Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Thriller
  • 2011

The Monk

The Monk

Synopsis

A respected monk is led astray by the devil and an assortment of inconsiderately hot young women in this screen adaptation of Matthew G. Lewis's scandalous 1796 novel, directed by Dominik Moll.

About

17th-century Madrid looks like a pretty boring place to live. Young men find themselves consigned to dour monasteries, young women are forced to marry bumbling, rich husbands, and NO-ONE is allowed to have any sex. The fact that going to church seems to be the only way to get your kicks just about says it all. Enter brother Ambrosio (Vincent Cassell), a prodigiously preachy Catholic monk whose passion in the pulpit has the ladies literally swooning in the pews. And, as the Beatles were to discover several centuries later, such talent and charisma inevitably attracts more than its fair share of groupies and stalkers - some of whom have more on their minds than the guarding of their virtues.


This is German director Dominik Moll's fourth feature, following 2000's impressive Harry, He's Here to Help and 2005's intriguing Lemming. It's a bit of an odd choice. Adapted from Matthew G. Lewis's Gothic novel of the same name, this story about a respected monk giving in to his baser impulses provoked moral outrage when it was first published in 1796. But what relevance does it have for audiences today?


The answer, unfortunately, is not much. Visually, it's stunning, channelling Caravaggio and Dreyer with painstaking chiaroscuro lighting. But plot-wise it plays out like a hornier version of 'Cadfael' - only nowhere near horny enough to make up for the tedium which dogs the vast majority of the film. Watching po-faced people hanging around in a selection of rooms and gardens wrestling earnestly with their existential and moral demons is not much fun. When a bit of sex does finally happen, the prudish camera usually chooses to look elsewhere. As a result, the most erotic bit in the whole film is when Ambrosio and one of his fans recite psalms at each other (while hanging around in a garden).


Without the sauce, all that's left is Ambrosio's interminable torment as he fights to suppress his natural urges. And in an age when most people just aren't that preoccupied with their immortal souls anymore, the question of whether or not to fornicate is considerably less troubling - and interesting - than it was 200 years ago.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Vincent Cassel
  • Director: Dominik Moll

In a nutshell

All talk, no action, The Monk looks good but is weighed down by the Catholic guilt it's trying to critique.

by Rebecca Davies

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    About Elly

    Taraneh Alidoosti stars in a gripping, award-winning mystery-thriller from Oscar-winning Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi.

  • Film4

    Odd Thomas

    Anton Yelchin stars in Stephen Sommers' charged adaptation of Dean Koontz's supernatural novel.

  • Film4

    Action Month 2016 on Film4

    A whole month of action favourites every night at 9.00pm throughout June.

  • Film4

    Kick-Ass 2 on Film4

    Jim Carrey, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloƫ Grace Moretz star in Film4's first play of the darkly comic sequel to Kick-Ass.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Five questions for Jim Gillespie

    We grabbed five minutes with Jim Gillespie after his Edinburgh International Film Festival directing masterclass to put five burning questions to the man behind I Know What You Did Last Summer, whose

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Clio Barnard's Dark River starts shooting

    Principal photography has commenced on Dark River, the third feature film from writer/director Clio Barnard (The Arbor, The Selfish Giant), starring Ruth Wilson (The Affair, Saving Mr Banks), Mark Sta

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share