From Director Dominik Moll (Lemming), The Monk is based on a gothic novel by 18th Century writer Matthew Gregory and showcases some serious European acting talent. The film stars France’s actor du jour, Vincent Cassel, and Belgian actress, Deborah François, who’s definitely one to watch – she won a César (France’s equivalent to the Oscars) for best newcomer in 2009.
Set in Seventeenth Century Madrid, François plays Valerio, a mysterious masked apprentice who brings dark forces into a Capucin Monastery. Valerio is actually a woman called Matilda, who’s dressed in disguise and proceeds to corrupt the devout monk Ambrosio, played by Vincent Cassel. The Monk draws upon Shakespearean tragedy and is a tale that explores morality and temptation. Sadly this adaptation feels condensed and limited and slightly misses the mark; lacking the passion required to capture the sense of scandal this novel provoked when it was originally published.
Overall this film probably won’t blow you away but it does have some redeeming features. It’s a good yarn with a striking Spanish setting, has a stunning score from Alberto Iglesias, atmospheric cinematography from Patrick Blossier (Red Lights), and strong performances from François and Cassel provide some of the intensity this slightly too cerebral film generally lacks.