Some of the elements that would have worked in other Bresson pictures aren't so successful here. The ambiguity is usually something I'd praise, but here it proves slightly frustrating, and the concept of the film hardly holds. An interesting piece, no doubt about it, but ultimately not a great Bresson. The husband/wife relationship is intriguing earlier on, but later peters out a little. 3.5/5
A quality of Robert Bresson’s ascetic style is that it renders him capable of expressing a multiplicity of emotions at once; his films, though unique in their own regard, each capture an entrancing, yet endearing mood. Read More: http://aestheticsofthemind.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/une-femme-douce-a-gentle-woman/
Bresson puts an antimelodramatic spin on the Dostoevsky story, using classic techniques and symbols like the disembodied hand and the crucifix/coffin to signify the malaise in this relationship. The narrator's inability to understand Hamlet, natural history or birdsong is surely symptomatic of his own lack of self-cognizance.
On "love" via hypocrisy of the possessively sensual bourgeoisie, Elle’s artistic spiritual preservation will lead her to a paradox of doomed emancipation. Gentleness (femininity) will be smothered and misconceived as “sickness” while lucidity of vision will be patronized as dubiety. Through culminated strength of faith, she'll leave a detestable hell of insipidity behind, coming home to both everything and nothing.
For a filmmaker known for his minimalism, building a film around a dead girl's body (quite literally) is probably the dumbest thing he's ever done. While Une femme douce is nowhere near the greatest works of Bresson, it would become the basis for the rest of his career, coming into own with both Le Diable, probablement and L'Argent. And hey, it's great to see Bresson show his pure contempt for french theatre!