036 - Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

Au Hasard Balthazar tells the story of a donkey - Balthazar - and his struggles through life. Shortly after birth he is adopted by a farmer and his family, and is played with by the children and their friends.

As the children grow up, Balthazar becomes more of a handicap on the family, as the rest of France adopts more motor vehicles the donkey becomes outdated and makes it seem like the farmer is living in the past.

So begins the rest of Balthazar's life - he is passed between various different owners, each exploiting him for work whether it be for good or for bad. Balthazar's treatment varies between each owner but no matter what happens he soldiers on regardless.

Meanwhile, Balthazar's owner - Marie - suffers a similar fate. Exploited by her sadistic boyfriend, she shuns the affection of her boyhood love in search for someone who will take care of her. Her naivety leads her to believe her beatings happen for good, and she feels powerless to stop them.

Theatrical Poster
Au Hasard Balthazar has many religious connotations and Balthazar himself has often been compared with the figure of Christ in the way that he suffers for the good of mankind. Unlike Marie, Balthazar's fate is known at the end of the film, whereas the human story is left relatively unfinished by director Robert Bresson.

This lack of regard for the human side is probably what has me confused mostly with the film. While I can understand the story about Balthazar himself, the story surrounding Marie is utterly confusing - I had to look up parts of the story on the Internet in order to understand the relationship that she had with some of the men that abused her in her life.

That said, the movie did release the compassionate side in me, and I did feel some empathy towards Balthazar, especially in the noble way that he carried on despite the treatment that was directed towards him.

Not a bad film as such, but just a lot to chew on in order to understand the deeper meaning behind the story.