Irish Film Institute -THE MONK



101 minutes, France-Spain, 2011, Colour, Anamorphic, Dolby Digital Stereo, 35mm


A classic of Gothic literature, Matthew Gregory Lewis’ 1796 shocker The Monk was the first to depict a villainous priest as the central character. Although Luis Buñuel was stymied in his efforts to film it, he would surely have admired this frank and powerful new screen version from director Dominik Moll (Harry, He’s Here to Help).

Beautifully visualised in a palette of shadows and light redolent of Velásquez, the film generates real dramatic tension because we absolutely believe in its world of sepulchral spirituality ever-vigilant against the dark forces of temptation. Vincent Cassel’s restrained, sincere performance is right in tune with this approach, but it’s Brother Ambrosio’s effective fervour as a servant of God which proves a potent catalyst for uncontrollable desires which will put his piety to the test.

Relishing the Gothic excesses of its subject matter right to the hilt, The Monk remains provocative and relevant because its fundamental questions about the religious sublimation of sexuality continue to perplex us today.  (Notes by Trevor Johnston.) 

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