London Film Festival Debriefing

So the BFI London Film Festival is over for another year. I managed to catch thirty-five films this year, as well as a smattering of press conferences and a round table interview. Having seen less than a quarter of the films shown throughout the festival, I have undoubtedly missed some gems. With this in mind, the following is a very brief appraisal of the festival.

The Best Films I Saw: The Artist, Shame, The Ides of March

The Films That Were As Good As Expected: This Must Be the Place, Headhunters, Martha Marcy May Marlene

The Unexpected Gem: The Monk

The Films I Wish I Had Seen: 50/50, Nobody Else But You

The Film I Wish I Could Unsee: Shock Head Soul

Film Review: The Monk

The Monk is one of those films that fall into the guilty pleasure category. Director Dominik Moll provides an entertaining ninety minutes of filmmaking.

Left on the doorstop of a monastery as a baby, Ambrosio is raised by the monks. Taking his vows as an adult, Capucin Ambrosio is well respected by his brothers at the monastery and the surrounding village. A recurring dream begins to torment him, not long before a new arrival joins the order…

The Monk is an adaptation of Matthew Lewis’ classic eighteenth-century text. Moll’s film brings to life the medieval era, with the haunting setting and some wonderful costumes. The use of colour is excellent, helping to create some striking contrasts. The special effects are hokey, but this adds to the film’s charm.

The Monk features all the traits of a gothic melodrama. The threat of the supernatural, duality, a preoccupation with transgression and ecclesiastical fervour are all showcased in the film. Given these themes, the narrative offers few real surprises. Nonetheless, the film sweeps viewers up in its exotic world.

Vincent Cassel is perfectly cast as Ambrosio. The actor brings a weight to the film, much of The Monk‘s tension is dependant on his stoic performance. Joséphine Japy brings an innocent quality to Antonia which is entirely necessary for the role.

The Monk is a wonderful slice of escapism. Even those with just a passing interest in the gothic should check it out.

The Monk was screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.