Movie Review – The Monk (2011)

Director: Dominik Moll

Stars: Vincent Cassel, Deborah Francois, Josephine Joy

In the 17th Century, a famed monk (Cassel) is tempted by Satan.

The Monk is a very atmospheric film. It beings with shots of phallic imagery (can you guess what the temptation is going to be?) and a discussion where the monk says that Satan only has the power we give him. Through the film we see him preach and take in a masked brother who has suffered terrible burns. All the while he’s haunted by dreams, and suffers from excruciating headaches.

Having studied Philosophy, and having spent many hours thinking about the nature of religion I enjoy these types of films. The temptation of the monk is accompanied by an interesting visual style and impactful music to drive home the intensity of the moment. His descent into sin is gradual but powerful. I do think it could have been shown to be more visceral, to properly show the horror of the acts he commits, but otherwise the direction is beautiful. I particularly enjoyed the scenery of the Spanish village (although the brightness does sometimes make the white subtitles difficult to read).

The imagery of the film is superb and I liked how things came together. One character mentioned about how the meaning of things can be hidden until it suddenly dawns on you, and this is prescient for the end of the film. I liked the little subplots and how they informed the main plot and the whole thing is quite a thoughtful film. I’m surprised it has as low a rating on IMDB as it does, because I liked it quite a bit, although I appreciate that if you’re not looking for something that will make you think about the nature of man and religion then it’s probably not a film you’ll want to be checking out.

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