Original title, Loin Des Hommes, or in English, Far from Men. The Danish title is Flugten til Frihed, which translates loosely into “escaping towards freedom.”
Already, with the title, we are doing a lousy job at translating this movie… Which is one of the reasons why I hardly ever watch any movies, where I have to read subtitles. If I do understand the language spoken, the Danish subtitles usually bother me, because of their inaccuracy or mostly, their tendency to make things up. Point proven before the movie even began…
Another thing that bothers me about reading subtitles, is that as much as I love words, being a writer and all, what I really connect with, is body language. I need to see people when they talk. When I have to keep my eyes at the bottom of the screen, reading the subtitles, I feel like I am missing half the movie, even though I am a rather fast reader, simply because I can’t look both at the subtitles and the person speaking at the same time.
Or, I read the subtitles instantly and look up, only to find that reading them too fast, ruined the punch line or the anticipation in the scene.
So, I think I have been clear here. I never watch movies where I have to read subtitles. Because of that, I have never watched a French movie before. I don’t speak a lick of French.
I ended up watching this movie though, because my boyfriend’s family all wanted to see it and I didn’t feel like making a fuss. It wasn’t that long. I could sit through it, right? Besides, I don’t mind watching Viggo Mortensen, even if I don’t get what he is saying…
I think I have made it pretty clear now, that I did not want to see this movie, that the whole concept of a movie in French bothered me, and that my expectations were very low. That said, it is a good movie.
It was much better than I dared hope for. Daru is a retired war veteran, and he is living alone, in what looks like a rather desolate area of Algeria, in 1954. Still, children run to his house, every day, to learn. When the movie starts, he is handed over a man named Mohamed, who is accused of murder, and Daru is to lead him to a nearby city to receive his judgement. Daru refuses, because he knows that Mohamed will be sentenced to death, and he doesn’t want to lead another man to his death. Still, Mohamed is left with him, and even when Daru gives him plenty of opportunity to run away, he doesn’t.
Then Mohamed’s cousins shows up, looking for vengeance, and Daru has to defend the both of them. That is a kind of annoying scene, where a horse is shot. I never like those kinds of scenes in movies, especially since they tend to shoot horses at point blank range, through the skull, with some minor hand gun… Which always leaves someone like me thinking, “right… that’s not going to work… massive skull and all…”
Anyway… The two men runs off then, and at first this movie feels a lot like the first Lord of the Rings movie. Poor little Bilbo, living in his hobbit hole, kicked into a world where everyone chases him and wants to kill him… Really, Daru and Mohamed goes from one scene of running and hiding to another, for a very long while. Add to that, it is shot kind of badly, making it hard to see what is actually happening. Except the lens flares. They are everywhere….
And then they get caught, and escapes and you know the drill… The whole obstacle part of the story, isn’t that interesting for me.
I loved the scene when it started raining, and they looked for shelter in an abandoned house, in the middle of nowhere, and once they enter the house, there is no roof. Those kinds of scenes are fantastic. They set a mood, and a sense of hopelessness and desperation, that no “hiding from enemies” scenes can. A scene like this one, describes the land, the people, the state of the society they are living in, much better than anything else.
I love the scene too, where Daru accidentally kills a man, to save Mohamed, and how angry he gets about it. That is a pretty good scene, of how he traded a life for a life that was already forfeit, and instantly regretted it, even if he did not have a choice.
All in all, this movie has a lot of good scenes. Mohamed and Daru are both good characters, and I love the fact that Mohamed is not innocent. I did fear that he was one of those classic movie bad guys, innocently framed for murder, you know… He wasn’t and he wasn’t denying his guilt. He did have his reasons, though, which was kind of cool too. Not that I condone murder, don’t get me wrong, but I like it that he accept what he did, and is ready to take his punishment, and that Daru doesn’t instantly condemn him for it. That whole setting feels much more real, than what happens in most Hollywood movies.
It does have one scene though, that made me lose interest in the both of them, completely. Daru takes Mohamed to a brothel, because he can’t die, having never been with a woman. So of course, the solution is, let’s go get a whore…?
It feels so out of character for Daru. All the way through this movie, he has felt like a man who is reasonable and loving and caring. For him to go be with a whore… It just ruins him for me. He should have walked away. He felt like a man, who didn’t want sex, without love. But clearly, he did, and so did Mohamed, and you know what? Go die, both of you.
I know, I have a rather strong reaction to those kinds of things, but I never saw the allure of whores. What kind of a man, wants to be with a woman, who is only with him, because she is in desperate need of money? Not a man I am interested in knowing whether he dies or not. Really. It is so low, so pathetic, I don’t even have the words, and looking at both of these characters, it felt completely out of place.
Also, Daru has a rather good back story, but it is one you are told, a little too late in the story. It isn’t until the very end of the movie, that you are told that he isn’t French at all. He is Spanish, and when he grew up, the Arabs saw him as French and the French saw him as Arab, so he never really belonged to the people. The land, however, was where he grew up and he could never leave it. That was a beautiful story, and it would have truly added to his character, all the way though, if we had been told that sooner.
And I have to add, that I was a little disappointed about how they didn’t use Arabian horses… Sure, PRE horses looks cool, but so does Arabians…
And as a side note, I am always very unimpressed by horses wearing huge pole bits, heads tied down, and tongues sticking out in pain. If that is unacceptable in the sport, it sure as hell should be too, while directing a movie.
So, should you watch it?
Uhm. It depends. If you don’t mind the language barrier, or reading subtitles, then yes. All in all, it is a good movie, and it will leave you with a lot to think about. I am not jumping for joy over it, but I wasn’t bored while watching it, even if it had been a much better movie if they had treated their animals better and skipped the brothel scene. And on that note, I am not giving it as good a review as it probably deserves. It just had some things, I can’t get past, no matter how much I liked the rest of the movie.
Like animal welfare. We are writing 2015 by now, it HAS to matter, even in a movie that is supposed to be from 1954. We have to do better, by now. And show it. No animal should have to suffer, just to make a movie. And watching that white horse, on a huge screen, sticking its tongue out, taking up half of the screen, for two- three scenes in a row, just won’t make me stand up and applaud.