Far from Men Screen 15 articles

Far from Men

2014

Far from Men Poster
  • [Mortensen's] work, and Kateb’s, are exemplary. It’s also pleasant to see the great Angela Molina, so memorable in Luis Buñuel’s final film “That Obscure Object of Desire,” pop up here in a small role. But the movie remains something of a Distinguished Slog.

  • Requisite slow-cinema aesthetic attention to the harsh landscape is paid (albeit that the film was shot in Morocco), the performances are strong, there’s a very effective music score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, but the film lacks the character, sweep and humour of the Anthony Mann film [The Man from Laramie] (not that the existentialists were ever big on gags mind you).

  • Oelhoffen's direction is beautifully pared, particularly in his use of the unforgivingly jagged landscapes, but he's boiled quite a bit of Camus's irony and despair out of the story, instead favoring two characters who're so decent and compatible as to risk steering the whole enterprise into a realm of platitudinous banality. Far from Men often suggests a less defiant cover of The Defiant Ones, yet it's a must-see for Mortensen's characteristically wonderful performance.

  • The film is almost wholly unoriginal, but gathers a certain force of purity from its well thought-out pastiche of evergreen elements, like a really good farm-to-table restaurant.

  • Because the most visible elements of the film—the performances, editing, cinematography—are all so strong, its only when it ends that one realizes how vague the intangible and emotional elements were. This is not necessarily a flaw; the film was based on a short story by Camus, who wasn’t exactly one to spell things out. It will likely improve on subsequent viewings given how little padding Oelhoffen uses, but on first watch it inspire more respect than enthusiasm.

  • Essentially, Far From Men is a contemporary Western, and in many ways reminiscent of Hemingway. There’s a lot of fairly typical desert photography, but the film is well made, and it succeeds mostly on the strength of its story, which is simple but effectively told. The two leads, Mortensen and Kateb, also give strong performances.

  • Marked by images in which the two travelers are dwarfed by their imposing surroundings, Far From Men crafts a haunting atmosphere of alienation for its story of outcasts forging an unlikely bond. Its plotting is often a tad too plodding, but with the charismatic Mortensen exuding understated internal crisis, Oelhoffen's film proves a compelling portrait of individuals striving to cope with, and at least somewhat overcome, cultural dislocation.

  • The new ending Oelhoffen has dreamed up is unsatisfying—Camus’ version was sharper, nastier, more credible—and the film never strays far from genre convention, but it’s refreshing to see a sincere paean to nobility, honor, and courage, especially one that periodically elevates the pulse with expertly mounted standoffs. In many respects, this feels like a Western that could have been made in 1954. That’s decidedly a compliment.

  • Guilliame Deffontaines, who shot Bruno Dumont’s great policier Li’l Quinquin, contributes evocative, natural-light cinematography that keeps slipping into darkness (a few scenes are pitch-black). The other outstanding element is the score, by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave, who have slathered many a neo-Western in turgid mood music but gracefully hold back here, crafting a soundscape that’s subtle and yet all-encompassing—a spartan sonic space with plenty of room to rattle around in.

  • Oelhoffen’s film is good on the dogged, silent trekking through arid heat or pouring rain, the nights spent camping out in abandoned villages. There’s a nice understated sign of cultural difference—and affinity—as the two men sit down to dinner in the school, Mohammed washing his hands, Daru crossing himself. But Oelhoffen is also good on taut, tough-guy confrontations—of which there are several, both with Arabs and French, equally hostile to the two men—and action sequences.

  • Many of the movie’s most effective scenes involve the men just walking through this extraordinary landscape, the warring splendor and harshness of their surroundings — equally inviting and foreboding — as seemingly at odds as the attraction-repulsion that initially defines Daru and Mohamed’s relationship.

  • With Camus’ themes of cosmic absurdity and The Law, Far From Men is a film that would excite Delmer Daves. He would probably get a kick of its formal strategy too: creative variations of two shots with Daru and Mohamed.

  • Mortensen and Kateb are terrific together, their complex on-screen dynamic given a curious ebb-and-flow by Oelhoffen's intelligent script, which uses the looming civil war to position these men as contrasting "outsiders" — the pacifist with the military past; the killer who can't go home — while retaining a level of ambiguity concerning their obligation to one another.

  • Based on a short story by Albert Camus, David Oelhoffen’s film is beautifully shot and observant of Algeria’s piebald landscape: its grey-green plateau and fawn dirt underfoot, and the more verdant country of the crags above Berzina. The sound design is equally sensitive.

  • The rough tenderness of Mortensen’s gaze plays off well against Kateb’s conflicted demeanor. The latter’s character, seemingly new to a world of ruthless choices, goes from wide-eyed fear to quiet resignation; he becomes a man before our eyes. For all the setting’s historical specificity and import, watching these two make their way through this violent, beautiful landscape, we realize we’re seeing something far more timeless and elemental unfold.

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