Schmucks, we ain’t talking of the Prophet here but A Prophet.
Nein? Dann halt deine klappe.
Blessing our good fortune and thanking Bollywood, Kollywood, Tollywood et al for not releasing any films lately, we headed for Philadelphia yesterday for some Chaat and to watch the French movie A Prophet.
While the Chaat at Desi Chaat House was so-so, the movie A Prophet was so outstanding that we resolved to buy the DVD when it debuts.
At its most basic, A Prophet is a prison drama.
And not since Shawshank Redemption have we seen such a brilliant prison film.
Simply awesome, folks.
More than a Prison Film
A Prophet director Jacques Audiard’s name may not resonate with many.
The recipient of multiple awards in his native France, A Prophet is Audiard’s fifth film. You may rest assured that we’ll watch his previous films and maybe even review ’em here.
Movie buffs may also recollect that A Prophet was one of only five films nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Oscars ceremony earlier this month (unfortunately, A Prophet was pipped to the post by the Spanish film El secreto de sus ojos (Argentina).
But A Prophet is more than just a prison drama.
The film is also a richly layered gangster film tightly knotted into the tapestry of the prison story and its violent dramatis personae.
At the center of the film are the young Malik El Djebena (played to great elan by the young Tahar Rahim) and the old Corsican crime boss César Luciani (amazingly portrayed by Niels Arestrup).
While most kids spend their formative years in school, El Djebena is schooled in crime and wastes his early years in juvenile detention facilities and moves to a regular prison at the beginning of the film on a six-year-sentence.
Of course, life in the adult prison is no piece of cake for the young El Djebena, who is soon attacked and his sneakers stolen.
Ah, the theft of the sneakers is only a harbinger of the further ordeals that lie ahead of him. Soon, El Djebena is ordered by Luciani to kill another inmate Reyeb if he wants to survive in the prison and live under his protection.
So, does El Djebena suck Reyeb’s dick for some hash or does he kill him as ordered by the Corsican thug to save himself?
For the young El Dejebana, who can’t even read and write, life in the prison is a hard road and the choices he has to make are harder.
The years move by, the Corsican numbers go down and the Arab presence increases in the prison.
We won’t spoil your enjoyment of this wonderful movie by revealing too many details.
All we’ll hint is that El Djebena too evolves in the prison and, yes, commits more crimes, both inside and outside when he goes out on short leave.
The movie proceeds at a furious pace, depicting in all its brutality the horrors of the prison system with the corruption of the staff, the crimes plotted inside and carried out both outside and inside, the deep-rooted European racism against Arabs and hatred of Muslims and more.
As one of the Corsican prisoners spits out in a moment of anger about the Arabs:
If they stopped thinking with their balls, they would have evolved.
Folks, A Prophet is a lovely film. One that restores our faith in cinema as a medium of entertainment and one we promise you’ll enjoy immensely.
The story is gripping, the photography captivating and the acting so bewitching. There’s not a single dull second in the entire movie.
What more can one ask from a movie.
Fear not, this French movie comes with English subtitles.
Go ahead, give A Prophet the miss if you abhor excellent movies.
A Prophet is in limited release in the U.S. (Philadelphia, New Jersey, NYC, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC and San Diego) but we doubt it’ll ever make it to India.