Film review: A Prophet

First published in the March 2010 issue of the Hearing Times

‘A Prophet’ has given French director Jaques Audiard the best reviews of his career, and won this year’s BAFTA for best foreign language film.

Recently I set up a deaf cinema group dedicated to watching subtitled films, so forty of us packed into a central London cinema to see what all the fuss was about.

The last film I saw by Audiard was ‘Read My Lips,’ a thriller with a deaf secretary as it’s heroine. While his depiction of deafness didn’t entirely ring true, it used the deaf theme in a compelling and original way. Interestingly, the best scene in ‘A Prophet’ also uses deafness to dramatic effect.

‘A Prophet’ follows a young man, Malik, who is sentenced to six years in prison, arriving unable to read or write. Soon he falls under the control of a mafia group, and is forced to carry out dangerous jobs on their behalf, ranging from drug trafficking to murder.

Gradually Malik learns how to assert not only his independence, but a growing power, as he finds a way to control and manipulate the elements around him without succumbing to them, becoming the ‘prophet’ the title suggests.

Malik is quiet, and gives very little away, yet Tahar Rahim plays him with a remarkable magnetism, in a role that has rightly made him a star.

In one breathtaking scene, Malik goes temporarily deaf during a shoot-out. Audiard’s use of super slow-motion and complete silence takes the breath away; conveying a sense of chaos yet serenity as bullets fly all around him as he crouches in a car.

Though one or two members of the film group found it over long, (and went home for dinner!) everyone else loved the film, including me. I watched the film in a constant state of anxiety, and I mean that in a positive way!

My one criticism is that at times Malik’s journey seemed a little too easy. Everything he wants falls seems to fall neatly into his path, and I’d have liked to have seen him go through a little more hardship on the way.

Despite that minor gripe, I believe this story of a prisoner’s rise from a nobody to a somebody will be be regarded as a cinematic classic in years to come.

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