Mouchette is a young woman caught in a trap and is spiritually drowning: this is not a coming of age story but a tale of an age that will never be. Director Robert Bresson immediately focuses his lens upon Mouchette, allowing her to address the audience and reveal her pain, born into a deplorable prison of no escape but still retaining a sublime dignity and bedraggled beauty: though life is cruel she is not consumed by hatred or vengeance…just reduced to an infinite sadness.
Bresson’s introduction cuts to a poacher setting snares, the metaphor for our poor heroine, like a fragile bird or sleek rabbit whose path will eventually lead into darkness by no fault of her own. In fact, by being true to her nature is the path that leads her to demise: Mouchette finally makes one decision that belongs to her. Bresson’s narrative is rather straightforward and eschews exposition. He allows brief vignettes to frame Mouchette’s life as she takes care of her dying mother, abandoned by Patriarchal authority, or her ragged appearance in school where she is ignored by other girls, her wooden clogs stomping a rhythm of adolescent defeat, and a sadly beautiful chorus where her teacher forces her to sing, to conform with the others…and her surprisingly angelic voice haunts the classroom.
Mouchette's only temporary escape is into the woods, where she hides and throws dirt at the other girls after school, then disappears into the thicket like a lost animal. Trapped by a storm, she believes she witnesses a murder and is sexually assaulted by the poacher, and Bresson shows us a heart wrenching scene of a young woman struggling against her rapist then finally clasping her hands gently around him…as if even this abusive physical contact is better than nothing. She even helps the poacher when he has an epileptic fit, her heart an undiscovered country of genuine love. Bresson piles the abuse upon our heroine as her mother dies and she is scorned by the local townsfolk as a whore, believing her to have had sex willingly instead of taking care of her family. Mouchette wastes no explanation to people who are emotionally deaf, and taking her mother’s funeral shroud she makes it her own.
Final Grade: (A+)