On directing > Notes | Robert Bresson, 1901 - 1999


Robert Bresson  


“Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.”

“Bring together things that have not yet been brought together and did not seem predisposed to be so.”

“The most ordinary word, when put into place, suddenly acquires brilliance. That is the brilliance with which your images must shine.”

“Cinematography is a writing with images in mouvement and with sounds.”


Robert Bresson directing François Leterrier for Un Condamné à mort s’est échappé, 1956


“Be the first to see what you see as you see it.”

“Hostility to art is also hostility to the new, to the unforeseen.”

“Rid myself of the accumulated errors and untruths. Get to know my resources, make sure of them.”

"An old thing becomes new if you detach it from what usually surrounds it."


Robert Bresson on the set of Au hasard Balthazar, 1966


“Two types of films: those that employ the resources of the theater (actors, direction, etc...) and use the camera
in order to reproduce; those that employ the resources of cinematography and use the camera to create”

“My movie is born first in my head, dies on paper; is resuscitated by the living persons and real objects I use, which are
killed on film but, placed in a certain order and projected onto a screen, come to life again like flowers in water.”

“The eye solicited alone makes the ear impatient, the ear solicited alone makes the eye impatient.
Use these impatiences. Power of the cinematographer who appeals to the two senses in a governable way.
Against the tactics of speed, of noise, set tactics of slowness, of silence.”


Robert Bresson on the set of Au hasard Balthazar, 1966


"Cinema, radio, television, magazines are a school of inattention: people look without seeing, listen in without hearing."

 "Films can only be made by by-passing the will of those who appear in them, using not what they do, but what they are."

"Model. Two mobile eyes in a mobile head, itself on a mobile body."

"In the nude, all that is not beautiful is obscene."

“One recognizes the true by its efficacy, by its power.”



Robert Bresson with Nadine Nortier on Mouchette,  1967        Robert Bresson on the set of Au hasard Balthazar, 1966


“When you do not know what you are doing and what you are doing is the best -- that is inspiration.”

“Practice the precept: find without seeking”

“Prefer what intuition whispers in your ear to what you have done and redone ten times in your head.”

“be sure of having used to the full all that is communicated by immobility and silence.”

“Hide the ideas, but so that people find them. The most important will be the most hidden.”


Robert Bresson and François A Man Escaped, 1956        Robert Bresson on the set of Joan of Arc, 1962


“Unbalance so as to re-balance.”

“Laugh at a bad reputation. Fear a good one that you could not sustain.”

“Create expectations to fulfil them.”

“Let nothing be changed and all be different.”

“Provoke the unexpected. Expect it.”

“Empty the pond to get the fish.”


Robert Bresson, Notes on the Cinematographer, 1975


Robert Bresson


"There is a credibility in Bresson's models: They are like people we meet in life, more or less opaque creatures who speak, move, and gesture [...] Acting, on the other hand, no matter how naturalistic, actively deforms or invents by putting an overlay or filter over the person, presenting a simplification of a human being and not allowing the camera to capture the actor's human depths. Thus what Bresson sees as the essence of filmic art, the achievement of the creative transformation involved in all art through the interplay of images of real things, is destroyed by the artifice of acting. For Bresson, then, acting is, like mood music and expressive camera work, just one more way of deforming reality or inventing that has to be avoided."

Shmuel Ben-gad, To See the World Profoundly: The Films of Robert Bresson, Cross Currents, 1997


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