A Prophet

a prophet posterWhile one might have expected another prison movie, A Prophet goes far beyond the limits of this sub-genre. Supported by a scenario of infinite richness, Jacques Audiard’s film takes the time to breath, halfway, taking the audience on surprising roads with unpredictable ends…

Beginning with a 50 franc bill and ending with thousands of euros, A Prophet is about the childhood of a mafia boss, the initiation of an ordinary thug to crime through the six years that Malik (played by newcomer Tahar Rahim in a breakthrough performance) spends behind bars.

Entering this weird universe almost homeless and following only his own rules, he will leave as a boss. In the meantime, his choices are led only by his survival instinct.

From each test, he learns a lesson which takes him closer to power. He uses a weapon that proves more effective than a gun, his intelligence, which allows him to know when he should accept being victimized and when he should hit. His first lesson is when an Arab man he was asked to kill by the Corsican mafia boss ruling the prison (the always menacing Niels Arestrup) tells him he should learn how to read and write. This advice allows him to forge new ties with Riyadh, who becomes his friend and lieutenant, and the Gipsy, with whom he builds his own traffic. With each challenge, he gains experience. “Eyes and Ears” is the title of one of the film chapters, a formula summarizing the portrait of this prophet who is able to find the right words to take advantage of the various rival gangs: Arabs, Corsicans, etc…

Featuring a few bursts of gory violence and loud shootings, the film never loses its limpid rhythm, making its central character alternate between passivity and action. Listening to his masters to better learn their language, he then betrays them and takes down César, the Corsican boss whose coldness turns into terrifying violence.

A Prophet is perfectly balanced, even when it borders on fantastic cinema; the ghost of his first victim visiting him and protecting him, a metaphor for the conscience he slowly loses as he embarks for a quite evil destiny.

A Prophet never sinks into caricature and avoids being Manichean. If the characters portrayed are lowlifes, they also possess a certain fragility that causes their fall. The film is always on the edge, like the blade hidden in Malik’s mouth that he uses to slit throats. Rather than having a documentarian approach about life in jail, this film is a metaphor for a jungle whose universe is beyond the prison bars. A Prophet also proves that French cinema can bring something other than cheesy mainstream comedies or New Wave nostalgia for a few elitists, which is certainly great news.

Director: Jacques Audiard – Actors: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup – Running Time: 2:29 – Year: 2009 – Country: France

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Moland Fengkov

Moland Fengkov

Based in Paris, Moland is a journalist and photographer; He is more particularly responsible for covering the Cannes film festival for Plume Noire, writing movie reviews and taking gorgeous pictures.
Moland Fengkov

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