Charles (Monnier) is a handsome but disaffected Parisian youth who drifts aimlessly between two women: the adoring Alberte (Irissari), and the wealthy Edwige (Carcano). Yet his increasing sense of isolation prevents him from really connecting with either. Charles cannot hide his despair with the state of society- he feels all its ills far too keenly, whether it’s corporate greed or environmental pollution. He tries to right himself with religion and psychoanalysis; he even flirts with leftist political movements. But his existential crisis remains grave, and it seems his only recourse may lie in an ultimate act of protest.
Bresson’s downbeat, cerebral study of youthful alienation, which nevertheless contains flashes of inspired wit, won the Silver Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. Working entirely from his own screenplay (a first for him), Bresson directs a cast of non-professional actors who mostly deliver his dialogue in a somewhat blank, uninflected way, reinforcing both the lack of connection the characters feel, and the director’s intent to engage our intellects more than our emotions. Actual footage of nuclear explosions and other atrocities to our natural world only reinforces the prevailing mood of disillusionment. While Charles’s generational malaise may seem tied to a very specific period and place, Bresson’s rigorous inquiry into important philosophical questions remains timely and important. Don’t keep this “Devil” at bay.