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The Stranger: Audiard’s “A Prophet”

The Stranger: Audiard's "A Prophet"

One of the first things viewers will inevitably remember from A Prophet is an early sequence in which the film’s young hero, Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) murders a fellow prison inmate, by extracting a concealed razor blade from inside his mouth with his tongue, and slicing open the unsuspecting victim’s throat. Notwithstanding the stygian brutality of this scene (from which a residual dread is likely to remain with the viewer throughout the film), A Prophet is ultimately as memorable for the responsibility it assumes, as it is for the savagery it depicts. At a time where an entire sub-genre of popular cinema exists only to invent more repulsive and cruel forms of torture, not once during A Prophet does the horror on the screen feel any less real than that of the chaotic world it succeeds in depicting with moral precision and intellectual honesty. Few will quibble against the consensus since Cannes ’09 that A Prophet is a gripping and exceptionally well-crafted crime film, but whether it represents a substantial step up for its director is more debatable. Read the rest of Julien Allen’s review of A Prophet.

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