Robert Bresson on Cinematography!

By Bindu Nair. Posted on June 24, 2014

“Robert Bresson is French cinema, as Dostoevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is the German music”
-Jean-Luc Godard

Robert Bresson’s Notes on the Cinematographer is perhaps one of the most important books on cinema ever written. In it, Bresson’s thoughts on film and his methods are expressed in short sentences and fragments without any cohesive structure. At times poetic, random and always fascinating, the book is currently out-of-print but available as pdfs here, here and here. Some great excerpts:

  • Two kinds of films: those which use the theater’s means (actors, direction, etc.) and wield the camera in order to reproduce : those which use the cinematographer’s means and wield the camera in order to create
  • An appeal to the eye only makes the ear impatient: the ear appealed to alone makes the eye impatient. Use these impatiences. The cinematographer’s strength applies adjustably to two senses
  • Hide the ideas, but so that people find them. The most important will be the most hidden.
  • Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.
  • 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 on to a screen, come to life again like flowers in water.

Cinematography to Bresson meant the language and art of filmmaking and not the term as it is used today. In his time, directors still followed the diktats of the theater and did not use all the tools offered by film. Check out this interview with Bresson where he explains his idea of it and the thought process that went into making his unique films:

Finally, here’s an in-depth look at the two different types of editing that filmmakers use to depict a scene, Analytical and Constructive Editing.

  1. Analytical is the one more familiar to us, commonly used in Hollywood movies to establish where the characters are, by showing it while,
  2. Constructive does away with the establishing shot to make our brains think as to what is going on in the scene. Bresson’s use of Constructive Editing and focus on hands is explained beautifully.

Which style of editing do you prefer? Let us know, we would love to know :-).



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