After his triumph in "Les Dimanches de Ville-D'Avray", Hardy Krüger gives another unforgettable and unique performance. In "The Franciscan of Bourges", Krüger plays Alfred, a German in occupied France, near the end of the war. In the film's second scene, the actor is introduced with a sympathetic look on his face, as he watches a young man taken in by the Gestapo for questioning. Alfred knows what the interrogation will entail--the young man was caught spying on a German operation. It will be relentless and brutal. Director Autant-Lara spares the viewer none of the violence and cruelty of the new prisoner's treatment, and it's a mark of the film's power. Very early on, we are shown what the French citizens are up against on a daily basis. Alfred knows of the inhumane treatment of prisoners, but he is unable to steel himself against it, or see it as "necessary". When he pays a visit to the victim and his brother, who was later brought in, Alfred reveals himself to be a Franciscan Friar. This means all men are his brothers and he is obliged to offer comfort and aid to anyone in need. Krüger plays Alfred with a kind of innocence, even though the cruelty he witnesses cannot be new to him at the time of the story. The film suggests that the youth of the most recent prisoners has awakened him to take a more active role. He is moved by the treatment of the two brothers, and is further touched by two even younger boys who are captured and held at the prison. In a beautifully played sequence, Alfred arranges for a middle-aged, wounded, resistance worker to see his wife for the last time, on his way to a hospital where he will surely perish. The Friar's superiors suspect his actions and issue a severe warning. But Alfred's determination to help the suffering prisoners only increases. When the two youngest captives are awaiting what may be a death sentence, the film reaches one of its strongest moments. Alfred discusses belief in God with one of the boys, who insists there is nothing to believe in, or to pray to. Alfred says the boy should pray to God as though he did believe. "Why", asks the boy, "should I pray to someone I don't believe exists?" The utter despair and nihilism of his situation gradually becomes too much for Alfred to bear and he turns to drink at one point. Eventually, he even plots to sabotage the Germans. The film has several scenes of stark emotional power. This is an unflinching look at the individual, human face of the Resistance and of at least one member of the enemy whose own humanity is brutalized by the experience. A masterpiece that deserves a wider distribution than it apparently received at the time of its release.
Source : IMDb