According to Jean -Luc Godard, Au Hasard Balthazar is the truth of the world in an hour and a half. And since this movie is much smarter than me, I can only assume he is correct. Bresson, a devout Catholic and a canonical director of the French New Wave, spins a simplistic and ambiguous yarn about a donkey named Balthasar, a true beast of burden that moves from cruel owner to cruel owner.
Balthasar's plight echoes that of his original owner, a young child named Marie who is continually subjected to the tortures, be they physical, emotional, or mental, from the various men in her life. The genius of the film is not only in its cinematogrphy and score (Bresson loves to film feet, hands, hooves), but that the "story" is metaphorically told from a donkey's point of view. The narrative is so minimalistic and backstories so slight, that the motives and the reasons that guide human behavior seem distant, abstract, and largely non-sensical. We only appreciate the cruelty and occasional kindness directed toward Balthazar (and Marie).
As you can imagine, the Christ imagery is rather self-evident. However, it is definitely more complex than a simple martyr narrative...I just hope I can figure it out through multiple vieiwings. It is considered one of the best films ever made, by one of the best directors to ever live (this is my first and only Bresson film so far). So, if the collective wisdom of the ages recommend it, so shall I. If anything, it is visually interesting and emotionally stirring.