Robert Bresson Notes sur le Cinématographe

My film is born first in my head, dies on paper; is resuscitated by the living persons and real objects I use, which are killed on film but, placed in a certain order and projected on a screen, come to life again like flowers in water.

“If, on the screen, the mechanism disappears and the phrases you have made them say, the gestures you have made them make, have become one with your models, with your film, with you –then a miracle” (Bresson, Notes on the Cinematographer, p. 33).

“Models. Mechanized outwardly, Intact, virgin within” (Bresson, 77).

“An actor needs to get out of himself in order to see himself in the other person. YOUR MODELS, ONCE OUTSIDE THEMSELVES, WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GET IN AGAIN” (Bresson, 43).

Unbalance so as to re-balance” (Bresson, 33).

“Absolute silence and silence obtained by a pianissimo of noises” (Bresson, 38).

“Practice the precept: find without seeking” (Bresson, 56).

“Simultaneous precision and imprecision of music” (Bresson, 57).

“Provoke the unexpected. Expect it” (Bresson, 90).

See beings and things in their separate parts. Render them independent in order to give them a new dependence” (Bresson, 84).

Montaigne: The movements of the soul were born with the same progression as those of the body(Bresson, 34-35).

Unusual approaches to bodies. On the watch for the most imperceptible, the most inward movements” (Bresson, 34-35).

“Your camera catches not only physical movements that are inapprehensible by pencil, brush or pen, but also certain states of soul recognizable by indices which it alone can reveal” (Bresson, 97).

The rhythmic value of a noise” (Bresson, 42).

“Against the tactics of speed, of noise, set tactics of slowness, of silence” (Bresson, 52).

One forgets too easily the difference between a man and his image, and that there is none between the sound of his voice on the screen and in real life” (Bresson, 60).

“A locomotive’s whistle imprints in us a whole railroad station” (Bresson, 72).

The Soundtrack Invented Silence” (Bresson, 38).

All husbands are ugly” (Bresson, 40).

Your images will release their phosphorus” (Bresson, p. 82).

The ejaculatory force of the eye” (Bresson, 12).

Be sure of having used to the full all that is communicated by immobility and silence” (Bresson, 20).

“Don’t let your background (avenues, squares, public gardens, subway) absorb the faces you are applying to them” (Bresson, 29).

One does not create by adding, but by taking away. To develop is another matter. (Not to spread out.) (Bresson, 87).

“Empty the pond to get the fish” (Bresson, 87).

“Obvious travelling or panning shots do not correspond to the movements of the eye. This is to separate the eye from the body. (One should not use the camera as if it were a broom) (Bresson, 89).

All quotes by Robert Bresson are taken from Notes on the Cinematographer. 1975 With an Introduction by J.M.G. Le Clézio. Translated from the French by Jonathan Griffin (London: Quartet Encounters, 1986).

Andrei Tarkovsky:

Robert Bresson is for me an example of a real and genuine film-maker…He obeys only certain higher, objective laws of Art…Bresson is the only person who remained himself and survived all the pressures brought by fame.

Andrei Tarkovsky, printed in “Kinovedcheskie zapiski 14, 1992, quoted in Julian Graffy, “Private Lives of Russian Cinema,” Sight and Sound March 1993, 29.