Greatest Film Scenes
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Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966, Fr./Swe.) (aka Chosen by Lot Balthazar)

In French writer/director Robert Bresson's wrenching, profoundly-moving, visually-told story or religious parable about the mistreated life and death of a donkey (a "dumb animal") named Balthazar:

  • the opening French countryside scene on a provincial farm, when Jacques (Walter Green), his sisters, and Jacques' childhood sweetheart Marie (Anne Wiazemsky), the rebellious daughter of a local schoolteacher, requested having young Balthazar, who was seen drinking milk from his mother
  • the scene of the children baptizing Balthazar in a mock ceremony, when he was named for one of the three wise men (magi) who traveled to witness Jesus' birth ("Balthazar, I baptize thee n the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost")
  • Balthazar's early associations with the children, especially Marie, who treated Balthazar kindly and adorned his head with a crown of flowers
  • Balthazar's idyllic childhood that turned to a burdened life of hardship as a laboring beast when he changed owners over the years - he was first sent away by Marie's overly-proud father (Philippe Asselin) and became a beast of burden pulling wagons
  • one owner, who used Balthazar as a delivery animal for a bakery, was Marie's thuggish, leather-jacketed, motorcycle-riding juvenile delinquent boyfriend Gerard (Francois Lafarge), who cruelly set Balthazar's tail on fire; then Balthazar was taken by the abusive town drunk and vagrant Arnold (Jean-Claude Guilbert), and also the ringmaster of a traveling circus who used Balthazar to perform a math trick
  • the downtrodden Balthazar's stoic observations of human life around him - his life (of whipping cruelty, exhaustion, sickness) was paralleled in the painful, cruel lives of the villagers and those who came into association with him
  • the sublime sequence of Balthazar's very emotional death, after smuggler Gerard loaded him down with stolen goods (to cross the border) and he was ultimately abandoned (when the group of criminals was fired on by police) and lethally wounded; when Balthazar serenely rested in a meadow, he was surrounded by a nuzzling flock of white sheep for comfort; briefly, barking sheepdogs scared away the sheep, but after Balthazar reclined and simply closed his eyes, the sheep again returned, although Balthazar ultimately was left to die alone
Balthazar's Transcendent End

Young Balthazar

Balthazar's Baptism

With Crown of Thorns

As Beast of Burden

Tail on Fire


In Circus


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