, rather than see, him being beaten before being dragged back to the car. Later, we hear machine gun fire when his fellow prisoners are executed. During the escape sequence, with the need for silence emphasized, each individual sound seems magnified. The only music used is Mozart's Great Mass in C minor, K. 427.
Once again, World War II proves to be the narrative well that never runs dry. It's interesting to see the war story the French were telling themselves in the 1950s: the tale of resistance rather than the tale of collaboration. History is like that, I realize. I know full well that there are uglier sides to American involvement in that war and others than many of my compatriots are comfortable discussing. It's just interesting.