On Diary of a Country Priest (Dispatch from the Dark Ages)


In which The Gay Recluse loves Robert Bresson.

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In Diary of a Country Priest (1951), Robert Bresson offers us a portrait of a beautiful and painfully sensitive young priest who has just arrived to his new parish. For reasons that are never quite explained, the priest is mocked and detested by the local citizens; those who hate him include a rich young aristocratic heiress, her father the count, and a mob of ignorant young teenage farm girls (i.e., it’s not a class issue).

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At one point, he does make a connection with the aristocrat’s wife — who in her grief over a dead son has shut herself off from the world — but she dies the next day and her evil daughter spreads malicious rumors that the priest caused this, when in fact he had guided the countess to a place of solace and peace.

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The genius of Bresson in this film is less in the story than the seamless transitions between the priest’s awkward conversations with others and his own mental dialogue, in which he narrates for us — i.e., the audience — his discomfort and seeming incomprehension with regard to the pain the world never ceases to bring to him, despite his best intentions.

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For some reason, nobody interprets this as an allegory of a gay man, striving to come to terms with his humanity in the dark ages.

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But we know better, particularly when the priest flees the country to the city, where he is blessed by those like him who have fallen from grace, and in this way returns to it.

2 Responses to “On Diary of a Country Priest (Dispatch from the Dark Ages)”

  1. I love this image.

  2. Thanks, C.Edwards — it’s a photograph of some graffiti done by yours truly at the local subway stop. Read more here: https://thegayrecluse.com/2007/11/20/on-tears-for-the-gay-recluse/

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