Far from Men
Directed by David Oelhoffen
Seldom has a film derived so much of its impact from scenery as does David Oelhoffen’s Far from Men. Wind thrashes at every manmade structure with such ferocity that they seem poised to collapse, while the barren Algerian landscape offers no protection from enemies or elements. When guns are fired, the sound is as painful as the damage they inflict, and the rolling echoes do nothing except betray one’s position.
The film stars Viggo Mortensen as Daru, a teacher of French descent who nonetheless identifies as a local as he’s scarcely left his birth city, let alone the country. When he’s asked to help transport a criminal to trial in a nearby city, his loyalties—to his country, his morals and his prisoner (played by A Prophet’s Reda Kateb)—immediately fall into question. Oelhoffen strips his story down to the basics, counting on the audience to pick up on details it might otherwise miss without a close-up to underscore things . 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.
Upcoming Tribeca Film Festival screenings: 9:30pm, Friday, April 25 and 3:45pm, Saturday, April 25. Theatrical release beginning May 1 in NYC