Experimental Music Love

January 28, 2010

A Prophet

Filed under: film — by Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 9:34 pm
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Seven months, and still no sign of the water horse

I’m only giving myself 25 minutes to write this. Mainly so I don’t go on and on and take useless digressions that uncover nothing but tedium and irrelevance. Like this one. Mock the Week’s on though in a bit and, even though it’s now five sevenths terrible now that Boyle’s left, I like to treat my brain to its own version of Angel Delight sometimes. Even though it’ll probably vomit. Here are my thoughts on something much better though.

I’m talking about A Prophet of course (or Un Prophet, Ya Bastard as the French would say). Why? Because I saw it the other day. And also cos it’s got more praise than Allah.

It’s good too. Not the magical trip through humanity many are portraying it as, but an interesting and engaging look at man’s (and I mean ‘man’ as ‘man’, not as a synonym for ‘human’) relationship with his fellow man.

For, being a prison setting, there are very few women who show. A prostitute appears and grunts for a very brief spell, and there’s the partner of an inmate who is released, but, essentially, neither matter. Both are very hot though, so that’s cool.

I don’t know why I got onto this? I wanted to talk about the film specifically, not its underlying themes. I gave up fundamentally unnecessary academia a year ago now.

No, the duelling roles of young vs old, father vs son, teacher vs pupil – all purely male and testosteroneo fuelled, decisions decided by actions not words, full of violence, respect and repression – are all vital to understanding the wider arc of this very clever film. But it’s not necessarily why it’s good.

And that’s what a review should be about really. I’m going to talk about what wasn’t good first though. That works too.

First of all, there’s too much. Not length wise – though approaching three hours, it really flies by. There are just too many characters, thoughts, and significant events, none of which are really fleshed out to satisfaction.

I may be taking an unfair viewpoint here though. I’ve just watch the first season of The Sopranos, and, in a similar way to my experience with The Wire, I have been blown over by just what an immersible world of unique individuals, relationships and revelations a filmed work can have. Of course, this was over 13 one hour episodes though – a grace which A Prophet lacked. If only it was pitched to HBO as a six season masterpiece – I’d have no doubt it would be the greatest television drama ever created.

It’s not though. It’s a film. And, like all films with grand stories and complex inhabitants, voices are lost.

For, plot-wise, a young French Arab by the name of Malik, is sent to jail at 19. Scared and alone, he gets forced into doing a rather horrific deed (I’ll not to mention specific spoilers here, unlike other critics who slightly marred what would have been genuine shocks) before being offered protection by a gang of Corsicans.

And it’s those voices that are lost. We only hear from two of these gang members throughout – one their embittered, terrifying leader, the other – a smarmy lawyer.

The story gets so involved with Malik, we lose of what the world he inhabits is made up of. He’s on screen for 95% of the time, and though this is ultimately his gospel, you can’t help but feel cheated that only the most important figureheads ever have a say.

Things get muddled plot-wise too – characters are rarely introduced in an effective, rational way, instead popping up from nowhere, seemingly already having formed a relationship with Malik along the way. And the final 20 minutes, though stunning in their tension and direction, are never explained to be rational or believable. I may just be an idiot though.

Those are my only gripes however. And they only stand out because in all other respects – in dialogue, in morality, in acting, in storyline, in direction, in soundtrack, in set-design, in power, in drama, in emotion, in intensity – this film is utterly flawless.

There’s just too much talent on display. The two leads – Tahar Rahim and Niels Arestrup as new inmate and old gang-hand/son and father, are awesome in its more definite sense. There was awe, I had some. More than some.

Rahim matches Pacino’s vicious growth from civil civilian to demon don in his journey from petty street criminal to conniving gangster. And Pacino had two films to do it in. Bloody long ones too.

And Arestrup may look like Antony Worrall-Thompson , but finds both the terror of Walken and the patheticness of Edmonds. Superb.

They carry a film, built on their relationship, delivering lines with suitable murk, both scared but even more scared to show it.

My 25 minutes are up. I’m not really sure what you’ll get out of these words. I hope they’re useful for something though. See it anyway and make your own mind up.

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