Loin des HommesVenice Film Festival 2014
Against the backdrop of the Algerian war, Far from Men is as thoughtful and considered as Camus’ original short story, but with an element of genuine human emotion that creates a compelling and emotionally engaging narrative.
The film begins similarly to Camus’ The Guest: an Arab, bound by ropes, is led to a schoolhouse by a man on horseback. Upon arrival, the Arab prisoner is handed over to the school master, Daru, to be taken to Tinguit to await his trial and eventual death. Likewise, the ending follows the subject matter quite closely, with a binary choice presented to the prisoner: to head towards either his freedom or his doom. But between these vital points of the story is an emotional journey like nothing in any of Camus’ works.
Daru, played by Viggo Mortensen, elects to accompany the prisoner (here, the prisoner is given the name Mohamed and is played by Reda Kateb) to Tinguit, after an attack on the schoolhouse leaves him begging for assistance. The journey should be a just a day’s walk away, but run-ins with both French and rebel fighters not only give context but add an entirely new element to the story.
The war is dealt with fairly evenhandedly, with human agency emphasised as one of the more important factors in the conflict. The almost impossible situation of men like Daru – born in Algeria to Spanish parents, perceived as undesirable by the French and yet never truly accepted by the native population – is represented beautifully by his capture and release by various fellow ex-soldiers, and friendly rebels.
Another addition from the source material is the warmth and humour in David Oelhoffen’s re-imagining. Muhammad’s alleged crime is the murder of a family member, so to begin with Daru has his suspicions, but through an ordeal that leads to common experience, the two men bond and share, and begin to open up. The story of two men from vastly differing backgrounds coming to know and understand one another has been told and retold many thousands of times, but its presentation here is as good as any, and certainly serves the films premise well.
Far from Men has little inherent in it to stand out from other movies of a similar ilk, but the film’s simplicity in the face of a very complicated war makes it a compelling journey all the same. Mortensen and Kateb have a quiet chemistry that pitches them as equals, despite their differences, and rounds out this beautifully shot, thought provoking film perfectly.
Far from Men does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Far from Men here: