Written by: Missy
Set in Madrid, The Monk is a story exposing the corrupt nature of the 17th century Catholic Church. Vincent Cassel (one of my favorite actors) plays the part of Ambrosio, a monk who was raised in the monastery after being abandoned by his mother as an infant. Ambrosio is the most revered monk and entices people far and wide to hear his powerful sermons. Regardless of his godlike facade, Ambrosio suffers with extreme doubt and temptation. When a mysterious figure comes to live in the monastery, Ambrosio is drawn deeper into his sinful temptations: lust, murder, and even the devil himself.
The movie is well done. Director Dominik Moll (With a Friend Like Harry… -awesome movie!) incorporates some viscerally compelling scenes. Although I really enjoyed the film and story, I did feel like its full potential was not reached visually nor to the depth to which it was capable . With the extremely sadistic nature of the Catholic Church in Madrid at this time, I believe there were many missed opportunities for some mind blowing scenes. Not that every movie has to be violent, but even an increased undertone of the prevalency and depravity of the Church’s ways would have helped out the film. Parts of this theme are communicated, just not to the extent they could have been. We are shown the harsh unrealistic expectations and standards set for these religious figures. Far beyond what the average human is capable of maintaining, suppression often causes much mental anguish and leads to some pretty horrific behavior, as we clearly see at the end of the film. The extreme sexism of the 17th century church is also depicted. A nun is punished to death after confessing her pregnancy and being turned in by Ambrosio. However, when a man confesses to having sex (I interpreted as rape) with his young niece multiple times without remorse, Ambrosio does nothing but tell him to pray for forgiveness.
I am glad I watched this film and I definitely recommend it to anyone…. who doesn’t mind subtitles. It is definitely a thought provoking film and Vincent Cassel does a great job of portraying man’s inner turmoil between natural urges and socialized expectations; between good and evil. I am intrigued to read the Gothic novel The Monk: A Romance by Matthew Gregory Lewis, that the film was based on. I have heard that the novel is much more provoking and detailed, but that the film does a good job with the limitations presented when condensing a 400+ page novel into a screenplay.
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