A Prophet (2009)

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Released 17-Aug-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Director, Actor, Co-Writer
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Rehearsal Footage
Featurette-Screen Tests
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 149:00 (Case: 140)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jacques Audiard
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Tahar Rahim
Niels Arestrup
Adel Bencherif
Hichem Yacoubi
Reda Kateb
Jean-Philippe Ricci
Gilles Cohen
Antoine Basler
Leïla Bekhti
Pierre Leccia
Foued Nassah
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Alexandre Desplat


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Audio Commentary
Arabic
Danish
Finnish
German
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The 2010 Oscars race in the Best Foreign Language Film category was, in a way not dissimilar to the "main" competition, a two horse race. Would the Oscar go to Austrian Michael Haneke's black and white chilling drama The White Ribbon about the way German society created the Nazis, or the gritty Prison drama Un Prophete. After all, they had both achieved great critical acclaim and success at the international awards. Un Prophete won the Cannes Grand Prix only being pipped by Haneke for the Palme D'or and the Golden Globes. Who would win?

     Well, as usual, the Academy threw a curveball - anointing the unheralded Argentinean film The Secrets in Their Eyes. The winner, a brooding crime/legal/love story, is a top watch and confirms that last year was a high quality year for international cinema. Whatever the result, all three films should be seen and probably deserve a place in your DVD collection. This recommendation comes with a caveat. As powerful and excellent Un Prophete is as a film it is also a tough watch and whether you would want to watch it again is another question.

     Un Prophete is the story of an ordinary man, a petty criminal, who becomes a much bigger criminal as a result of his stay in prison. When we first met Malik (Tahar Raheem) he is a 19 year old, troubled young men sentenced to 6 years prison for an unstated crime. He has no family to speak of and has grown up in and out of reform homes. Yet he is just a petty crim hoping to do his time and come out the other side undamaged. Unfortunately, that is not to be. The prison Malik inhabits has a couple of core ethnic groups and Malik straddles them both. He is of mixed French Corsican and Arab descent. The Corsican mob runs the prison under the brutal dictatorship of Cesar (Neils Arestrup) and his lackeys. When Cesar confronts Malik with an ultimatum it is not a question of do or do not; it is do or be killed. The proposition is simple; kill a recent inmate.

     The essentially non-violent Malik agonizes over the task but ultimately must comply. So he befriends and kills the prisoner Reyeb (Hichem Yacoubi) in a scene that is brutally unforgettable. Having passed his test Malik has earned the umbrella of protection from the Corsicans but they make it very clear to him that as a part-Arab he is one step above a dog and is handed out menial tasks.

     Un Prophete is essentially pilotless, the film being an often rambling tale of Malik’s journey from prison lackey, through his street smarts, to a mover and shaker of his own. Rather than being frustrating in its vague plotting, instead this is a feature of the film as we see the prison life and events unfold in a very realistic fashion. It is also a tale about power and relationships as Malik starts to play a deadly game with the various factions. This includes negotiating with the "enemy", the Arabs, when he is let out from prison on day release. The relationship between Malik and Cesar is like a father and son, albeit a pretty violent and brutal father. Tahar Rahim is a relative newcomer to acting. His performance is raw and unaffected and works well against the measured and studied performance of Neils Arestrup, who won Cesar Awards (French Oscars) for both Un Prophete and De battre mon cœur s'est arrêté (The Beat My Heart Skipped), also directed by Audiard. The director worked from an original script which he adapted and, like Beat, has excelled at creating a watchable character out of moral ambiguity.

     Un Prophete is probably a little too grim and violent for most tastes. The prison (actually a very realistic set) is wretched and depressing without ever seeming overdone and the regular beatings and undertone of violence can take their toll on the viewer. Despite those concerns anyone who doesn't mind their drama on the tough side will find this a most compelling tale and its extended running time never drags, it just reinforces the epic quality of the tale. A must watch! .

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Un Prophete was shot on 35mm film. It carried an original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. That ratio has been preserved for the DVD release. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is not a film to demonstrate the wonder of DVD. The film provides a realistic depiction of life in a sterile yet grimy prison environment. The colour palette is seven shades of muted with greens and greys dominating. The flesh tones are accurate and there is a light smattering of film grain. The blacks are reasonably deep and effective. The film is quite long yet compression was not an issue.

     There are subtitles in English and a wealth of other languages including Arabic, Danish, Finnish, German, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Turkish and subtitles in English for the commentary track.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Un Prophete carries two core soundtracks; a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track running at 448Kb/s and a dubbed German track carrying the same specifications. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand (provided you speak either of the two languages). The actors looked like they were in perfect audio sync throughout on the French track - except during the commentary track both director and actor were at pains to point out one scene where the sync goes out, when Malik is at the beach. I didn't notice it until they let the cat out of the bag.

     The score is by that unquestionable titan of modern cinema scoring,Alexandre Desplat (Oscar nominations for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Queen and The Fantastic Mr Fox), and he delivers with a haunting score that is both moving and well supportive of the drama.

     The film doesn't have the most expansive soundscape therefore the surrounds are only used sparingly and the subwoofer is an occasional presence.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There are a number of extras on this DVD.

Commentary Track - Jacques Audiard, Tahar Rahim and co-writer Thomas Bidegain

     This is an always interesting commentary track. It is spoken in French with clear subtitling. It is usually not hard to work out who is talking at any time. The track covers all aspects of production but is more about the experience of making the film than the thematic or philosophic considerations.

     There are numerous interesting stories about the production including the interrelationship between the cast and the joy of working with extras who included a generous sprinkling of ex-cons. Audiard relates that one character who features prominently in an early scene turned up and did some great work then just disappeared, not to be seen again. A worthy listen.

Deleted Scenes

     There are 4 deleted scenes on offer:

     As the timing of these scenes would suggest, these are not fragments but rather fully realised scenes. It is not clear why they were omitted although the scene with Jordi involves a violent beating and was perhaps adjudged too much for a film that already has enough rough stuff. In the scene with Cesar we see a little more of how Malik gets an entry into the drug trade.

     Though not essential all the scenes are worth a watch.

Rehearsal Footage

     Three scenes are rehearsed:

     Our lead puts in some serious rehearsal time in these scenes, and the second includes a couple of goes at the dialogue. Interesting.

Tahar Rahim Screen Tests 1- 5

     Poor Tahar had to audition time and time again before he landed the role. Some of those screen tests are pretty developed in terms of his character and knowledge of the lines.

Theatrical Trailer (1.58)

     The trailer was made after the film had already received a lot of critical acclaim and the trailer is plastered with approving quotes.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The Region 1 and Region 4 versions of the film are the same. Buy the Region 4.

Summary

     Un Prophete needs no introduction or recommendation for fans of World cinema. For others it comes highly recommended provided you can take the grimness of the prison genre, with regular beatings and tense stand-offs.

     The DVD is a pretty good transfer of a film that is deliberately drab in its look and the sound is quite acceptable.

     The extras are pretty interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Thursday, September 02, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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