Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
What's it about
The titular monk, quite a superstar in his 17th-centruy Madrid monastery, finds himself facing the seduction of evil.
Is it good movie?
Ambrosio has come back from an ignominious beginning: abandoned as an infant on the steps of a monastery in Madrid, he first became a friar, then ascended to become pretty much the most respected friar in the region. His sermons would bring people in from miles around, and people would literally beg to have him be their confessor. Which makes it all the more poignant when a series of events, including a young nun's confession, the appearance of a disfigured person in a mask, and a lovely young women speaking on behalf of her sick mother, all somehow conspire to bring him to the threshold of evil.
THE MONK is a quiet, meditative film. While I was enjoying the really well done period sets and costumes, and the always fascinating Vincent Cassel, a third of the way through I was starting to wonder, you know, what the hell the film was about. But like the bible says (I think), all good things come to those who wait. Once all the dominoes have been lined up, they get knocked down. And how. In fact, it quite reminded me of another foreign film, but i won't name it here, lest I spoil the conclusion. Suffice it to say that the movie ultimately is about temptation, especially after a lifetime of repression, and how easily you can step into evil before you even realize what is happening.
This is the third time Mathew Lewis's novel (published in 1796) has been adapted into a film, and since I've never read it or seen the other films, I can't really comment on its relationship to any of them. But I will say that this new version side-steps the issue of the Inquisition, which both other films embrace, and Ambrosio seems to have been given a bit more of the benefit of the doubt. Being obsessive, I'll probably read the book, then watch all the movies. Which doesn't help either of us right now. Taken on its own merits, I quite enjoyed this film, even if I did get the occasional feeling like it was glossing over information.
One other note that I find interesting: THE MONK is a French film, set in Madrid, and based on the novel of an Englishman. Quite an international production, I would say.
Video / Audio
Video: No stats on the video. Widescreen, obviously, and this is a dark, moody film, and the photography represents that.
Audio: Your choice of 5.1 Surround or 2.0 Stereo. Both tracks are in French with English subtitles. No options there.
The Making of The Monk: at 33 minutes long, this is a pretty comprehensive behind the scenes piece. After watching the film, which is a serious, close period piece, it is really weird to see Vincent Cassel ride around the monastery on a Segway, and the see portable toilets outside a set surrounded by people dressed in 17-century garb. But I digress. This doc is mostly interview footage with director Dominik Moll and Cassel interspersed with BTS footage and finished clips from the film. (French with English subtitles)
Just that, and the film's trailer.
I quite enjoyed this film. It is a Gothic and meditative period piece centering on the nature of man's place in the continuum between good and evil, and you simply can't ever go wrong with Vincent Cassel. Several times I got the feeling that information from the source novel was being glossed over or eschewed entirely, but far from hindering my enjoyment of the film, it just makes me eager to read the novel. I recommend a viewing.