Often described as a "painter" of films, French director Robert Bresson was one of cinema's greatest anomalies. He directed only 13 films over the course of 40 years, but these films were in a category all their own, minimalist works that tended towards radical (and sometimes controversial) reinterpretations of such classical sources as Diderot, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy. An expert manipulator of narrative incident, Bresson focused on seemingly incidental details of the stories he told and used amateur actors lacking any trace of theatricality, creating searching meditations on the quality of transcendence, spirituality, and alienation.
The year of Bresson's birth has often been subject to debate; his biographer, Philippe Arnaud, has declared it to be 1901, while others claim that he was born in 1907. Whatever the case may be, Bresson was born on September 25, in the town of Bromont-Lamothe, located in France's mountainous Auvergne region. Originally trained as a painter, he abandoned painting in favor of the cinema in 1934. His first film, a short comedy called Les Affaires Publiques, went largely unseen. In 1939, Bresson joined the French army and spent a year as a POW in a German war camp. The experience had a profound effect on him and would later prove to be a particular influence in his making of Un Condamné à Mort C'Est Echappé (A Man Escaped).