Visually impressive, but overly pretentious, The Monk (Le moine) is bold, but mostly unsuccessful attempt to adapt the controversial XVIII-th Century novel by Matthew Lewis. Despite the interesting premises and pleasing European-style of camera-work, this movie is too slow to entertain and too perplexed in its own inability to determine whether it is a psycho-sexual drama, moral and religious story or a supernatural flick.
Situated in the end of the XVIII-th Century, The Monk tells the story of the young and extremely gifted orator Brother Ambrosio who walks the path from being an outstanding example of religious admiration to becoming a victim of his own religious and moral pride and ending up as a liar and a sinner. As a concept, the story is intriguing enough to keep the focused, but unfortunately, the extremely slow pacing and chaotic story-telling make this movie a very demanding piece of art-house, with doubtful final reward. Its painterly images, vivid colors and beautiful cinematography, combined with the hypnotic and almost painful performance of Vincent Cassel are surely a source of lively interest to the lovers of European movies. Yet, even this could not help save this delivery.
The biggest issue which Dominik Mall's adaptation faces is that it never really takes a stand on the story, on the moral coming from it. It never becomes clear whether The Monk is a supernatural-demonic mystery, a psycho-sexual drama with elements of mystery or a depiction of the moral and religious personal fall of a person who is a victim of his own pride. Dominik Mall uses all this in the movie, but never takes a particular direction, leaving the viewer uncertain of what is the main message or the main idea of the movie.
Sadly, when pretentious, demanding and hard-to-follow movies do not reward the audience at least partially with sufficient or challenging dilemmas, questions or conclusion, the disappointment of such deliveries is huge. Meant to challenge and to provoke, The Monk only succeeds to impress with beautiful visual, formidable leading performance and a story, which could have been told in much better way.