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Monk, The


Stars: Vincent Cassel, Déborah François, Sergi López, Geraldine Chaplin, Joséphone Japy, Catherine Mouchet, Roxane Duran, Jordi Dauder

Director: Dominick Moll

A strange kettle of religious piffle and no mistake, But those expecting a full-scale habit-ripper from this 16th-century tale of a monk gone to the bad will be disappointed. No, this is dark and sobering stuff, kept just this side of hysteria despite its insane plot.

Ambrosio (Cassel), a foundling with a strange birthmark, becomes a monk at a Spanish abbey, his sermons soon sttracting followers for miles around. 'Satan has only the power we give him,' is Ambrosio's motto but, alas for him, the Devil duly arrives in the form of Valerio (François), a masked youth with the power to heal Ambrosio's strange headaches, but who proves subsequently to be a girl.

Discovering this, Ambrosio prepares to throw Valerio out of the abbey, but secedes to the girl's last request, to pluck a rose from his garden. The thorny prick that results, like some dark fairytale, poisons Ambrosio who, after Valerio sucks out the poison, is introduced to the delights of the flesh.

Subsequently, Ambrosio proves very much not a credit to the abbey, as he develops a passion for the maiden Antonia (Japy) who is betrothed to another, and resorts to dark deeds indeed to bed her.

A bizarre film that never really goes anywhere, has no plot momentum and has a bit of a non-ending. Cassel plays it low-key when his natural instinct to chew the scenery might at least have made things a bit livelier.

David Quinlan

France/Spain 2011. UK Distributor: Metrodome. Colour by Eclair.
101 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 21 Apr 2012