Skip to main content

Movie Critic Review: A Prophet (2009)

"..that’s what cinema is all about – it produces monumental figures, icons, male or female, people who are emblematic of their time, who are in their time and who define their time.” French filmmaker Jacques Audiard

Tahar Rahim

Was it a bit over for the producers of this movie to compare it to "The Godfather" and therefore hint at a fleeting resemblance between the Corsican gang leader Cezar and Don Corlioni and, by extrapolation, between Tahar Rahim (as Malik) and Al Pacino (as Michael.)! Chances are!  
The screenplay for "A Prophet" was inspired by a visit Mr. Audiard made to a video club in a French prison. It was then written by Audiard (himself a screen writer) and other prominent writers such as Abdel Raouf Dafri (winner of French Cezar Award.). It was based on the shocking realization of the conditions in the French prisons.Therefore it can be viewed as a cinematic critique of real life situations as much as it is an iconization of marginalized people in a capitalist society. The film "A Prophet" is thought to have helped escalate the debate on full-face veil worn by some Muslim women in France; a debate which culminated in a law prohibiting and punishing women or children who wear a Burka. But, it also brought the whole question of minorities and their democratic rights to the forefront. Director Jacques Audiard was quoted as saying about the impact of his film on this social issue: “That’s my job, at its very essence. For me, that’s what cinema is all about – it produces monumental figures, icons, male or female, people who are emblematic of their time, who are in their time and who define their time.”

Malik el Djebena, a young Arab who is condemned to six years in a French prison, cannot read or write, but soon figures out the politics of the prison. Though Malik is only 19-years-old, the leader of the Corsican gang who rules the prison corners him and gives him certain 'missions' to carry out. He quickly gains the confidence of the gang leader, as these assignments begin to toughen him up. But Malik soon develops some plans of his own. It appears very familiar, this plot for the film! But to venture into making it, I would do the same: equate it to the "God Father""A Prophet" is deemed by some critics as to contain one of the finest assassination scenes ever committed to celluloid.

Audriard has been removed from the auteur list for some critics because they thought this movie of his was not an art movie although Audriard has authored, not only by contributing to the script but also by the many cinematic instances in the movie that prove him a true creator. Audriard has bet on cinematic tools of style and good editing to circumvent three huge problems with this project. These were:
  • A too familiar plot.
  • A complex of ethnicities and cultures i.e. languages.
  •  A lengthy run time (155 min.)
The first problem seems resolvable as there are no recent prison dramas of a good cinematic caliber. The second problem of complexities of the social mesh is a problem that is at the bottom of ِِِAudriard's project for creating.. "icons and images for people who don't have images in movies, like the Arabs in France," though he also had stated that the film "has nothing to do with his vision of society," and is a work of fiction. Language, therefore, should not be a worry. The third problem of the run time is obviously dependent on how one proceeds with his cinematic tools and specifically with modernist ways of attaining novelistic density in filmic characterization and using them with good editing that includes creating surreal images! Artistic manipulation of the settings and atmospheres for scenes may also play an important role in creating a well paced rendering of the script and may offset the undue length of the movie. 

Niels Arestrup (left), Jacques Audiard(cntr) and Rahim @ Cannes 2010

Note On Tahar Rahim

Tahar Rahim was born in France. His family was originally from Oran, Algeria. He studied Drama at Laboratoire de l'Acteur. Besides this movie A Prophet  he starred in Freeman 2011, Our ChildrenBlack Gold 2011. He had a role in Kevin Macdonald's 2011 movie "The Eagle." His latest movie Grand Central was debuted at Cannes 2013. It is directed by 33 years old Rebecca Zlotowski. He also played a role in "The Past" the latest movie from the famed Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi.

Prizes & Winnings

"A Prophet" won the Grand Prix at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival. At the 53rd London Film Festival, it won the Best Film Award. It won the Prix Louis Delluc 2009. It was nominated for the 82nd Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film. It also won the César Award (France's Oscar.)

Critics Say Their Words

"A Prophet" was a hit. It has been largely acclaimed by critics and commercially successful.

"As epic as The Godfather."- Kevin Maher, The London Times.
"Like The Godfather, which it regularly recalls, A Prophet serves up crime as a metaphor for life and power…" -John Anderson, Wall Street Journal
"The film's hero is a cousin to the protagonists of The Godfather or Scarface, but the movie writes its gangland saga without phony mob glamour." - Robert Horton, Everett Herald
"If Malik doesn't remind you of Al Pachino's Michael Corleone on his journey from innocence to corruption in The Godfather saga, well…he should. A Prophet is similarly, startlingly momentous." -Stephen Rea, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"A Prophet is a new crime classic." -Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
"4 out of 4 stars." -Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"A stylish revelation, recalling The Godfather…" -James Verniere, The Boston Herald
"A Prophet is Godfather good…" -Karen Durbin, Elle
"A Godfather saga set behind bars, Audiard's riveting tale of a young Arab's rise within the inmate hierarchy is as compelling as filmmaking gets." -Paul Ennis, Now Magazine.

UnProphete  A Prophet France/Italy 2009. 155 min.

French/Arabic/Corsican with English subtitles.
Rating R (18+) Genre: Prison or Crime Drama.
Written by: Jacques Autiard, Thomas Bidegain, Abdel Raouf Darfi, Nicola Peufaillit.
Directed by: Jacques Autiard (also made The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Read My Lips)
Cast: Tahar Rahim, Neils Arestrup, Abdel Bencherif, Hichem Yakoubi, Reda Katib.
Music composed by: Alexandre Desplat (Notable song: Corner Of My Room by Turner Cody down there!)

The Following is for french readers:


Popular posts from this blog

سؤال الضهبان

سؤال الضهبان
لا تظنن أنه سؤال هيّن! أو عليك أن تتأكد أن السائل لم يعد ضهبان. وحتى في هذه الحالة ربما لم يجد الجواب ولكنه فقط تحوّل من (الضهب) إلى حالة أحسن نسبياً ودون تفسير. أي سؤال هو ليس بالهيّن. وأي سؤال هو لم يُسأل عبثاً ولهوا. زي، يلاقيك زول ويسأل: كيف اصبحت؟ تجربة وجودية عديل كدا. طيب تعال شوف كمية التزوير في الجواب! طبعاً مافي زول بيجاوب على السؤال دا بالضبط كدا. كلنا تقريبين في السؤال دا وفي غيره من اسئلة كثيرة. الجواب هو المصطنع في أغلب الأحوال وليس السؤال! ياخي حتى السؤال الغبي، الواحد بيتمرمط أمامه. لذلك سؤال الضهبان دا هو موئل الغناء والشعر الكاذب والبطولات! ومن الناس من يحاول أن يغشك! إنهم أهل الاجابات الذين تتكوّر ذواتهم في نهايات الأسطر، مدلهّمة. نقطة سطر جديد! - هوي انت هه! يعني شايل ليك اجابة كدا وفرحان بيها، قايل السؤال مات!؟ دعني أقول لك: جميع الأسئلة التي سمعت والتي لم تسمع بها، جميعها تتمتع بخلود مطلق! السؤال فيهو حيوية والاجابة ديمة نايصة. السؤال بيخلع وجامد. الجواب هو ختة النَفَس، التقية من عصف المشاعر. السؤال، أي سؤال، فيهو قوة، فيهو شواظ وبيطقطق زي قندول عيش ريف معذّب. الاج…

جليد نساي، المقال كامللاً

جليد نسّاي
قراءة في رواية الرجل الخراب
تأليف عبد العزيز بركة ساكن بقلم مصطفى مدثر
الجزء الأول

أيها القارئ المرائي، يا شبيهي، يا أخي - بودلير، شاعر فرنسي الفكرة الرئيسة [عند إليوت] هي أننا، حتى ونحن ملزمون بأن نعي ماضوية الماضي..، لا نملك طريقة عادلة لحجر الماضي عن الحاضر. إن الماضي والحاضر متفاعمان، كلٌ يشي بالآخر ويوحي به، وبالمعنى المثالي كلياً الذي ينتويه إليوت ، فإن كلاً منهما يتعايش مع الآخر. ما يقترحه ت س  إليوت بإيجاز هو رؤيا للتراث الأدبي لا يوجهها كلياً التعاقب الزمني، رغم أنها تحترم هذا التعاقب. لا الماضي ولا الحاضر، ولا أي شاعر أو فنان، يملك معنىً كاملاً منفرداً- إدوارد سعيد، أستاذ الأدب الإنجليزي الطريق إلى الحقيقة يمر بأرض الوساوس - شانون برودي، عاملة صيدلية.

يبدو مفارقاً، بل غرائبياً، أن تُهرع  لقصيدة ت س إليوت (الأرض الخراب) كي تعينك على فهم استلهام عبد العزيز بركة ساكن لها في كتابة روايته القصيرة، الرجل الخراب. فالمفارقة هي أن القصيدة المكتوبة في 1922، وبما عُرف عنها من تعقيد ووعورة، تحتاج هي نفسها لعشرات الشروحات، لكونها مغرقة في الإحالات لتواريخ وثقافات وأديان، بل ولغات أ…

MovieGlobe: Japan's Version of Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet (2007) JapanOriginal Article by: Fateh Mirghani-Japan

I have just finished watching the masterpiece of Shakespeare” Romeo and Juliet “in its Japanese version.
The quality of the movie is great and the soundtrack, injected with a little Japanese folklore music, has given it a sensational dimension and Eastern fascination!
Basically, the theme of the movie remains the same as the original play, and that has been a particular Japanese notion in dealing with other nations’ cultural products. Part of the reason may lay in Japan's sensitivity to other nations’cultural products- given the long standing historical disputes with its neighbours, and part of it may lay in a fierce sense of homogeneity that has come to characterize Japan as an island nation-state since time immemorial. Thus the Japanese, unlike the Americans, don’t seem to have the temerity to ‘Japanize’ others’ cultural stuff. The movie “Renaissance man”  can be cited as an example of American boldness. The …