Satan tempts Father Dossignan, who is trying to save the soul of a young girl who killed one of her lovers.
Satan tempts Father Dossignan, who is trying to save the soul of a young girl who killed one of her lovers.
"When it comes to hatin' Satan, Gerard Depardieu Gerard Depar-DOES, in this freaky French flick about a poky priest and his Gallic guilt-fest. You gotta see it to believe it!" - Gene Shalit [sixth and final draft]
For the longest time, I could not find a copy of Under the Sun of Satan. It was not available in the United States. But thanks to Cohen Film Group, they finally restored and released the film to the American audience. I was so stoked to finally see this film, I could barely contain my excitement. The verdict:
A film about a priest battling with doubt in his devotion to God seems interesting on paper, but when executed, the film is a confusing bore to sit through. The exquisite cinematography and the brooding film score are A1, but the dialogue...
This film literally consists of scenes of two people standing there having a dialectical conversation about faith and God,…
An ineffectual but impassioned priest's crisis of faith—though, fascinatingly, not in the typical sense of questioning the existence of God, but in wondering, among other things, whether Satan has already overtaken the world around him. Adapting Georges Bernanos's 1926 novel, co-writer/director Maurice Pialat shoots this religious drama with his usual unsparing directness; here's a religious conflict that takes place within a recognizable real world, albeit one captured with an eye for painterly visual beauty (courtesy of cinematographer Willy Kurant). And Pialat's emphasis on realism hardly constrains him from going for broke, most memorably in its final act, as Father Donissan's internal struggle is made devastatingly literal. The implications are utterly bleak at the end of his anguished journey...but here's a classic case of a film that transcends its pitch-black pessimism by the sheer animating force and ruthless clarity of its director's expression.
It might be my perverse contrarianism, but Under the Sun of Satan, Maurice Pialat's big Palm D'Or winner, is by far his worst film. I'd go even further and say it iinterests are mostly auteurist, a good bad film whose failures are fascinating when seen in context of Pialat's other work. Rivette has a point when he says the film is a losing proposition because the meeting of the devil could only be filmed in total darkness, that's true, rendering it physical makes everything literal, and that's what Pialat does throughout the film, every troubled metaphysical bit laid bare for all to see. Literal-minded Bernanos is kinda silly, I don't think there's much escape from that. It is a major…
If you were to imagine what Ingmar Bergman's Winter Light would have been if it were a more nightmarish vision of religious uncertainty then Under the Sun of Satan might very well be that result.
Maurice Pialat's Under the Sun of Satan retains that very sense of doom lingering from start to finish. Yet it still stays intact with Pialat's dialogue-heavy style, which only drives forth that unease being felt from Father Dossignan's point of view. But as one could expect from Pialat, it's also incredibly beautiful from start to finish - with Depardieu and Bonnaire bringing out some of their best performances yet.
Could already see this going up on a revisit, or maybe even upon further thought.
I'm surprised I didn't have any nightmares after this... At the same time I'm terrified to watch this again but I feel strangely that it is my responsibility. There's strange darkness that lurks in this film, the lighting is hazy and the settings are solidified and lifeless. Characters constantly turn their faces and prayers towards something bigger and I'm not exactly sure who this bigger is but I'm afraid it is the one referred in the title... I can definitely say only after two films that Pialat is one of the greatest directors who have ever walked on this Earth.
There were some great shots, but as a whole it was kind of a drag, despite the interesting premise and a fitting ambience. I have nothing against being so dialogue-heavy, but this just felt pretty repetitive and weirdly patronizing, with little spark of inspiration.
So cold and distant that I found it impossible to feel connection or affection for much of what happened, even though the subject matter was pretty intriguing. If nothing else, the suffocating atmosphere and its stylistic quality still left me with at least slightly memorable impression. Also Sandrine Bonnaire was amazing, I wish the film had been told much more from her character's point of view.
Liked it a lot more in theory than in the way it actually turned out to be. When it comes to films about a struggling priest, First Reformed still remains the number one for me.
Diary of a Self-Mortifying Priest
Didn't catch Georges Bernanos in the credits, but naming a character Mouchette and having a priest that can be seen writing twice helps a lot in creating a frame of reference for what Pialat is going for. But while Bresson is all about the internal struggle, Pialat makes this about the external struggle, as Father Donissan is literally confronted with perhaps not one but two devils (one of which is awkwardly homophobic). My strong Catholic background proved helpful for understanding how and why Donissan becomes obsessed with the external world instead of the spirit, almost like an anti-St. Augustine. He is a character obsessed with the body and seeing it as some sort of punishment…
Au sortir de deux semaines de cinéma muet, revenir vers le cinéma parlant avec ce film était un geste dont je mesurais peu la violence..."Dieu nous use". "La sagesse est le vice des vieillards". La prose de Bernanos derrière les dialogues est sublime et richement complexe. C'est l'histoire d'un prêtre de campagne qui se découvre des dons surnaturels dont il maîtrise d'abord mal la portée et l'impact. Davantage, c'est une mise en scène sur la passion pour Dieu telle que son exigence se pose à la façon d'une conscience que l'on craint de trahir, alors que Satan nous incite toujours et déjà à se sentir vaincu, à succomber à cette autre passion qu'est le désespoir et dont il est le…
Pialat adapts a novel by Georges Bernanos, the same author who had penned Bresson's Mouchette and Diary of a Country Priest, so you know it's going to be some dark, intensely soul-searching stuff.
Under the Sun of Satan is like a bleaker, more pessimistic version of Bergman's Winter Light and that wasn't exactly a joyous film to begin with, Gérard Depardieu's rural priest having his faith tested during a spiritual crisis that leads him down a grim path of unsettling evil. Pialat, an atheist, isn't so much exploring faith as he is questioning it with enormous severity and rigorous scrutiny, we see how one man's asceticism, exacerbated by a cloistered existence of conformity can in fact drive him down the…
Rien de plus banal que de rencontrer Satan sur notre route: il prendra les allures les plus familières et viendra nous apporter secours, un peu de repos, au moment où nous sentons nos forces s'écouler. Fort probable que nous n'allons pas le reconnaitre immédiatement, tant il pourrait s'agir de notre voisin, ou d'un double de nous-mêmes que nous tardons à identifier. C'est Dieu qui est invisible, une absence qu'il faut accepter comme telle pour en découvrir la présence, ce qui La rend si facile à trahir, le moindre tressaillement de notre cœur suffisant à nous faire flancher, à faire monter la tentation du désespoir. Satan ce n'est pas le Mal, au sens d'une action commise contre un autre humain, comme…
Maurice Pialat relies on a color palette that is very gloomy and moody that matches the abundance of interior shots and minimalist design, and provide a real feeling of the privacy and inner struggle of his characters. This particular aesthetic makes it age incredibly well comparing it to other ‘80’s movies.
There is a deep spiritual feeling throughout the whole of the movie, even though when something miraculous or fantastical actually appears, it is every bit as human as everything else in the movie. The appearance of the devil has a lyrical feel to how simplistic it is represented as well as the final act of the movie with the so-said miracle.
The actors do a great subtle job transmitting…
Bernanos writes lines that make no sense in the realm of realism here but ring like Pascal's aphorisms:
Human prudence is a trap.
Inner life today is a battlefield of instincts.
Morality is the hygiene of the senses.
How much did Bresson ruin and dry out of Bernanos' books when he adapted them?
Bonnaire continues her freefalling, reckless BPD character from A nos amours to even more astonishing depth and shallowness. Playing coy, sexy, dry, relentless within the space of a single monologue, dropping ridiculous gems that a kid would never say like, It's fun to be beautiful, while sprawled out on a therapist's couch, taunting him about killing her lover by accident.
The monologues are entirely literary. She talks…
There's a fine line between searing seriousness and po-faced self-parody, and the film walks it bravely, turning Depardieu into a vessel for pious pessimism opposite Sandrine Bonnaire...
While I’m still processing this film, what I can say, is that I feel like I just watched reverse parables or mirror-world parables from the New Testament.
Mild thematic Spoilers:
In many ways, the priest (Gérard Depardieu) plays as the alternative reflection of the Christ while sporting a younger Martin Luther self-loathing vibe. He is not in lack of devotion but perhaps instead, think if Jesus succumbed to all the temptations in the desert in order to help people around him. Taking the temptation bait for short term wins.
This makes for a film that is quite as an interesting meditation that ultimately left me feeling unsatisfied. Maybe that was it’s purpose. There were moments that were striking to me,…
Opus dei but make it pay, sort of.
My favourite line: "Hey, Bresson wants his film back"
Holy fuck. This movie fucking fucks.
Father Dossignan struggles to save the soul of a 16-year-old pregnant girl, Mouchette, who kills the father of her child when he refuses to run away with her.
This was a tough film to watch but a powerful depiction of spiritual struggle and man's journey with his faith in the highs and lows of the path.
Gerard was great as the father and although the film is bleak it is a very intriguing one, the film takes you into the recess' of his mind and his battle to believe.
*This* won the Palme d'Or unanimously over Wings of Desire?
One of the darkest and deepest movie about religion I've seen.
"Pialat es un gran cineasta, imperfecto pero, ¿quién no lo es? No lo digo como un reproche. Y tuvo el genio de inventar a Sandrine —arqueológicamente hablando— para À nous amours (1983). Pero pondría a Van Gogh (1991) y La maison des bois (1971) por encima de todos sus otros trabajos, porque allí consiguió filmar la felicidad, sin dudas imaginaria, del mundo anterior a la Primera Guerra Mundial. Aunque el tono es muy diferente, es tan hermoso como en Renoir.
Pero en verdad creo que Bernanos es infilmable. Diario de un cura rural sigue siendo la excepción. En Bajo el sol de Satán me gusta todo lo concerniente a Mouchette [el personaje de Sandrine Bonnaire] y Pialat se conduce con honores. Pero ya en primera instancia era una locura adaptar el libro debido a que el núcleo de la narración, el encuentro con Satán, sucede de noche, noche negra, noche absoluta. Sólo Duras podría haber filmado eso." - Jacques Rivette
Faith is a difficult concept to convey cinematically, even with the use of dialogue as primary tool of discussion. While there are scenes in which the characters have a conversation about religion and life-purpose, Under the Sun of Satan approaches most ideas through character action, making for a straightforward but often ambiguous viewing experience. Perhaps due to my inability to relate to the flawed individuals within the film, or a difficulty in conveying the material adapted from the work of Georges Bernanos, I find the viewing experience of Under the Sun of Satan to be far more intellectual than emotional. Director Maurice Pialat worked as a painter prior to becoming a filmmaker, and at times it feels as though he…
My 3rd film by Maurice Pialat and sadly found it his weakest so far.Gerard Depardieu is fine as the embattled priest but the film overall proved to be a bore.Bresson and Bergman have made films like these;albeit much more powerful and engaging. Can't believe this film won the Palm D'Or and that too over Louis Malle's Au revoir les enfants!
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