A 14-year-old girl, a drudge in an impoverished alcoholic peasant family, is the heroine of this brilliant film. Her sullen defiance, her failure to connect with life and a final opting out via suicide are treated with clear and uncluttered insight.
Director-writer Robert Bresson has updated Georges Bernanos’ pre-war book [Nouvelle histoire de Mouchette]. Bresson’s refusal to use professional actors also aids his treatment.
At school, the daughter is friendless and takes to heaving dirt at her classmates every time she gets out of school. Her only human contact comes through her rape, half consented to, by a local poacher. The death of her mother, and the hypocritical piousness of her father and villagers, seem to be felt by this wild little girl.
Everyday incidents take on an almost spiritual intensity in Bresson’s controlled and incisive direction and handling of the players. Nadine Nortier has the animal ferocity and gentleness needed for the role.