A Gentle Woman
French Poster
Une femme douce
Directed byRobert Bresson
Written byRobert Bresson
Based onA Gentle Creature
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Produced byMag Bodard
StarringDominique Sanda
Guy Frangin
Jeanne Lobre
CinematographyGhislain Cloquet
Edited byRaymond Lamy
Music byJean Wiener
  • Parc Film
  • Marianne Productions
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • 28 August 1969 (1969-08-28) (France)[1]
Running time
88 minutes

A Gentle Woman (French: Une femme douce), also titled A Gentle Creature, is a 1969 French drama film directed by Robert Bresson.[2][3] It was Bresson's first film in colour and adapted from Fyodor Dostoevsky's 1876 short story "A Gentle Creature", moving the setting from 19th century Saint Petersburg to contemporary Paris.[2][3]


The film opens with a young woman jumping to her death from the balcony of her apartment. At her deathbed, her husband Luc reflects on their marriage and the possible reasons for her suicide in a series of flashbacks.

The couple first meets when she[a] appears in Luc's pawnshop, selling belongings of her deceased family to finance her studies. Luc, who falls in love with her, finally manages to have her agree to his proposal. The marriage soon becomes strained, as Luc loves his dreamy, sensitive wife in a possessive, narcissistic way and tries to control her. When she starts going out in the afternoon regularly, he follows her and catches her offguard with another man, although it remains unclear if she is actually having an affair with him. The next morning, while Luc pretends to sleep, she takes his pistol and points it at his head, but refrains from shooting. Later, she falls ill. Luc apologises to her for his egotistical ways. Upon her recovery, she announces that she will try to be a loyal wife to him. While Luc is out, making arrangements for a vacation together, she commits suicide.


Themes and style

In addition to changing the setting and time of Dostoevsky's story, Bresson eliminated the age gap between the couple, arguing that incommunicability between two people, which he regarded as a major theme of the film, "exists without a difference in age".[4] The film's title he saw as ironic, agreeing with interviewer Charles Thomas Samuels's observation that the female character is "a terrible person in a way" and her suicide "a hostile act, dooming [her husband] to an eternity of grief unmitigated by understanding".[3] In Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film, Joseph Cunneen concludes that "[a]lthough our sympathy is clearly with the gentle woman, the husband has suffered as well; the woman, perhaps instinctively, has found ways to torture him, undermining his need to dominate, attacking his system of values".[2]

Bresson relied solely on non-professional actors in A Gentle Woman, as he had in all his film except for his very early work.[4] Dominique Sanda, a fashion model, made her screen debut in the film.[2] Bresson, who had seen her picture in a fashion magazine,[2] later explained that he chose her just as a result of her first voice call.[3]

Bresson subsequently made another adaptation of Dostoevsky, his next film Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971), based on White Nights.


A Gentle Woman premiered in France at the Director's Fortnight in May 1969[5] and in the US at the New York Film Festival in September the same year.[6] After being long out of circulation, it was re-released in a restored version in France in 2013.[7][8]


  1. ^ The titular character is only referred to as "elle" in the film, French for "she".


  1. ^ "Une femme douce (1968) Robert Bresson". Ciné-Ressources (in French). Retrieved 30 November 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e Cunneen, Joseph (2004). Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 123 ff. ISBN 9780826416056.
  3. ^ a b c d Samuels, Charles Thomas. "Encountering Directors: Robert Bresson". Masters of Cinema. Archived from the original on 18 August 2010.
  4. ^ a b Bresson, Robert (2023). Bresson on Bresson: Interviews, 1943-1983. New York Review Books. ISBN 9781681377803.
  5. ^ Waintrop, Édouard. "L'édition 1969 de la quinzaine des réalisateurs". La Cinémathèque française (in French). Retrieved 30 November 2023.
  6. ^ Greenspun, Roger (18 September 1969). "Festival Presents Bresson's 'Une Femme Douce'". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2023.
  7. ^ Sotinel, Thomas (6 November 2013). ""Une femme douce" : quand Bresson imposait l'ordre tragique". Le Monde (in French). Retrieved 30 November 2023.
  8. ^ Leboyer, Olivia (15 October 2013). "Une femme douce, très beau Bresson, à la douceur étrange". Toute La Culture (in French). Retrieved 30 November 2023.