A Prophet (Un prophete) Reviews
"A Prophet" follows the life of Malik (Tahar Rahim), a young Frenchman of Arab descent, who enters prison as an outsider and is shaped into an adult criminal from the inside. He seems an unlikely protagonist for a prison movie and he's behind bars for unclear reasons. He claims he's innocent, although it doesn't matter. Prison efficiently strips him of privacy and self-respect, and becomes a pawn to the Corsican gang that controls everything behind bars through violence and bribes. This gang is run by Cesar Luciani (Niels Arestrup), a man who has a commanding presence, and walks everywhere followed by bodyguards. His spies see all that happens. He gives an order, and it is followed out.
There is a prisoner there (Hichem Yacoubi) who Cesar wants killed. This man must not live to testify. Malik is instructed by Cesar's lieutenant how to conceal a razor blade in his mouth and slit the man's throat. It is very simple. If Malik doesn't do this, he will die. When Malik seeks help from the warden, he quickly finds out that Cesar calls the shots in this prison. Malik has never killed anyone before and struggles with the notion, and carrying out the act--killing someone up close, turns into a bloody skirmish, everything is covered in blood. Malik escapes only because Cesar has had the wing cleared out.
In the years to come, Malik transforms before our very eyes. He learns how to read, how to observe others, how to measure motives and size people up, how to devise strategy, and how to rise in the ranks. Malik bides his time, keeping a low profile and his ears open, to create a life for himself once he serves out this sentence.
Jacques Audiard effortlessly creates a landscape with complicated rules and creating characters that are compelling and empathetic, even as they commit heinous acts. Rahim perfectly telegraphs his maturation from petty thief to major player in a brilliant performance that relies much less on words, than the way he carries himself and his body language. He doesn't need to tell us that's he's taking charge of the prison, or surpassing Cesar, we just watch it happen. The film's brutal, realistic violence is not for the faint for heart, but fans of raw, gripping cinema shouldn't be put off; "A Prophet" demands to be seen. Nominee of 2009 Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film and winner of London Film Critics Award for Best Picture of the Year.
A prophet is one of the better French films, slow yet not as drowsy as the others from the country. It's got good acting overall, a good colour scheme and a realistic gangster story in it's backdrop.
It deserves to be regarded as a classic.
Following the release of many of César's fellow gang members, Malik finds himself progressing within César's circle becoming his "eyes and ears". With his new role Malik soon grows in confidence and meets the gypsy who is a hash dealer, they soon become friends and the gypsy shares his ideas and stories from the drug trades. When Malik is told by César to take his leave days in order to run errands for him outside of the prison, Malik is also setting up a drug deals with his friend Ryad. When César hears about these drug deals and that Maik is risking his leave days meaning he can no longer be used outside of the prison César decides to punish Malik (the results of which were emphasized by using very interesting cinematography) but what occurs next was something neither of them was prepared for but with Malik surviving against the odds (which is put down to his new found religion) this time César has gone too far and sparks Malik to take control.
This movie was my very first foreign film and I just couldn't take my eyes away from it (not just because if I did I'd miss the subtitles). With a running time of 155 minutes maybe in my opinion they probably could have cut this time down but I wasn't too bothered as it is a good movie and good movies can be as long as they want as long as they keep you entertained.
The spotlight is on. First, it is shined on the picture depicted below.
You look tough, but no one is around to make you seem so. You are a 19-year-old French-Arab, who has nice sneakers, so you're beat up for it. Unless you're willing to give up your sneakers without a fight, then you don't get beat up, which is great! Moving on.
Spotlight is now on this picture.
This is the scene that is the most horrid and initiates the path to power. The scene is filmed vigorously and messily, and in no instance is the frame able to contain the two. He commits the murder in order to save his own life, since Reyeb is a witness to a Corsican crime, and they order Malik (in white) to kill him. Because he is bombarded with information he has not asked for, he is to take responsibility. As soon as Malik executes the murder, he gives his back to the dead body. Guilt! Root of redemption! Moving on.
Empowerment via education. Audiard specifically films the education of the language and economics. Financial rule is about language games (SUNS)! Moving on.
In this scene, Reyeb's ghost, symbolized by the fire, who is imagined throughout the film until Malik convinces himself that he has satisfied his guilt by sacrificing his money to Muslims wishes Malik a happy birthday. It has been one year since Malik has entered the prison. Prison is like the 'free world' and is signified by the wishing of a happy birthday, indicating the birth of a soul upon his entrance into the prison. Metaphor for the world outside of the 'prison'! Moving on.
Next, the spotlight is shone here.
This is the vision, which Malik sees that leads to Lattrache accusing Malik of being a prophet. The scene where he foresees the accident, and therefore prevents death, or extends life, Malik is looked upon as a prophet. This provides that final push required, fulfilling his individualistic oriented mind in the process, and contributes to his power gain. The significance of others' perception regarding Malik's position on the hierarchy is projected here when he is called a prophet, and we observe that this is the changing point in his life. Fantastic stuff! Moving on.
Spotlight shifts here.
Although not the last frame upon which the spotlight is shone, compare this image with the first image shown. The figure in power, the others carelessness signified by their momentary stares, and the emotionless figure are all opposite to the first frame shown. Surprisingly enough, others do not give half a crap about who the figure in power previously was, and only seem to work for the figure currently in power. Another point illustrated by Audiard is how all the figure in power sometimes needs, is a permanently mental whack caused by the defiance of the subjects towards the rule or confinement.
Last but not least, a further confirmation of a previously mentioned point. Spotlight is finally about to turn off.
Audiard purposefully filmed this scene in a manner in which Malik, his godson and his godson's mother are not aware of the surveillance behind them. Audiard's placement of this scene as the final one was to commemorate the confinement's similarity in both the 'prison' and the outside world. Once again, confinement in prison and the outside world! Moving on.
Turn off the spotlight. Time to look at it in a wholly view. One of the first scenes in the film shows how Malik is stripped naked; he is stripped off his identity and is given one to adapt to in the confined world, just the audience is everyday when they are bombarded with subliminal messages on a secondly basis. We then observe Malik's rise to power after he is under the protection of the corrupt system, which is as a result of committing a deadly sin. Through this protection and the realization of Malik being Caesar's only source of enforcing his power, Malik sets on the route which he believes will lead to his own empowerment; education.
Malik studies language and economics, or what Audiard believes is key to empowerment. This is similar to Jean-François Lyotard's idea, a French philosopher from the 20th century, which suggests that a single variation in the 'normal' utterance in language can change the game. Malik strives to perfect his language in order to be able to enable his ability to change the game that is being played, and to gain power, which is sadly and truthfully represented by economy in the film. Following Malik's initial lessons, the ghost of his murder's victim visits him and wishes him a happy birthday after spending a year in the prison.
This serves the main point of the film, which is that the world inside the prison is no different from the outside world. The birthday song is meant to signify that when he entered the prison and was stripped off his identity just like we are when we are born into the real world. From the day we are born, Audiard suggests that we are being molded into what the confiner has in mind for us, as those confined. We are the victims of a world in which the prison is no different from the outside world, and we must not resist this power or else we get beat up for it, as shown in the first image. The vision follows to provide the empowering push required for Malik to gain power. He is titled a prophet after being able to predict an accident.
Although a highly intellectual individual, Malik realizes that he is nothing without the perception of others of him as the figure in power. As soon as he notices that he is looked upon as a prophet, or a supreme human being, Malik grabs the opportunity to become the person he dreams of being; the figure in power. Audiard completely rejects Descartes' perception of existence, which is heavily subjective, and is clearly shown to be for Berkeley's, which states that to be is to be perceived.
Following the departure of his workers, Caesar's power is threatened, as his only worker is Malik. A further illustration of Berkeley's point lies here when Malik no longer looks upon him as the figure in power, and he is therefore constricted from all the power that he previously embodied. Audiard also suggests that if the figure upon which you depend on for power betrays you and instead strives for their power gain, you lose all your power. In other words, the confiner is nothing without those being confined.
Also related to confinement is the main point of the Audiard's film. In the final shot, after Malik is freed from prison, he followed by three cars, which is unaware of, which serve to illustrate the similarities of confinements in both the prison and the outside world. Heavily related with surveillance and confinement is Michel Foucalt's Panopticon, which states that the main source of the subjects feeling confinement is as a result of surveillance. Audiard suggests that there will always be a confiner and a confined, and figure in power that who isn't respectively, and signifies that the root to empowerment is through Jean-François Lyotard's language games.