A Man Escaped is based on the memoirs of André Devigny who was an actual member of the French resistance. He and the director, Robert Bresson, were both imprisoned by the Germans during WWII. This film feels personal because it is and that’s why it’s been so highly regarded for so many years. I’m not crazy about war films, but when they offer a unique and authentic perspective then I’m very interested.
Fontaine is a French resistance fighter who is thrown into a prison by some Nazis in France during WWII. He is obviously keen on finding a way to escape, so he befriends some inmates who can get him supplies. He is handcuffed 24/7, so he gets things like safety pins to unlock them each day when the guards aren’t looking. Fontaine is consumed with the idea of escaping and so are some other prisoners. One guy tries to escape but he doesn’t have enough supplies, so he gets caught, thrown back into his cell, and executed a couple days later. Fontaine doesn’t let anything discourage him from coming up with the best plan.
A Man Escaped is one of the most interesting war films I’ve ever seen. It’s also one of the most interesting prison films I’ve ever seen. Bresson makes these really ballsy decisions with the camera that cause you to second guess yourself as the viewer. Sometimes what we don’t see can be the most powerful parts of the story. I was on the edge of my seat from the first minute on. François Leterrier delivers a really special performance as Fontaine, who we are rooting for the entire time.