I’ve had a DVD copy of Robert Bresson’s film Au hasard Balthasar sitting in my farmhouse for several weeks. I have wanted to see it for a long while and my daughter brought it for me from England in early December. Then it sat there on the bookshelf while I gradually worked up the courage to watch it.
Au hasard Balthasar is a very difficult film to watch because of the awful way in which Balthasar is treated, after his brief idyllic life as a young pet donkey. It is so sad and also a reminder of the way many donkeys live, subject to mistreatment. Marie, the feckless girl whose life parallels the donkey’s suffering is a victim too. She is portrayed by an actress with a hauntingly despairing look. Marie is the human type corresponding to the downtrodden donkey. The fate of Marie is unknown: she simply disappears. Poor Balthasar slowly expires in a mountain meadow, surrounded by sheep. Blood trickles down his right side from a gunshot wound. It is an image of crucifixion and is one of the bleakest endings of any film. There is no resurrection for Balthasar.
Here is a video clip of the circus scene, in which Balthasar has a job delivering animal feed around the circus cages. He makes eye contact with various animals in this famous Bresson shot.
I think that’s a cue for a bit of publicity for the Brooke, a charity helping working animals in the third world. Follow the link to a video about the Brooke http://www.thebrooke.org/video.asp?id=1588&videoid=2205 and visit their website: http://www.thebrooke.org