Socialist Worker

A Prophet

by Paul Murphy
Issue No. 2186

Tahar Rahim as Malik

Tahar Rahim as Malik

A Prophet is a powerful new prison drama from the director of Read My Lips and the Oscar-winning The Beat That My Heart Skipped.

Malik, a young Arab, grew up in juvenile correction.

As an adult he is sent down for six years.

The jail is effectively run by Corsican godfather César, who threatens Malik with death if he does not kill another Muslim. His only reward is César’s protection.

Malik uses his wits and determination to be his own man rather than a stooge. He makes the best of his hard education to gain self-respect and rises in status.

The priorities of gang life rule, even on day release, making a life of crime seem an extreme extension of a dog-eat-dog, racist world.

The film is unflinching in its realistic portrayal of prison, yet is occasionally shot through with fantasy.

It made a big impact in France, especially for being one of the first mainstream French films with an Arab lead and a gay Muslim supporting role.

Like Ken Loach, Audiard used many unknown and non-professional actors, including real prison inmates. Rather than use a real jail, a highly effective prison world was constructed on a Paris industrial estate.

The brilliant direction, script and cinematography holds the audience captive for two and a half hours. I was gripped by the endnotes of Mack the Knife over the closing credits.

A Prophet won the Grand Prix prize at Cannes and Best Film at the London Film Festival.

I think it is up with the very best of its genre, running The Godfather and Casino close.

Don’t miss an early contender for film of the year.

Directed by Jacques Audiard
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Article information

Tue 26 Jan 2010, 19:23 GMT
Issue No. 2186
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