Vincent Cassel stars in Dominik Moll's visually impressive but otherwise inert thriller
It’s been seven years since Dominik Moll’s last film, but the talented filmmaker who made the blackly comic thrillers Harry, He’s Here to Help and Lemming, is back with his most ambitious film yet. Sadly, Moll’s adaptation of Matthew Lewis’ 18th century Gothic novel is, despite being well crafted, his least engaging film.
Set in 17th century Madrid, it concerns a Capucin Friar named Ambrosio (played with unusual but appropriate restraint by Vincent Cassel), who begins life as an orphan abandoned on the steps of a monastery and grows up to become the order’s most admired preacher. Exemplifying – and extolling – extreme rigour and utter virtue, Ambrosio is certain of his safety from temptation. But the pride comes before the fall, which cataclysmic event is precipitated by Satan smuggling temptation into Ambrosio’s monastery in an unforeseen guise.
Thematically, The Monk is an obvious choice for Moll, who dealt with the seemingly innocuous evil in his previous films. And with the mise-en-scene inspired by Spanish painting, the film is a visual treat. Shame, then, that Ambrosio’s curiously inert fall from grace generates neither sympathy nor suspense.
Selected release from Fri 27 Apr.