Literary Miscellanea: The Diary of a Country Priest Book-to-Movie

Image result for journal d'un cure de campagne filmThe Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos was my favorite book of 2016. Unfortunately, it seems like the English translation is not very good. I have noticed that, in general, French does not translate well into English. If you can read French, I highly recommend you read this novel.

There is, however, a 1951 film adaptation of the novel. The director is Robert Bresson. Although it is a French film, you can watch it with English subtitles. Journal d’un curé de campagne (film) is a black-and-white, slow-moving drama about an unnamed country priest who tries to minister to a wealthy family in the village. He is pious and somewhat of an idealist. The people he tries to help are not interested in religion. The curé’s spiritual director and the other parishioners are convinced that our country priest is a womanizer and a drunk.

Because the roman is a series of diary entries, there are numerous voice-over segments in the film. I didn’t mind the voice-overs. So much of what the priest experiences cannot be shown on screen. There were scenes in the book I wish were more emphasized in the film. For example, the curé’s spiritual crisis is pretty underwhelming.

Perhaps, the most irritating aspect of the film is the presentation of the country priest. He doesn’t have a personality. His facial expression remains the same throughout the film. Even a suffering man experiences different emotions from time-to-time. The country priest is pitiable but not very memorable. I prefer the priest in the book.

The cinematography is exquisite. A black-and-white film is perfect for the story because Journal d’un curé de campagne is a character-study. I prefer character-centered and philosophical films in black-and-white.

Overall, Journal d’un curé de campagne (film) is a beautiful production in its own right, even though I personally prefer the book.

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