The Monk (2011)

April 27th, 2012
Author: Meredith Taylor

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Director:  Dominik Moll  Cast:  Vincent Cassel, Sergi Lopez, Deborah Francois

101mins  France/Spain    Historical thriller

Vincent Cassel’s magnetic allure is as strong as ever in his latest role as Father Ambrosio, a seemingly invincible monk who eventually becomes a victim of his own lust. Adapted from Matthew Lewis’s 18th century novel,  Ambrosio was abandoned as a baby on the steps of a Spanish monastery.   Spiritually gifted but morally naive, he takes holy orders and is soon the resident ’eminence grise’.   But his faith is put to the test when a spooky masked stranger arrives at the gates looking for sanctuary and religious guidance.  This ghoulish intruder obviously represents evil.  Dominik Moll is good at creating unnerving characters: he did so with Sergi Lopez in “Harry He’s Here to Help” and he excels here again.    Sergi Lopez gives a standout cameo as a debauched medieval paedophile .But Father Ambrosio’s gut instinct fails to kick in and he bows to religious and spiritual training and welcomes evil into his life.

Essentially a cautionary tale it’s made all the more intriguing by its medieval setting that is spiced up with dazzling imagery intended to appeal to young and adult audiences alike.  Patrick Blossier’s sumptuous cinematography and lighting effects work well and make each frame into a religious masterpiece straight out of the Prado.  His technique of contrasting the burning brightness of the arid Spanish landscape against the darkness of the monastery makes the stunning image of good and evil in reverse very effective..  Not one to play virtuous roles, Vincent Cassel gets more convincing as he warms, quite literally, to his inevitable demise.  Despite its ambitious stylised focus none of the back-up cast makes the necessary emotional impact and we are left indifferent to the lovelorn characters of Lorenzo (Frederic Noaille) and Antonia (Josephine Japy) and phased by some gimmicky touches that seem out of place in the general context.  Nevertheless it’s gripping viewing with an intriguing storyline, striking visuals and sinister overtones.

Meredith Taylor ©

Releases 27 April 2012 in Odeon and Curzon Cinemas in the UK

 

 

 

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