Journal d'un cure de Campagne is about a young priest who, whilst suffering from an illness, is assigned to a new parish in a French country village. The story is told by the priest recounting of his experiences in his diary. This itself is a powerful narrative device, as we not only understand the experiences of the protagonist, but also how he reflects upon them with hindsight, relating his observations to faith and human nature. As he carries out his duties in his new parish though, he is treated with animosity and hatred by many of the villagers, because they see him as an unwanted intrusion into their lives. As he becomes estranged, and to an extend outcast by the townspeople, he increasingly relies on his faith for strength and comfort, however even this begins to fade as he witnesses the townspeople purvey sinful and malicous behaviour, damaging his faith in human nature.
The films of Robert Bresson, although wonderful, can at times seem austere almost to the point of being drained of any emotion. Before passing judgement though, it is important to understand his aims and understanding of film making. Bresson believed that the theatrical performing of actors had no place in cinema, and so typically cast non-actors for his films. The reason for his desire to suppress performing, was to avoid the melodramatic histrionics common with conventional acting as he believed it shortchanges the complexities of human emotion that in real life are much more subtle and not always on the surface. A large part of who we are he believed, is determined by experience, circumstance and environment. These elements affect the way we 'perform' and obscure who we are at the core essence of our being. Bresson was much more concerned with this person, whom we are when all our affectations are removed and we are laid bare. In Diary of a Country Priest, Bresson had Claude Laydu repeat scenes many times in order so that he would rid himself of all natural desire to perform. This suppressed emotion re-introduces the intricately nuanced expression, replacing the scenes with a delicate and contemplative lilt. It forces the viewer to replace the lack of gratuitous emotion with their own feelings, resulting in moments of genuine pathos and emotion.