Uncovering Curiosities: Dominik Moll’s THE MONK

Dominik Moll’s The Monk (Le Moine) is a 2011 gothic thriller which is adapted from Matthew Lewis’s 1796 novel of the same name. The Monk is a visually striking piece, but you can’t help but get the impression that much of Lewis’ nuance was somehow excised for its transition to the screen.

Vincent Cassel plays Ambrosio, the film’s titular monk. Abandoned as a child, Ambrosio was discovered by Capuchin Monks who raised him amongst their number. Growing up to become the most pious man in the monastery, Ambrosio’s faith is tested when he begins to have lusty longings. This is when things take a rather dark turn.

The Monk looks fantastic, it’s dark and brooding, much like Cassel, who delivers another one of his trademark intense performances. However, the film has pacing issues, something which probably stems from it being an adaptation of Matthew Gregory Lewis’ 1796 novel. I haven’t read the book, but I gather that it is quite a weighty tome, and that many plot points and characters have been excised to fit the film’s 100 minute running time.

The film begins at a leisurely pace, taking its time to set up the characters and the setting. The climax, in contrast, feels rushed, it’s as if director Dominik Moll feels the urgent need to wrap things up. This is a real shame, because it skips from event to event, almost giving the impression that it’s a totally different film – or at the very least directed by a different person.

This may sound like I didn’t like The Monk – I did, however, I feel that it could have been great, not just good. Having said that, I recommend that you watch it for the strong visuals and Vincel Cassel’s strong turn as the title character.