3/28/10

A Prophet

"Un proph├Ęte" is a French film (English captions) that teaches us the gory details of life in a French prison. A young Arab man is imprisoned for some unstated crime and is thrown into the super-macho, testo- sterone-ridden hierarchy of brutal power behind bars. He is beaten up as soon as he arrives and within days has been told by a Corsican capo to kill a fellow Arab prisoner. If he doesn't do the job, he himself will die.

We watch this frightened young fellow try to master how to conceal a razor blade in his mouth as he practices the lethal technique he has been taught. When the moment comes, he is trembling and afraid, so he clumsily botches the job, but ultimately kills this stranger...whose image continues to appear to him throughout the remainder of the film: razor cut to the throat and all!

It seems the Corsicans and the Arabs have a long-standing feud over a lucrative narcotics trade. The Corsican mob is run by the capo from inside the prison. Our hero becomes a lackey to him, making coffee, running errands and serving as a general drudge for his gang. Over time, he picks up the Corsican language and his value increases. He is a model prisoner and as such, starts to earn furloughs, twelve hours at a time, during which he carries out orders from his boss. In addition, he takes classes to learn how to read, write, and do math.

In my opinion, the most satisfying thing was watching his evolution over the years, from a frightened whipping boy, to a well-groomed man of the world during his brief forays outside the prison. As his confidence grows, so does his ambition. And THAT, my friends is where the plot starts to thicken!

I found this film to be violent, involving, and just a tad confusing, but your close attention will be rewarded.