A Man Escaped

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A Man Escaped
Directed by Robert Bresson
Produced by Alain Poiré
Jean Thuillier
Written by Robert Bresson
Starring François Leterrier
Charles Le Clainche
Maurice Beerblock
Roland Monod
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Cinematography Léonce-Henri Burel
Edited by Raymond Lamy
Distributed by Gaumont Film Company
Release dates
  • 11 November 1956 (1956-11-11)
Running time 99 minutes
Country France
Language French

A Man Escaped or: The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth (French: Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut) is a 1956 French film directed by Robert Bresson. It is based on the memoirs of André Devigny, a prisoner of war held at Montluc prison during World War II. The protagonist of the film is called Fontaine. The second part of the title comes from the Bible, John 3:8, and in English it is worded this way only in the Authorized King James Version (more recent translations using words like "wants" (which is the title in French) or "pleases" instead of "listeth"). Bresson, like Devigny and the character Fontaine, was imprisoned by Nazis as a member of the French Resistance.

The soundtrack uses Kyrie from Mozart's Great Mass in C minor, K. 427.[1] The film was entered into the 1957 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

After the establishing shot of Montluc prison, but before the opening credits, the camera rests on a plaque commemorating the 7,000 men who died there at the hands of the Nazis.

Fontaine in handcuffs after a failed attempt to escape.

On the way to jail, Fontaine (François Leterrier), a member of the French Resistance, seizes an opportunity to escape his Nazi captors when the car carrying him is forced to stop, but he is soon apprehended, beaten for his attempt, handcuffed and taken to the jail. At first he is incarcerated in a cell on the first floor of the prison, and he is able to talk to three French men who are exercising in the courtyard. The men obtain a safety pin for Fontaine, which gives him the ability to unlock his handcuffs. This turns out to be pointless because, in reassigning him to a cell on the top floor, the guards remove his handcuffs anyway.

Once in cell 107 on the top floor, Fontaine begins inspecting the door and figures out that the boards are joined together with low quality wood. Using an iron spoon he deliberately neglects to return after a meal, he begins to chip away at the wood. After weeks of work, he is able to remove three boards from the door, roam the hallway, get back in his cell and restore the appearance of the door.

Fontaine is not the only prisoner trying to escape. Orsini (Jacques Ertaud) makes an attempt, but fails to get very far because his rope broke at the second wall. Orsini is tossed back in his cell and beaten up by the guards, and is to be executed within a few days. Fontaine is not deterred from his plan; he makes hooks from the light-fitting in his cell. He then fashions himself ropes from old blankets and fastens the hooks to the rope with wires taken from his bed. The other prisoners grow somewhat skeptical of his escape plans, saying he is taking too long.

After being taken to headquarters to be informed that he is sentenced to execution, Fontaine is taken back to jail and put back in the same cell. Soon he gets a cellmate, François Jost (Charles Le Clainche), a sixteen-year-old young man who had joined the German army. Fontaine is not sure whether he can trust Jost (whom he sees speaking on friendly terms with a Nazi guard) and realizes he'll either have to kill him or take him with him in the escape. In the end, after Jost admits he too wants to escape, he chooses to trust the boy and tells him the plan. One night, they escape by gaining access to the roof of the building, roping down to the courtyard, killing the Nazi guard there, climbing the wall and then roping to an adjacent building. They walk away from the prison undetected, and the film ends.


  • François Leterrier — Lieutenant Fontaine
  • Charles Le Clainche — François Jost
  • Roland Monod — Le Pasteur
  • Maurice Beerblock — Blanchet
  • Jacques Ertaud — Orsini
  • Roger Treherne — Terry
  • Jean Paul Delhumeau — Hebrard
  • Jean Philippe Delamarre — Prisoner No, 110
  • César Gattegno — Le Prisonnier X
  • Jacques Oerlemans — Chief Warder


The film is based on the memoirs of André Devigny, who escaped from the Montluc prison in Lyon in 1943, during World War II.[3]

DVD and Blu-ray release[edit]

New Yorker Video released the film on Region 1 DVD in 2004; it is currently out of print. Artificial Eye brought out a Region 2 version in the UK in April 2008. This disc contains a superior audio/video presentation and contains a Dutch documentary, The Road to Bresson, as an extra. Madman Entertainment released a Region 4 Australian DVD in July 2009. This release contains a scholarly audio commentary by Professor Ross Gibson of the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.

Gaumont released a Blu-ray Disc in France on November 2, 2010.[4]


  1. ^ Donald Richie, "Bresson and Music" Robert Bresson ed. James Quandt. Toronto: Toronto International Film Festival Group (1998): 300. "He employed Mozart, the Kyrie Elieson [sic] of the Mass in C Minor, music which had a "colour," he said, matching that of the film. ... The music is heard in seven sequences, in all of which the prisoners are communicating with the condemned man, when they are no longer alone."
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: A Man Escaped". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  3. ^ Cunneen, Joseph E. (2004). "The Spirit Blows through Prison". Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 58–70. ISBN 0-8264-1605-5. 
  4. ^ "Un condamné à mort s'est échappé (Blu-ray)". amazon.fr. Retrieved 2011-03-18. 

External links[edit]