“Satan has only the power we give him” Words uttered by a 16th century Spanish monk, Friar Ambrosio who sold his soul to the devil. The Monk (2011) is based on a 18th century Gothic novel written by the English author Matthew Lewis, a close friend of the notorious Lord Byron, which was first published in 1796. Since then it has been performed on stage and has three movie adaptations. The first was in 1972, the second in 1990 and now co-written and directed by Dominik Moll, best known for the psychological drama Lemming (2005) which starred the two Charlotte’s, Rampling and Gainbourg, it has been adapted for a third time.
It tells the story of temptation, sin and carnal lust involving a hypocritically pious Friar who started life as an abandoned infant left outside the doors of a Capucin monastery in Madrid. He grows up to be a charismatic preacher that can equally convert nonbelievers and make young women swoon at his feet making his eventual full from grace even more astonishing!
Originally to be filmed in the UK and in the English language, the location was changed to Spain because of production and funding problems. The dark evil atmosphere is helped by the formidable presence and acting talent of its main star Vincent Cassel, who plays Ambrosio as though he was born for the role, and the superb camera work of Patrick Blossier. Although a strongly impressive piece of work by our German born director it portrays a very depressive story with a complete lack of humour, making a very dour watch. I would suggest, just to cheer you up, you may like another viewing of Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) just for some self-righteous indulgence!