There’s been a long period of absence since the French film director and writer David Oelhoffen’s last film, In Your Wake (Nos Retrouvailles), was released in 2007. His triumphant return with Far From Men, which garnered three awards at the 71st Venice International Film Festival in 2014, once more puts him on a ‘directors to watch’ list.
Adapted from the short story The Guest by Albert Camus, Oelhoffen wanted to explore the writer’s concerns about, “… humanity, the denunciation of injustice and above all the difficulty of moral engagement and judgement.” Set in Algeria, but filmed on the Moroccan side of the Atlas Mountains, in terrain that is as severe and unrelenting as the plot, Oelhoffen has created a humanist Western in the same vein as some of the films of Howard Hawks, Arthur Penn, Sydney Pollack and Clint Eastwood. He states that he always envisaged the story as a Western because, “A collision between two systems of law is at the heart of the story and its character relationships. We bear witness to two cultures and two moralities forced into co-existence by history.”

Set in 1954 at the beginning of the Algerian War of Independence, we encounter a teacher, Daru (Viggo Mortensen - The Road / A History Of Violence), who has set up a school for local village children in the North African highlands. He is an ex- soldier, born in Algeria but now living in isolation and seemingly trying to come to terms with his previous existence. His spare but idyllic life, is interrupted by the arrival of local gendarme Balducci (Vincent Martin), who instructs him to escort his Arab prisoner, Mohamed (Reda Kateb – A Prophet / Zero Dark Thirty), to the regional police station in the nearest town so he can be tried for the murder of his cousin. Daru is reluctant to take on the task but is forced to do so because, if he doesn’t, the prisoner would probably be executed there and then.

Daru is a man of compassion and he soon realises that Mohamed is trapped between the ancient revenge traditions of his tribal law and the imported justice system of France. He tries to make Mohamed face the fact that he will become a victim of French bias and that he should take the opportunity to escape into the desert, never to return to his home and family, but to at least take the opportunity to survive. Daru recognises that this action will doom the man to life as an outsider, yet he feels that the desire for survival should be paramount. Being outside society is familiar to Daru who is regarded as an ‘Arab’ by the French because his parents migrated from Spain, but is seen as ‘French’ by the colonised Algerians. It’s a position he has grown used to. Mohamed, however, insists that he must be handed over to the French and the two set off on what becomes an increasingly difficult journey.

Mortensen is simply superb and gives one of the performances of his career. The same can be said of Kateb, who is the perfect foil in this tale of morality and friendship – a story that resonates in today’s world as much as when it was first written. The desolate and yet magnificent location becomes a third character in the film and it’s beautifully captured by Guillaume Deffontaines’s fine cinematography. Juliette Welfling’s sharp editing creates a tense atmosphere and Nick Cave’s and Warren Ellis’s superb score adds to this tension. When asked about their musical interpretation, the duo said that they wanted to develop the men’s relationship through the build-up of the music, introducing string instruments as the story unfolded. The sound resonates through to the end credits and is an important component of this stunning film. Far From Men is one of the finest films you will get the chance to see this year and is a five-star experience.


Previewed at Verona Cinema, Paddington, Sydney, on 16 July 2015


Viggo Mortensen
Reda Kateb

David Oelhoffen

David Oelhoffen

France (subtitles)


101 minutes

July 30, 2015
Far from Men (2014) on IMDb
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