Title – Far From Men “Loin des hommes” (2014)
Director – David Oelhoffen (En mon absence)
Cast – Viggo Mortensen, Reda Kateb
Plot – In Algeria in 1954, rural school teacher Daru (Mortensen) must transport accused murderer Mohamed (Kateb) across the unforgiving plains of the Algerian countryside to face judicial judgment in one of the close by capital cities.
“If I go, I’m a dead man”
Review by Eddie on 3/02/2016
Since finishing his stint in the mighty Lord of the Rings trilogy as Aragon and becoming a poster boy for fantasy fans all over the world, Viggo Mortensen’s career has been anything but formulaic.
From de-clothed fights in seedy saunas in his Oscar nominated turn in Eastern Promises, violent outings in A History of Violence, raggedy wasteland wanderings in the grim yet beautiful The Road through to ventures in foreign films like Alatriste and Jauja (a film in which he also composed the score), Mortensen has seemingly shunned the easy option and instead pushed himself to deliver unique and testing motion pictures. Doing so means that Mortensen has also opened himself up to fail as equally as fly and falling somewhere in between this spectrum is this French language film Far From Men.
A hybrid of a straight up drama, a war fable and also in many ways a more modern day Western (even though the year of the setting is 1954), Far From Men is an on face value a simple story of Viggo Mortensen’s rural school teacher Daru, a man with a colourful backstory and his trip across the barren plains of Algeria unwillingly transporting accused murderer Mohamed (played by A Prophet’s Reda Kateb) but director David Oelhoffen uses this simple tale as a metaphor for the life and times of these men at the time of civil unrest and it’s a metaphor that will get lost on many as the films pace and narrative pushes forward at an ever so slow pacing.
Even at just under 100 minutes of running time, Far From Men consistently loses steam in ponderously paced scenarios and even when moments of genuine life and death are taking place, the film still feels a little too withdrawn to pack a legitimate emotional wallop and even though Mortensen and Kateb are an effective double team, they can’t make the characters they’re portraying overly memorable despite an effective and resonate final few minutes of screen time together.
Well shot by Oelhoffen (the countryside is often starkly beautiful) and moodily scored by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Far From Men is a well-produced event that also features yet another interesting point in the career of Mortensen but by the time this snail paced journey of mismatched culture’s and subtle history lessons are over, Far From Men will quickly disappear far from your memory due to a lack of true emotional investment or memorable situations.
3 unlucky horses out of 5