Arnaud de Pallieres’s film succeeds neither as a decent adaptation of the book nor as a rewarding movie in its own right. Transplanting the action from Germany to the Cevennes and almost exclusively using exterior locations was an unwise move, and though Pallieres has spoken of his desire to make a kind of western, the changes simply highlight the way he has stripped down the original narrative.
It’s a staid, overly sedate film that every so often erupts with controlled intensity (most notably in a lengthy scene featuring the great Denis Lavant as an argumentative cleric), and one could argue that the highs wouldn’t be nearly as effective were they not offset by corresponding lows. I think the Pixies wrote that brief.
If blasting the back-to-work blues via frothy entertainment is the name of your cinematic game then it’s probably best to give this austere feudal revenge drama a miss. Director Arnaud des Pallières’s humourless two-hour chronicle of 16th century horse trader, Michael Kohlhaas (Mads Mikkelsen), is dark to the point where faces often disappear into shadowy cinematographyand in that none of the characters smile.