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The Monk
IMDB Rating: 5.8/10 from 12 votes
Release: 1 September 2011 (Netherlands) /

The Monk

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Director: Matthew Lewis,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Madrid, in the seventeenth century. Abandoned at the doorstep of a monastery, Ambrosio has been brought up by the Capucin Friars. After becoming a friar himself, he becomes an unrivaled preacher whose sermons draw crowds and earn him the admiration of all. 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... Written by Guy Bellinger

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Critic Reviews


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.

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