The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe is a film by an artist of fresh, still developing talent, a poetic film, with a purity of style that marks it as the statement of a man of integrity, direct, uncompromised…. In fact so simple, so inevitable are the images, that you have to imagine what the conventional film treatment of the story would be to appreciate quite how daring—and how masterly—is Bunuel's naked, unadorned presentation of the simple facts. No jolly establishing sequences at Plymouth, no sentimental farewells, no pretty Polly waving a handkerchief from the jetty, not even a smashing storm sequence: just long waves rolling in to a deserted beach, and a man staggering up out of the water….
The first reels of the film are like the best kind of documentary—like Moana, with its loving, contented observation of the practical details of living. Then comes the second theme, of solitude. "I also wanted to tackle the subject of Love … that's to say the lack of love or friendship: man without the fellowship of man or woman." Bunuel emphasises the terrible loneliness of his hero with vivid scenes of hallucination—staged with the utmost economy. (p. 86)
The scenes with Friday are a development of that second theme, of loneliness…. The delicate humour with which these scenes are presented, Friday's dignity and naif wisdom, Crusoe's shame, the warmth of their eventual "grande fraternité humaine" (Bunuel's words)—all these must surely astonish those who had docketed this director in their minds as a harsh and cruel experimentalist, fascinated exclusively by the violent and the depraved.
But of course there has never been any doubt of Bunuel's great love of life and the living. It has made him angry in the past; in this film it makes him reflective, observant, gentle, stirring but never inflamed. (pp. 86-7)
Lindsay Anderson, "Film Reviews: 'The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe'," in Sight and Sound (copyright © 1954 by The British Film Institute), Vol. 24, No. 2, October-December, 1954, pp. 86-7.