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Dominik Moll makes few movies : this is only his fourth feature film in
17 years. But his themes are always very consistent. And his latest
choice, "The Monk", Matthew G. Lewis's 18th Century cult novel,
cherished by the Surrealists, appears as particularly relevant in the
wake of "Intimacy", "Harry, He's Here To Help" and "Lemming". It is a
good pick because the book's fiendish subject allows the director to go
further into the issue he has explored in his two former movies : evil
lurking behind the reassuring codes of polished society. The only real
differences with his former works are that "The Monk" is a period film
(the scene is set between the late 16th Century and the early 17th
Century) and the first one made by the gifted French director outside
France (it is filmed entirely in Almeria and Madrid, Spain), which only
brings added value to his questioning : what more fertile soil is there
indeed for evil to flourish than the cult of austerity and purity in a
society permeated with religiosity? The strange thing is that "The
Monk", with such potential assets, failed to draw large audiences as
well as to get good reviews. Most critics even hammered the film, going
as far as to call it a bomb. But is it really such a bad work?
Personally, I do not think so. For sure, "The Monk" is not the
masterpiece it could have been. Its main flaw may be that the film is
too wise, more illustrative than really profound and unsettling (Ken
Russell's 'The Devils", or even Stephen Frears's "Dangerous Liaisons",
were much more troubling and inspired), but as it is, it does not
deserve such rough treatment. The critics' excessive harshness may
simply be due to expectations set too high and disappointed. For
despite being too controlled, Dominik Moll's last effort IS a finely
crafted film with beautiful, well-framed images (some, like Ambrosio
preaching to his ravished congregation, even have the splendor of a
Spanish painting of the time) , high quality sound design, and a very
good (though occasionally a bit invading) score by Alberto Iglesias,
well-chosen locations and a good cast. Brother Ambrosio, the Capuchin
friar of the title, is aptly played by Vincent Cassel, who makes you
believe throughout that he is this austere and uncompromising man of
God who believes only in virtue and has no doubt he will remain safe
from evil and lust. Also to be noted are Catherine Mouchet, moving as
an ailing woman who suffers without losing her dignity, and young
Camille Japy, whose presence in the role of the ingénue untouched by
evil is refreshing.
When leaving the theater you may feel slightly frustrated for, yes, "The Monk" lacks a little intensity, but slightly only, as you will just have seen an interesting, well-made film. Not such a bad experience after all.
I don't understand the bad reviews and low ratings for this. Its the best movie I have seen in a while . Full of Gothic imagery and the wonderful acting skills of Vincent Cassel .Lots of other interesting characters and wonderful shots of the countryside of Navarra ,Spain also. I throughly enjoyed every minute of it myself. I haven't read the book so I'm not going to go into that side of it. I gave this a 9 and its rare enough I would rate a movie that high. Normally I don't bother writing reviews but I felt I had to say something here as "The Monk " is getting slated unfairly in my opinion. Don't be put off by the ratings here is all Im saying. This movie is more than worth watching.
Matthew G. Lewis wrote this cult classic THE MONK in 1796, and while it
was a scandalous work at the time it has survived as a window into the
depravity of certain orders of the church. It is particularly timely as
a film now, released amidst the scandals of the Catholic Church.
Dominick Moll transforms this story in to a film so reminiscent of 16th
century Spain in deco and costumes (Maria Clara Notari and Bina
Daigeler), music (Alberto Iglesias), and atmospheric cinematography
(Patrick Blossier) that the few lapses the story takes form the novel
simply do not detract from the visual beauty of this film.
The film opens with an old beggar dropping off an infant on the church steps of a Capuchin monastery in 16th century Spain. The friars raise the child, convinced he is a miracle from the Virgin Mary and at age 18 Ambrosio (Vincent Cassell) takes the vows and becomes a sanctified Capucin monk, but not just a monk but also one blessed with righteousness and distance from temptation. Scores come to the monastery to simply see him and have him hear their confession. His beneficence to a young nun (Roxane Duran) who has become pregnant is cancelled by the abbess of the nunnery (Geraldine Chaplin) and evil begins to shroud the film. A young monk Valerio (Déborah François) is brought to the monastery masked to apparently cover the brutal burn wounds on his face, but in actuality Valerio has healing powers, is able to heal Ambrosio's frequent severe headaches, and finally reveals to Ambrosio that there is a women beneath that mask. From this point the near holy monk Ambrosio falls from grace and descends into seduction, depravity, satanic secrets and murder.
Yes, there are lapses in the story that beg explanation but the atmosphere created by the cinematic team and the performances by Vincent Cassell and the rest of the cast more than make this a fine cinematic achievement.
Dominik Moll directs as well as adapts the screenplay alongside
Anne-Louise Trividic , being adapted from Matthew G. Lewis' ,now cult ,
1796 Gothic novel . The Monk traces the corruption of a 16th Century,
pious Capuchin Monk . Madrid, in the seventeenth century . Abandoned at
the doorstep of a monastery , a baby was taken and educated by a group
of monks headed by Père Miguel (Jordi Dauder) . Left at birth at the
gates of a Capuchin monastery in Madrid, Brother Ambrosio (Vincent
Cassel), raised by the friars, grows up into a preacher admired far and
wide for his fervor. Ambrosio is feared for his righteousness and
believes he is immune from temptation - until the arrival a strange
character . But Satan attempts to tempt Brother Ambrosio (Vincent
Cassel) who was left on the door of a Cister Monastery . Ambrosio has
been brought up by the Capucin Friars and after becoming a friar
himself, he becomes an unrivaled preacher whose sermons draw crowds and
earn him the admiration of all , especially a young girl named Antonia
(Joséphine Japy) . Ambrosio is a monk who is sexually seduced by a
sorceress , a young female named Valerio (Déborah François) in monk's
robes . Admired for his extreme rigor and absolute virtue , Ambrosio is
certain he is safe from any temptation . But Satan has not said his
final word . As pleasures of the flesh incarnated by a young woman
devoured his soul . After he has committed a crime , it appears that he
will be caught by the Inquisition .
This is a slow-paced , deliberate though magnetic Gothic thriller . A supernatural thriller and sincere attempt to film one of the Eighteenth Century's most readable Gothic Novels . It is a riveting film though boring , waiting to be made from The Monk the classic 18th Century Gothic novel by Matthew Lewis . Anyway, the film is interesting , thematically intriguing , and usually scathing of virtually all institutions and classes , as marvelous cinematography by Patrick Blossier , breathtaking musical score , enjoyable production design , but, for a variety of reasons, it does not quite pull as much punch as it should have . It tells of the downfall of the devout Ambrosio , excellently played by Vincent Cassel , who fulminates about sins of the flesh in hellfire and brimstone sermons only to be tempted by a emissary of the devil masquerading as a monk , a gorgeous young woman well acted by Deborah Francois . Good support cast gives right performance and full of French actors as Josephine Japi , Catherine Mouchet , Roxane Duran and Spanish players as as Jordi Dauder , Javivi and Sergio Mateu who eleven years later shooting ¨Harry , he's here to help ¨ collaborated again with director Dominik Moll in some dream scenes filmed in Almeria , Spain . And special mention the veteran Geraldine Chaplin as L'abbesse . Adequate and atmospheric set design filmed on location in Madrid , Navarra, Girona and Monatery of Santa Creus , Tarragona . Intriguing as well as evocative musical score by several times Oscar nominated Alberto Iglesias .
The motion picture also called Le Moine, was professional though slowly directed by Dominik Moll . He has directed a few movies as Intimacy", "Harry, He's Here To Help" and "Lemming". ¨The Monk¨ is the third adaptation based on the classic novel , the first version was ¨The Monk¨ with Franco Nero , Nathalie Delon , Nicol Williamson directed by Ado Kyrou , including a screenplay by Luis Buñuel , subsequent remake ¨The monk¨ by Paco Lara Palop , starring Paul McGann as Father Lorenzo Rojas , Sophie Ward as Matilde Venegas , Isla Blair as Mother Agueda and Aitana Sánchez Gijin as Sister Ines .
The movie is too predictable to really shock. The twists are
telegraphed (or phoned in or emailed or whichever way you like to
communicate). That doesn't make the movie bad, but it doesn't help
making it great either. So while Vincent Cassel gives it all in a very
complicated role and he delivers on it, the story and the way it is
build up does not help him elevate the movie.
Acting is good, cinematography is good too and you have a decent sound design. The themes might speak to you (depending on your world-view), which is why some even saw a masterpiece in this. And I don't blame them, if they prioritize on other points than I do. I like the themes too, but again, there are quite a few shortcomings along the way.
Historical and monastery- or palace-related films are usually catchy
and intense as both external and internal reclusion provide sufficient
basis for these - particularly together with religious mystique. Le
moine is a good example here, but not among the finest: its run is
sometimes protracted, many supporting actors are unvaried (female ones,
above all) and the ending does not summarize all "loose ends"
recognised during the film. As of today, the issues approached do not
awake the same feelings as centuries ago when the novel The Monk: A
Romance was written by Matthew Gregory Lewis (1796) - at least in
agnostics like me.
The gem of the film is undoubtedly the star Vincent Cassel as Capucino Ambrosio (= the Monk); he outperforms his counterparts and there are scenes where his presence could have been more visible (well, usually I am not so much into so-called solo films).
Thus, as for tenseness and uniformity of characters, Le moine leaves to be desired; e.g. The Name of the Rose is better.
In December 1595, a baby is left at the Capuchin monastery just outside
of Madrid. The monks debated and decided to raise the boy in the
monastery. He would become their best orator Ambrosio (Vincent Cassel).
The church is packed as his brand of strict faith inspires the
congregation. Only his actions may lead him down a thorny path.
Vincent Cassel has a natural intensity. This could have been a very powerful and profound movie. The story is there to put on film. But this movie has little movement. Most of the time, the characters do not move at all. It is all talk, and some of it is confoundingly slow. Other than two or three exchanges, most of the dialog could have been slash in half.
The story is there. If starving a pregnant nun to death in a dungeon cell isn't compelling, then I don't know what is. The problem is everything in between. And the twist is as telegraphed as they come. This could have been a great character study as this man get more outrageous as the movie goes along. Instead, Cassel isn't allow to physically act. There is a good story but this isn't a good film. It's a promise unfulfilled.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This review contains a good deal of lesser spoilers. The reviewer
leaves the most profound apologies for this, but it seemed impossible
to present the necessary sentiments without it.
The year of 1796 saw the first printing of The Monk: A Romance, then signed anonymously by M.G.L., and was heralded as a great book by the newspaper critics, despite the highly controversial sentiments found therein. It is quite accurate to describe the novel as the Breaking Bad of the era, although here it is the demonical allure of lust which governs the descent of Ambrosio, the protagonist monk, from chaste to villain; from a servant of God to a lustful and violent sinner marked for permanent residency in the pit of fire.
Yet, the tide of the literary criticism soon turned to infamy and few of the contemporary books set so many voices aflame in anger as The Monk did. Meanwhile the second edition had been printed, and this time Mathew G. Lewis, in pride of his work, signed not only with full name, but also his position in the House of Commons. This in turn meant he and his family would feel the full force of the public's discontent. And thus we come to an essential point in the comparison of novel and movie: Due to this discontent, Lewis decided to revise the novel, milden it to a niveau more acceptable to the public, and when the fourth print saw the light of day in 1798 it was this revised edition which was found on its pages. In short, it is important to know that there are two versions of The Monk, one highly provocative version and one very different version whose changes borders on censorship.
It seems to this reviewer that the movie was based on the second and less provocative version. In fact, it seems like the movie further censors the tale, now to the point where there is not much to get upset about. Where the original tale featured nuns who torture and starve a young woman, Agnes, and her newborn child to death - and this point was hugely important to Ambrosio's fall in the book - it is reduced to a small scene of incarceration where the young woman's death is made unimportant. Where the original tale featured the monk's all-night ravishing of Antonia, a girl of fourteen which he had drugged by diabolical intervention, the movie features a version of the scene where Antonia smiles and welcomes him into the bed for a brief tryst (still under diabolical influence, mind you). Where the original tale presents Ambrosio, the monk, as having a healthy mind and his vices as being solely the work of his lusts, the movie provides him with auditory hallucinations of diabolical voices, thus insinuating that the blame must be placed on his delusional mind rather than the corruption of his soul, a point which makes his deeds more easy to swallow by today's audience. For the brevity of this review I'll stick to these examples, they provide more than sufficient evidence towards the point I try to make: Le Moine is not in any way a decent representation of what this book has meant for Gothic fiction and modern literature.
Yet, this is not the reviewers most prominent issue with Le Moine. Let again an example serve as illustration: Mathilda is the temptress of the tale, who on film as well as paper serves as the one who creates the situations where Ambrosio's integrity is tested and inevitably where his desires is the victor. In the book she is eventually revealed as being a spirit in service of Lucifer himself. Now, this is a hugely important connection if one is to understand the tale, but the movie neglects this. Thus, to understand the deeds of Mathilda and why she did it, you have to read the book. Likewise it neglects to explain the importance of the aforementioned death of Agnes, as well as the murder, the incest, and several other of the misdeeds and their relation to Ambrisio's gradual perversion of his soul. To figure out why the tale works as it does, to be able to follow the red thread with all the necessary information to do so, you have to read the book. And here comes my problem: If the movie still requires people to read the book then the movie should reflect the book quite closely, but Le Moine does the exact opposite when it changes the tale into something entirely different than the tale of the book. It's not just absurd, it is pointless and renders the movie both redundant and, in this reviewer's opinion, quite annoying.
This is not to say that Le Moine is without virtues. As pointed out by others, the mood is wonderful, the acting resembles perfection, and the scenery and costumes places us perfectly into the era as described by the book. In fact, the faults pointed out herein are of a kind that many would ignore for the simple enjoyment of the movie. However, if one has read the book in all it's strength and all it's intensity, then Le Moine comes across as too flat since it lacks the true brimstone of the original; and for those who want all the answers, to truly understand the movie, then it is necessary to face the confusion of reading the very different tale from the book.
"Isn't it strange how we fail to see the meaning of things, until it
suddenly dawns on us?"
Are monks greater than common people spiritually? Finally, this monk sees purity in common people more than him. What is right, what is wrong, who will decide it? What is sin, who will judge it? Is it church? Or priests? Is it relation between man and women a sin? It is the story of monk who has seen the cruelty of his traditional monkhood and illusions of his purity. At the time of facing world and his inner instincts, he becomes meaner than a criminal. His cruel pride of holiness becomes not but vein.
Director Dominik Moll becomes one of the great directors in the world with this move. The way he made this movie is highly spiritual. His insight is outstanding. Photography and music are soul stirring. Amazing sound recording and art.
Some Traditional Catholics may not like this movie. But seekers of truth belong to any religion must watch this movie. It is truly artistic and philosophical. It is highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
French film, set in 17th century Madrid. Foundling abandoned outside monastery is taken in by monks, subsequently raised as one of their own. In time, the orphan grows into the monastery's rock star (Vincent Cassel). Devoted followers from near and far pack the chapel to listen to his sermons, give confession. Enter the serpent, a new acolyte, clad in an expressive leather mask to conceal the ravages of disease. Visuals are ravishing, with several remarkable set pieces. Performances are subdued, troubled, including Déborah François in pivotal supporting role. An ominous undercurrent builds throughout, but there is nothing in the way of explosive action. Story is not necessarily the most original, though handsomely presented. Will prove excruciatingly slow for impatient viewers.
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