A Man Escaped

If you haven’t seen the amazing Bresson film, you should. I first saw it in my Film 101 class at UofT, where my classmates had a habit of talking through every goddamn movie, Citizen Kane included. When A Man Escaped was shown, though, you could’ve heard a pin drop.

Sadly, this was also the case for the screening tonight at the TIFF Bresson retrospective, but the pin droppage was drowned out by my UNCONTROLLABLE COUGHING FIT DURING THE ALMOST ENTIRELY SILENT CLIMAX. Mortification! (The worst part was trying – desperately, and in the manner of the main character – to wait for the noisy scene I knew was upcoming. Nope, my respiratory tract was having none of it.)

As penance for the moviegoing crime that ranks close to ringing cell phones and crying babies, I offer some nerdy holiday snaps and possible bandwidth overages to present you these pictures of the actual ropes used by André Devigny, the eponymous Man who Escaped.

Devigny's ropes, close up

They were housed in Paris’ fabulous but undervisited, underhyped and currently-under-renovation Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération. When I rounded the corner and saw them in their display, I recognised them right away, but up to that point had had no idea that the movie was based on a true “true story”. The Montluc exploits by Fontaine (he was renamed for the film) are so MacGyverish as to defy credulity.

André Devigny exhibit

All the info cards in this museum were typewritten and amateurish – one presumes this will be updated with the renovations – but interesting. This quote was part of the Devigny display case (with my translation below):

“Valentin a quitté son hôpital, il va bien” ce message laconique m’appris qu’André Devigny venait de s’évader…” Cette extraordinaire évasion, il l’avait conçue, préparée et réalisée sans aucune aide, ni de l’extérieur, ni de l’intérieur, avec son cerveau, avec ses mains et une misérable cuiller…” – Extrait de la préface du Colonel Groussard

“Valentine has left his hospital, he’s doing well”. This terse message told me that André Devigny had escaped…” He conceived, prepared and executed this extraordinary escape not with inside or outside help, but with his brain, his hands, and a measly spoon…” – Extract from the preface by Colonel Groussard

Devigny's grappling hook, close up

(Watching this film always leaves me with a heightened sense of awareness that, if ever I’m imprisoned by Nazis, I will be so totally screwed.)

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