Thursday, April 16, 2015

Loin des hommes (Far from Men) (2014)

Director: David Oelhoffen
Writer:    David Oelhoffen
Cast:       Viggo Mortensen, Reda Kateb

A white settler teacher (Viggo Mortensen) in a small Algerian village during the Algerian war forms an unexpected bond with a convicted murderer (Reda Kateb) as he is ordered to take him to the authorities in a different town. We later on learn that the teacher is of Spanish descend and the Algerian he is entrusted with had killed his cousin for stealing grain from him. The law states that his other cousins are supposed to kill him unless he gives them blood money which he does not have. If they kill him, then his younger brothers are obligated to kill their cousins in turn and thus spiraling the violence. To avoid this, he has found the solution of turning himself to the French authorities who will kill him for the crime. So in effect he wants to turn himself in even as the teacher advises him against it and insists that he will set him free. So the whole film is about whether the Algerian will change his mind or not. 

The teacher consider himself as a son of the land he was born into but the Algerians consider him to be French while the French does not consider him to be one of their own. He comes across as a humanist and could be considered as the metaphorical representation of neutral intermediaries who try to resolve conflicts in the modern world. Since the film is set in 1954, such people didn't have any clout and rather than treating it as a war for independence, French attitude is to treat the rebels as Terrorists which worsens the situation. The Algerian war for independence started in 1954 and ended with independence for Algeria in 1962. It is a dark chapter among all the Colonial withdrawals that took place after second world war  and the French guilt about it was metaphorically portrayed in Michael Haneke's 'Cache'. 

The film works as a road film with Western like settings. The characters in it are very anti-Western (genre I mean) who are caught up in a situation about which they can't do much and they don't stand on either sides of the conflict. It is beautifully shot with solid acting but some of the writing and situations in it seemed a bit cliched. It is based on Albert Camus' short story 'The Guest', which reflected his own non-aligned stance towards the conflict. Overall it is a good solid watch without being anything more than that.

Rating: 3/5