Review: A Prophet
Written/Directed by Jacques Audiard
Starring Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup and Adel Bencherif
Sentenced to six years for a vague act of violence, 19-year-old Malik El Djebena (Rahim) arrives in prison illiterate, orphaned and absent of all connection to the outside world. After attracting the attention of César Luciani (Arestrup), the leader of the prison’s reigning Corsican Mafia contingent, Malik is gradually initiated into Luciani’s gang through menial tasks and coerced acts of violence.
A Prophet is the newest film from award-winning French writer-director Jacques Audiard (The Beat That My Heart Skipped). Winner of the Grand Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards this Sunday, the film has attracted a lot of attention in the lead up to today’s Canadian release – all of it well deserved.
As a crime (or prison) movie A Prophet manages to perform an impressive feat, finding a place all its own somewhere between “isn’t prison horrible?” and the complete disregard for filth and moral crises that turns so many films’ criminals into lovable eccentrics. Though Malik is undoubtedly the film’s hero, his moments of shame and uncertainty aren’t hidden away. Neither is the fallout from his decisions, represented in beautiful hallucinations and premonitions that haunt the viewer as much as Malik.
Pundits are betting that the film is a little too violent to take the foreign language Oscar, but that doesn’t mean it lacks any of the components to make it a serious contender.