Diary of a Country Priest

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jun 29, 2015

I get it now, this near un-inflection combines with the lovely, solemn, oratorio like music (instrumental sections), the protagonist’s static pained beauty (byzantine, as Shrader says; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief), the monotonic lines and monologues, the doublings and triplings of banal actions to deny us the crutches of identification and suspense and yuks and sniffles to bring us face to face with Christ, and him crucified; strategies are doubly powerful, as all these failures and unconnections are not only the stuff of life, but they’re also the essence of the religious life (Jeremiah as opposed to Jimmy Swaggart), and the key to an art that doesn’t coddle or cuddle or reassure where reassurance doesn’t belong–as Bordwell points out (without believing it I’m sure) the active goal setting and goal reaching mainstream film protagonist needs only himself, which self-sufficiency just can’t co-exist with a book, and with a life that ends with a gasping, grateful “does that matter?  All is grace…”; the main character is not a Christ figure, but he covenants to do as Christ has done, to the best of his ability, the film’s slow and one feels it until mid-way (the central “miracle of our empty hands” episode is obscured by illegible titles) when the viewer starts to be overwhelmed by pure repetition, the announcement of the Countess’ death is beautifully rendered, with writing, voice, a candle blown out and receding footsteps, the spilling of the wine episode ends with real power, and from the moment the dying priest says “for friendship” it all quite devastates, the friend’s letter to the Curé de Torcy is read beautifully and accompanied overwhelmingly by the very long and lingering image of the black cross over a white background, which just stays and stays until the famous last words, which one feels after this presentation are indisputably true and beautiful