Friday, 22 January 2010

Un Prophete - Cineworld - 22/1/10

Violent, brutal, bloody, aggressive, relentless, dark and haunting.

Malik is the prophet of the title and like many prophets before him he is cast adrift in a wilderness where he must rely on a Heavenly messenger to guide him through perilous situations. Unlike the prophets of the Old Testament (to pick just one example) Malik is in prison for assaulting a police officer and very unlike those prophets he quickly finds himself slitting the throat of a fellow inmate with a hidden razor in order to keep at bay some Coriscan mafiosa.

Where Malik does share something with the likes of Moses is that he too must embark on a journey of personal growth and lead his people out of bondage. For Malik that journey of personal growth means finding the strength to cope with the life of a prisoner who straddles the opposing worlds of the Corsicans and the Muslims...straddling such diverse groups is, as is pointed out by one of the other players, "not good for the balls"

Watching Malik turn from put upon prison newbie to leader of his own band of brothers is a cinematic experience that is hard to accurately describe. There are few characters that one finds oneself "rooting" for...certainly not Malik who quickly shows himself to be capable of acts that few of us could imagine let alone perpetrate. The leader of the Corsicans "Cesar" is very unpleasant, a man who thinks nothing of issuing instructions to the 19 year old Malik to kill another inmate in the most brutal fashion. Other key players show glimpses of humanity but ultimately they all reveal themselves to be equally violent and immoral.

The "heavenly" guide dispatched to Malik takes the shape of the man he kills, Reyeb, who appears periodically throughout the film to sit with him and, it appears, guide him. These dream like sequences are beautifully presented and on one occasion there is an almost surrealist quality to Reyebs appearance.

This is powerful cinema that shows a side of modern society that those of us who are outside of it would much rather convince ourselves didn't exist. These are not the damaged victims of so many crime films but are instead career criminals with a lust for violence and a desperate desire for power. Malik, in particular, shows himself to be a keen and astute player in this world and ultimately proves himself to be a rare sort of prophet, one whose prophecies come true...with devastating results for those who have chosen not to follow or believe in him.

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