Diary of a Country Priest

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Diary of a Country Priest
Diary of a Country Priest.jpg
Film poster
Directed by Robert Bresson
Produced by Léon Carré
Robert Sussfeld
Written by Georges Bernanos (novel)
Robert Bresson
Starring Claude Laydu
Jean Riveyre
André Guibert
Music by Jean-Jacques Grünenwald
Cinematography Léonce-Henri Burel
Editing by Paulette Robert
Distributed by Brandon Films Inc.
Release dates
  • February 7, 1951 (1951-02-07)
Running time 115 min.
Country France
Language French

Diary of a Country Priest (original French title: Journal d'un curé de campagne) is a 1951 French film directed by Robert Bresson, and starring Claude Laydu. It was closely based on the novel of the same name by Georges Bernanos. Published in 1937, the novel received the Grand prix du roman de l'Académie française. It tells the story of a young, sickly priest, who has just arrived in his first parish, a village in northern France. The novel was translated into English by Pamela Morris and was published the same year as the French original.

Two other French scriptwriters, Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost, had wanted to make film adaptations of the novel. Bernanos rejected Aurenche's first draft, and by the time Bresson got around to the task, Bernanos had died. Bresson said he "would have taken more liberties," if Bernanos were still alive.[1] The film had considerable influence on Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.[2]


The priest of Ambricourt talks to the Countess about his concern for Chantal.

A young priest arrives at Ambricourt, his new parish. He is not welcome. The girls of the catechism class laugh at him in a prank, whereby only one of them pretends to know the Scriptural basis of the Eucharist so that the rest of them can laugh at their private conversation. His colleagues criticize his diet of bread and wine, and his ascetic lifestyle. Concerned about Chantal, the daughter of the Countess, the priest visits the Countess at the family chateau, and appears to help her resume communion with God after a period of doubt. The Countess, however, dies during the following night, allowing her daughter to spread false rumors that the priest's harsh words had tormented her to death. Refusing confession, Chantal had previously spoken to the priest about her hatred of her parents.

The older priest from Torcy talks to his younger colleague about his poor diet and lack of prayer, but he remains unable to focus on doing so. After his health worsens, the young priest goes to the city to visit a doctor, who diagnoses him with stomach cancer. The priest goes to a former colleague who has lapsed and is now an apothecary who lives with a woman outside wedlock. He dies in the druggist's house after being blessed by him. Two famous lines from the film include "God is not a torturer" (Scorsese's favorite line[3]) and "All is grace."



This film marked a transition period for Bresson, as he began using non-professional actors (with the exception of the Countess). It was also the first film in which Bresson utilized a complex soundtrack and voice-over narration, stating that "an ice-cold commentary can warm, by contrast, tepid dialogues in a film. Phenomenon analogues to that of hot and cold in painting."[4]


Diary of a Country Priest was a financial success in France and established Bresson's international reputation as a major film director. Film critic Andre Bazin wrote an entire essay on the film, calling it a masterpiece "because of its power to stir the emotions, rather than the intelligence."[5] Claude Laydu's performance in the title role has been described as one of the greatest performances in the history of film. Jean Tulard, in his Dictionary of Film, wrote, No other actor deserves to go to heaven as much as Laydu.


The film won eight international awards, including the Grand Prize at the Venice International Film Festival, and the Prix Louis Delluc.[6]


  1. ^ François Truffaut, "A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema" Film Theory: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies ed. Philip Simpson. New York: Taylor & Francis (2004): 11
  2. ^ Martin Scorsese: Interviews, ed. Peter Brunette. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi (1999): 67. "Don't forget that is what the priest is doing in Diary of a Country Priest."
  3. ^ Robert Castillo, Gangster Priest: The Italian American Cinema of Martin Scorsese. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (2006): 389. "'God is not a torturer,' to quote Scorsese's favourite line from Bresson's The Diary of a Country Priest."
  4. ^ Wakeman, John. World Film Directors, Volume 1. The H. W. Wilson Company. 1987. pp. 57.
  5. ^ Wakeman. pp. 57.
  6. ^ Wakeman. pp. 57.

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