Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB
Original title: Un Prophete
France/Italy, 2009. Why Not Productions, Chic Films, Page 114, France 2 Cinéma, Union Générale Cinématographique, BIM Distribuzione, Celluloid Dreams, France 2, Canal+, CinéCinéma, Région Ile-de-France, Conseil Régional de Provence-Alpes Côte d’Azur, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Sofica UGC 1, Sofica Soficinéma 4, Soficinéma 5, Neon Productions. Screenplay by Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain, based on a screenplay by Abdel Raouf Dafri, Nicolas Peufaillit. Cinematography by Stephane Fontaine. Produced by Lauranne Bourrachot, Martine Cassinelli, Pascal Caucheteux, Marco Cherqui. Music by Alexandre Desplat. Production Design by Michel Bartelemy. Costume Design by Virginie Montel. Film Editing by Juliette Welfling.
Superb epic that presents a French prison as a microcosm for one man’s coming to power. Tahar Rahim arrives in the slammer after being arrested for his first adult crime after a lifetime spent in juvenile delinquency. Unsure of himself, illiterate and vulnerable, he is immediately taken in by the Corsican mob who rule supreme at the prison and force him to work against his own Arab brothers. Time passes, relationships alter, and he soon finds himself a well-read, multilingual, savvy power player who might be challenging his beloved mentor (Niels Arestrup) by seizing control of his own domain.
The direction is gritty, tough and unsentimental, but it is punctuated by moments of lyrical beauty and profound tenderness. It’s extremely long but never boring, exhausting in its magnificent scope but wholly encompassing in its charting of the development of one central, wholly sympathetic and constantly challenging character. A true masterpiece.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Foreign Language Film
Cannes Film Festival Award: Grand Jury Prize
European Film Award: Prix d’Excellence
Nominations: Best European Director (Jacques Audiard); Best European Screenwriter; Best European Cinematographer
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Foreign Language Film
Toronto International Film Festival: 1999