06.11.15
Bonnie Siegler | Three Reasons

Three Reasons: A Man Escaped

I am afraid to admit that I had mixed emotions regarding this week’s story about the frightening jail break of two convicted murderers from a maximum security prison in upstate New York. Even though the killers are genuinely terrifying creeps, I can’t help but empathize with the cleverness and audacity of their escape from maximum security—the only one in the facility’s 170-year history.

In fiction, we almost always root for the prisoner: in movies as wide-ranging as Shawshank Redemption, Escape from Alcatraz, Raising Arizona, and Down By Law. And the list goes on and on. We are always on the edge of our seats, hoping the escaped prisoner achieves their dreams of freedom.

Robert Bresson made A Man Escaped in 1956 and it is no exception. In this case, the prisoner is a member of the French Resistance rather than a hardened killer, so it’s impossible not to root for him. It is the most single-minded, elegant, and pure prison break ever portrayed on film. The title tells you exactly what’s going to happen, and yet the suspense still hangs in every frame. There is minimal dialogue, as most of the story is told through a voiceover of the prisoner’s inner thoughts. But again, Bresson makes the whole enterprise so compelling that you feel as if it’s your freedom that’s on the line.

 
Maybe one day they’ll make a movie about the guys who broke out of Clinton Correctional Facility this week. If they do, I hope it is one of the rare films where the bad guys get caught in the end.

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