Robert Bresson, France, 1966
Mouchette, like Edmund in Germany Year Zero does not have permission to live the childhood that she’s at the age to experience. Trapped between a brutal, alcoholic father and an ill mother, the maternal care she needs to give to her baby brother, and the work at the local bar when she’s not at school, she’s rejected by her classmates and by the village itself. This morning, when her mother has just died, a neighbour gives her an old white dress as a funeral garment. At the edge of the village she finds a pond and starts to roll herself on the ground towards the water. When she goes back to start the game of rolling over again, a farmer, passing by on his tractor, doesn’t react to her actions. A church bell sounds as she returns to her game. Alone again she starts rolling once more, only being stopped by the shrubs by the water’s edge.
She climbs back up the slope a third time to play her game of balance. Nothing in this third version of the game is distinguishable from a suicide attempt. This time Bresson doesn’t film her arrival at the base of the slope. The movement of circles on the surface of the water suggest that she has drowned. Contrary to Edmund’s experience, where we see him deliberately choose to end his life by throwing himself in to the void, in Bresson’s world we will never know whether Mouchette died by accident or if she did actually want to kill herself. Or if the game, which started as playing for real, became, along the way, a means of killing herself, taking her from her life where there was no possibility of a childhood for Mouchette.