#140: Mouchette

Mouchette (1967) — Dir. Robert Bresson

Part of the Top 150 Films series

Bresson’s ‘gift’ for imbuing acts of horrendous cruelty with sheer beauty found its avatar in Mouchette. Though less heralded than his films concerning men, money or mules, Mouchette is Bresson’s crowning achievement. A vivid character study of a teenage girl in an isolated French village, with an urgently endearing performance by Nadine Nortier, we see Mouchette struggle to take care of her dying mother, abusive father, and infant brother. We see her raped, beaten, verbally abused and mocked by those around her. Most importantly, we don’t see her triumphantly conquer these horrible elements of her life, as they cannot be conquered. What we do see, however, is the power of endurance, quiet dignity, and stoicism. These aren’t the sexiest traits to portray cinematically, but Bresson’s melding of sights and sounds (and, importantly, the lack of narration) works wonders to enable an audience to see this as real, not just tragedy.