Dos monjes (1934) Poster


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Caligari à la mexicana!
goblinhairedguy19 May 2004
Who would have known that extreme Germanic expressionism was alive and well in the Mexican cinema of the mid-30's? This remarkable macabre melodrama has only recently been rediscovered in the rest of North America (see "Video Watchdog" #85 and Fab Press's anthology "Fear Without Frontiers"); had it not appeared in such isolated circumstances and been several years out of date in its own time, it would likely be looked on today as a seminal work. The style (both visually and in mise-en-scène) is pure UFA, with strong elements of early Lang, Wiene and Dreyer, and similar in design to many highly stylized early-talkie Hollywood chillers like "Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "Svengali". There are huge, high-ceilinged sets with rampant diagonal lines, thick venetian-blind style shadows, tilted angles, abrupt and shaky camera movements, strikingly artificial compositions. The performances are appropriately intense and highly mannered, as is the musical score when it intrudes. The hallucinatory climax, with the main character wildly playing a lush romantic melody on the pipe organ as a group of gargoyle-like monks looks on, is a marvel of shivery montage, reminiscent of Gance's "J'Accuse".

Equally significant is the story structure, which relates the same tale of romantic trespass and murder, in turn, from two diverse points of view, anticipating "Rashomon" by many years. In that vein, an extremely clever touch is having the first narrator dressed in white in the flashback (considering himself the "good guy") and his rival in black, then switching the colours for the rival's version of the story.

Although the print is not in the finest condition (and only available in Spanish), this is a must-see for connoisseurs.
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Masterpiece precedes 'Rashomon'.
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre14 March 2005
One of the greatest films of all time is Kurosawa's 'Rashomon', which features an unusual narrative structure: the same events are shown in flashback four times, each time from the viewpoint of a different character. The subtle differences in each flashback compel the viewers to decide for themselves the truth of what actually happened. 'Rashomon' (1950) proved to be so innovative that several later films have used the same idea. I can think of at least three different sitcoms, each of which has done an episode ripping off the 'Rashomon' premise.

The 1934 Mexican film 'Two Monks' uses precisely this same narrative gimmick, 16 years before it was used in 'Rashomon'. Unfortunately, because 'Two Monks' uses only two conflicting flashbacks (rather than four, as in 'Rashomon'), the audience are put in an "either/or" situation rather than a pick'n'mix. Still, it's intriguing to see that one of the most famous narrative innovations in the entire history of film was used in an obscure Mexican movie more than a decade before it was employed in the film that brought it to greatness and prominence.

Juan and Javier are two young men, rivals for the charms of pretty Anita. She dies, in circumstances which are intentionally kept obscure, and the rivals go their separate ways. Javier becomes a monk, and puts his painful memories behind him ... until, one day in the priory, he encounters a monk who turns out to be Juan. Straight away, Javier is so angered that he attacks Juan, giving him a near-fatal blow.

The kindly old prior confesses each of the two men separately. Each confession is shown in flashback, with first one man and then the other telling the story of the tragic triangle from his own self-serving viewpoint. Now we learn -- from two conflicting viewpoints -- what happened to Anita.

The art direction throughout this film is astonishing, and there is the clever touch of having each of the rivals dressed in white in his own flashback, but garbed in black in the other man's flashback: a splendid way of helping the audience to remember that this narrative is subjective.

'Two Monks' deserves to be much, much better known, and I eagerly rate this film 10 out of 10.
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Several Familiar Narrative Threads in an Unfamiliar Setting
richardchatten10 July 2019
A plot device that has been played both for comedy ('The Caucasian Chalk Circle') and melodrama ('Days of Heaven') is here combined with the narrative twist usually attributed to 'Rashomon', although it actually dates back well into the silent era; at least as early as John Stahl's 'The Woman Under Oath' (1919).

Directed for all its worth by Juan Bustillo Oro with abrupt optical wipes and dollies rather creakily executed with the rather basic facilities available to him; it boasts an extraordinary hallucination sequence near the end for which all the cast wear masks.
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Sexual Betrayal a La RASHOMON -- Almost Two Decades Earlier!
boblipton23 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The Museum of Modern Art's latest Preservation & Restoration Festival has been featuring stuff from the 1970s and 1980s.... you know, stuff that's ONLY forty or so years old. Today they showed this one, a Mexican film by Juan Bustillo Oro. I have seen very few Mexican films.... very few Latin American films and since I will be giving away a lot of the key points....


Carlos Vilatoro is a monk who has been coughing and hallucinating. The Prior tells a new transfer from a recently closed monastery, Victor Urruchua, to try to talk the Devil out of him. When he goes to see the sick brother, they recognize each other, and Carlos tries to kill Victor. When things calm down, they each give their confession of the events leading up to the event in turn: they had been best friends, but Victor had tried to rape Carlos' fiancee, Magda Haller, and then shoot Carlos, but had killed Magda instead. Victor's story differs in some significant details....


It's heavily influences by German cinema, what with the Cyclopean architecture of the monastery, the frequent Dutch Angles and the fact that one of the leads wears white and the other wears black, depending on who is telling the story. It might have been shot at Universal; certainly their horror cycle in this period used many of the same techniques, both in set design and camera work. In story technique, it reminded me strongly of RASHOMON

Although it was only 90 minutes long, the first half of the story seemed to drag. It seemed an ordinary story of betrayal, far too obviously foreshadowed by the framing events, but the second half paid off very well.
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"Why won't you talk when there is so much to say?"
evening16 February 2021
Warning: Spoilers
This grim exercise in chiaroscuro is perhaps most interesting for its influences on later classic films.

In reading about it on Wikipedia, I found the parallels with "Rashomon," released 16 years later, to be intriguing. On my own, I thought of similarities with Satyajit Ray's "The Home and the World" of 1984.

The first famously employs a flashback format, and the second involves a love triangle among a seemingly naive woman and two men who are best friends.

"Dos Monjes" is extremely slow-moving. With editing it could easily have been half as long, but then it wouldn't have been a feature-length film. I dislike being manipulated that way. To call it lugubrious is a serious understatement, but I can't think of another word to capture its gloominess.
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gbill-7487721 November 2020
"Life wanted things this way, not me."

Absolutely loved this, and consider it a masterpiece from director Juan Bustillo Oro. In telling the story of how these two monks came to be at odds with one another via flashback, the film very stylishly utilizes Expressionist art, chiaroscuro shadowing, surrealism, and a variety of nifty camera work. The angles, tilts, handheld shots, slow zooms, soft focus, jump cuts, and wipe transitions are artistic and feel well ahead of their time, and I really must seek more of the work of avant-garde photographer Agustín Jiménez. The story is also multi-dimensional, with elements of romance, drama, guilt, and a different version of the same events ala Rashomon. It's not often that a film does so well in so many area, and it's the synthesis which makes it a treasure. Underrated, and one to look for.
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