I have given Notes on Cinematography to the people I care about the most. The people who truly love film, love art and love life for all the right reasons. Please do the same. A quest into the film-style of one of the greatest masters of the cinema. Bresson at this time has completed six of his most well known films and is in the process of shooting Au Hasard Balthazar.

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Robert Bresson - Notes on cinematography 1. Get to know my resources, make sure of them. Be a precision instrument myself. Find, for each shot, a new pungency over and above what I had imagined. Invention re-invention on the spot. The point is not to direct someone, but to direct oneself. No directing of actors. No parts. No learning of parts. No staging.

But the use of working models, taken from life. The thing that matters is not what they show me but what they hide from me and, above all, what they do not suspect is in them.

Between them and me: telepathic exchanges, divination. It should not be confused with the work of a cameraman. A film cannot be a stage show, because a stage show requires flesh-and-blood presence.

The photographic reproduction of a stage show is comparable to the photographic reproduction of a painting or of a sculpture. It does not create it. Does not create anything. X, Miss Y. He does not speak its language.

Bastard theater lacking what makes theater: material presence of living actors, direct action of the audience on the actors. The two belong to different worlds. A stage tree simulates a real tree. One that does not analyze or explain. A blue is not the same blue beside a green, a yellow, a red. What the cinematographer captures with his or her own resources cannot be what the theater, the novel, painting capture with theirs.

The other images will have no power over it, and it will have no power over the other images. Neither action, nor reaction. It is definitive and unusable in the cinematographer's system.

A system does not regulate everything. It is a bait for something. The best deciphering got by the ear alone. The reason why we get the color of a person's eyes wrong? On two deaths and three births. My movie 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 onto a screen, come to life again like flowers in water.

The impression of o A model. Enclosed in his mysterious appearance. He has brought home to him all of him that was outside. He is there, behind that forehead, those cheeks. It is to tie new relationships between persons and things which are, and as they are. J Vivaldi. One recognizes the true by its efficacy, by its power. D Passionate for the appropriate. D Expressive face of the actor on which the slightest crease, controlled by him and magnified by the lens, suggests the exaggerations of the kabuki.

D Counter the high relief of theater with the smoothness of cinematography. D The greater the success, the closer it verges upon failure as a masterpiece of painting approaches the color repro. D What happens in the junctures. Prepare a film like a battle. The false when it is homogeneous can yield truth theater. An actor simulating fear of shipwreck on the deck of a real ship battered by a real storm - we believe neither in the actor, nor in the ship nor in the storm.

No music at all. No part of the unexpected which is not secretly expected by you. Don't slip off elsewhere. Double, triple bottom to things. Images and sounds will owe their value and their power solely to the use to which you destine them. Questioned by the gestures you make him make, the words you make him say. Submitted later to study by you. It is anti-nature to subordinate them to will and to thought. Let it be the intimate union of the images that charges them with emotion.

Spontaneity, freshness. See your film as a surface to cover. His efforts to render himself more alive do just the opposite. It forms for itself knots of force, of security to which all the rest clings. Each thing exactly in its place: your only resources. A matter of kind, not quantity. It penetrates unaided through the joins ellipses. X, an actor, uncertain like an uncertain color made from two tones superimposed. In films, acting does away with even the semblance of real presence, kills the illusion created by the photography.

One-eyed man in the kingdom of the wilfully blind. Where is my judgement fled That censures falsely what they see aright?


Robert Bresson’s Notes on Cinematography

Robert Bresson wrote a slim volume of his thoughts on cinema called Notes on Cinematographer which defies categorisation. What is striking and unique about Bresson is how his writing is so much like his filmmaking: the elliptical style, the epigrammatic prose, the obtuse meanings, the material rigidity, the conciseness, the frugality of means. It is all there in both his work and his words. Andrei Tarkovsky, whose own work of film philosophy Sculpting in Time is among one of the finest written by a filmmaker, admitted that not all of the aesthetic and theoretical ideals he writes about were consummated in his film work. The only filmmaker whom he felt did match up with his theoretical ideal was Bresson. An actor needs to get out of himself in order to see himself in the other person.


Notes on the Cinematograph by Robert Bresson review – the art of film

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