, 09 Apr 2013
For me the most important point is this- why did the monks stay at the monastery? Why didn't they leave, or accept armed guard? I did not feel the film came close to answering these questions satisfactorily, nor did it place their actions in any kind of wider context. I am sure the real monks spoke much more explicitly about their decisions. It seems to me that choosing to risk their lives was an irresponsible choice, surely if they are helping the local population, they would be better off helping them with armed guard, than dead? If having armed guard would cause some sort of escalation of events (to be avoided) this was not discussed in the film. If it was against their principals, they should not put such principals over helping others. The bottom line is- I did not feel I came close to understanding their decision, whether I missed some French apathetic nuance (the 'poetry' of it?) I don't know, but as an Englishman I felt that the monks ought to have done anything other than just bury their heads in the sand. Slow burner doesn't begin to describe the pace here. In terms of drama and action, the whole story could be compressed to 15 mins quite satisfactorily- so for two hours be prepared to watch the monks do their daily business. For me this is a type of narrative presentation I dislike- I prefer action to be compressed and to the point, a real composition, not fly-on-the-wall. Finally- and I seem to be alone in thinking this- I found the acting hammy and unconvincing to the extreme. Frankly it was barely credible. Favourite moments- 'Christian' (lead monk) shakes hands with the lead terrorist, then looks shocked and holds the hand that did the shaking in this 'do I see a dagger before me' type way. Shockingly bad. Another monk goes to town and sees some low key violence on the television, the look on his face is a demonstration of poor acting, poor direction and poor story interpretation. (These monks had lived with local violence for 50 years). Which generally leaves me at a loss as to why the film is 'popular'- it certainly isn't a box-office success in the typical sense, but those art-house watchers that have seen it seem to like it. Why? For God's sake WHY!
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