Depois de findado o texto de Corrida Sem Fim (1971), do Monte Hellman, a vontade de visitar um Bresson ficou incontornável. Fui de encontro a um dos seus filmes mais celebrados - existe algum pouco celebrado? -: Au Hazard Balthazar (A Grande Testemunha, em português). Optei pelo título original a fim de preservar a sonoridade da combinação das palavras, inexistente na versão brasileira. Desta vez, ao menos, o título brasileiro foi fiel ao conteúdo do filme, ou a uma das interpretações a ele atribuída. Minhas palavras seriam irrelevantes diante do extenso estudo que Tony Pipolo publicou em Robert Bresson: A Passion for Film. O trecho selecionado abaixo, extraído do livro, é curto em vista do exame dilatado que ele se presta a fazer sobre cada um dos filmes do mestre francês. Uma ótima publicação merecedora de uma versão traduzida – o original é em inglês.
Por Tony Pipolo
Beyond cultural, literary, and religious associations, what kind of characte is Balthazar? Can we relate to his experience? Does he have an interior life and understand what happens to him – the basis of Greek and Elizabethan tragedy? Or does his baptism, the sacrament that “leaves on the soul an indelible mark called a character… a spiritual quality which gives to him who receives it a special power to serve God”, prelude those features fictional characters usually have? Before baptism, according to Catholic doctrine, every individual born into the world is in the state of original sin, the only exceptions being the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. As an animal, Balthazar is clearly another exception. This is the point of his role and of the baptism scene, which, though presented as a charming childhood ritual, is really an initiation into the world of suffering by all humanity.
In fact, though, Balthazar is no more of a problem than filmic incarnations of Jesus in countless biblical epics, where the challenge is how to evoke the divine through the corporeal (especially when the corporeal is in the form of a movie star) and bypass any psychology. Can a film about Christ convincingly render an inner life when, despite The Idiot´s six hundred pages, we learn little about Prince Myshkin´s? By rooting Balthazar in blunt physically, giving new meaning to the idea of word made flesh, Bresson avoids the problem altogether as well as such clichés as images bathed in ethereal light and off screen evocations of the divine presence. In short, there is a built-in constraint faced by all writers and filmmakers who approach divine or saint-like figures: the more one strives to humanize the character, the less believably perfect the figure will be. As the narrator of Graham Greene´s End of the Affair remarks, “Goodness has so little fictional value”.
In narrative films a character´s conflict and inner life are conveyed through the actor´s performance, a route that Bresson´s aesthetic denies us. Balthazar takes that aesthetic even further, for not only is the protagonist an animal, but we have no way of knowing if it is the same animal throughout. The three films immediately preceding Balthazar have prepared us for this development, having shifted the focus from the actor´s repertory of expressive looks and gestures to the entire cinematographic system of rapports, of which the actor´s face, body, and voice are only three signs among many. From this perspective, Balthazar´s character is formed both directly - through framing, editing, and mise-en-scène, - and indirectly, through the association and feelings that come to rest on him as the only constant object before us. In the absence of any central human consciousness, the spectator uses Balthazar, somewhat analogously to the way the film´s character do, as a repository of the emotions aroused in the course of the story. It is the accumulation of displacements and projections rather than sentimental anthropomorphism that creates the character Balthazar and induces the catharsis of the final scene.