Old Movie Review: The Monk (2011)

My friend and I rented “The Monk” (rated R) because it sounded kind of intriguing: A mix of medieval monks, mystery, and sin. The basic plot is that the main character, Ambrosio, is abandoned at the doorstep of a monastery as a child and raised as a strict Capuchin monk. He grows up into a fervent disciple of Christ, renowned for his splendid, inspiring sermons and his great faith. Then, he gets involved with a woman and everything goes to pot (That’s putting it mildly). It is quite a spectacular fall from grace. The most holy monk of his order goes on to commit a whole litany of sins: fornication, incest, and finally murder.

 

Overall, the movie was interesting; it kept me engaged even though it was a foreign film and all in subtitles. I’m not sure if I should be annoyed at the portrayal of the religious here (I was raised Catholic). It’s set in the 17th century and the church did do some nasty things (like the Inquisition) in medieval times. Still, I don’t know if they would have starved a nun to death for getting pregnant. Maybe they would have. I don’t know (They certainly wouldn’t do that today!). Anyway, they are portrayed as very strict and sometimes, as in the above example, cruel and heartless. That was the backdrop of the movie, and it makes Ambrosio’s ultimate hypocrisy all the more profound. Satan makes a couple of appearances in the film. There’s dark magic, ghostly apparitions, and profound vice. All the elements of a twisted tale, and a twisted tale it was.

 

Strengths: the acting was good, the script, although twisted, was coherent and logically sound (assuming you accept the premise of Satan, Satanic witches, and what have you). The downfall of the Monk was portrayed quite well. Weaknesses: I think I saw every one of the twists in the movie coming. I mean, they were good twists, it’s just that they were kind of predictable. Again, I remain ambivalent about the portrayal of the church, but since I’m really not up on the history, I can’t really formalize a complaint. Also, the special effects were kind of lacking. I’ve said it before, special effects alone will not make a movie, but they can add to it. Here, they were obviously low budget and not very impressive. Finally, the ending was a little unclear to me. Part of me (most of me) is convinced that Satan wins, but there is a last fleeting image before the credits that made me wonder.

 

Anyway, I’ll give “The Monk” three and a half, or maybe four, out of five stars.

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