Director: Jacques Audiard
Writers: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain
DVD and Blu-ray release date: June 7 2010
Number of discs: 1
Price: From £10.99
Running Time: 149 mins
Starring: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif, Reda Kateb, Hichem Yacoubi
Repeat offender 19 year-old Malik previously used his age as a safety net and now has no-one to turn to. Careless one time too many and branded an adult, he finds himself with a six year sentence. A Prophet follows his journey into adulthood from his first days in prison to the day he leaves.
Being an “Arab” has its advantages and disadvantages. All Arabs are housed in B block, drawing the Corsican gang who rule the prison to Malik. Fellow prisoner, Reyeb, is soon to testify in a trial and the Corsicans want him dead, enlisting the help of Malik who has attracted Reyeb’s attentions in the shower room.
After lessons on how to best perform the deed without being caught and store a razor blade between teeth and gums, Malik is welcomed into the gang as their “Dirty Arab” servant. Haunted by the other man’s image, Malik spends the rest of his sentence sharing his cell with a ghost – a man who did nothing but offer him kindness before having his life cut short.
Unable to shake the attentions of the Corsican gang’s leader, Cesar, Malik soon learns a few brutal life lessons and starts to exploit the corrupt prison system he is being forced to play.
A Prophet is drenched in irony as both Malik and his lovable rogue friend, Ryad, both claim “I am being rehabilitated”. Aside from life lessons and skills, prison in the film teaches a fundamentally good but misguided Malik how to be a murderer and hardened criminal, against his own will. Parole and leave days are used to commit heinous crimes in the outside world and the fruit of these crimes allow Malik to buy the only real possessions he has ever truly owned.
Broken up into chapters, introducing key characters or moments like “1 year”, “Eyes and Ears” and “40 Days. 40 Nights”, A Prophet has a slightly overly-long running time. After investing two and a half hours of energy watching Malik grow as a person and survive at all costs, he becomes an anti-hero, the murderer with a conscience you are routing for, even as the tension grows and adrenaline pumps before he is about to murder three men.
Director and screenplay writer, Jacques Audiard, succeeds in creating characters so real you are forced to care about, however vile their actions are. The power-play between Malik and Cesar is exquisite as Malik asks: “You still need me?” and Cesar ever stubbornly replies: “No, you need me.” Even after everything Cesar has put Malik through it’s impossible not to feel both satisfaction for Malik and sympathy for Cesar when he is alone and kicked to the ground in the prison yard – the place he once ruled.
Despite the hard-hitting subject matter, A Prophet boasts moments of dry humour, like when Malik is given his belongings back on leaving prison and told to make sure they are all there referring to a near empty box or when he is searched getting on a plane and opens his mouth as he is accustomed to doing during prison strip searches.
Despite some of the things Malik has been forced to do, prison has been good for him – he has made friends; has finally earned the respect of the “Arab” community; has learnt how to read and has prospects in the outside world, all of which he didn’t have when he went in.
A Prophet is a thoroughly compelling journey through Malik’s awakening to adult life and although rather lengthy, is beautifully filmed and scripted.
Commentary with Director Jacques Audiard, Actor Tahar Rahim and Co-Writer Thomas Bidegain.
Tahar Rahim Screen Tests.
Tahar Rahim & Gilles Cohen Rehearsal Footage #1.
Tahar Rahim & Gilles Cohen Rehearsal Footage #2.