Au hasard Balthasar

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 and visit their website:


About Gareth Thomas

After a mixed career as an aircraft technician, London fringe theatre playwright, Franciscan friar, and secondary school teacher, I find myself dividing my time mostly between looking after the needs of four donkeys in a remote location in the mountains in the Costa Blanca and preparing a legal case against the corrupt management of my monstrous last employer - the Elians group - for unfair dismissal. I like to hear the wind in the pine trees. I do not like struggling to get a duvet into a duvet cover. My musical tastes are extinct and I have mostly given up cycle racing.
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