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Far from Men

Far from Men (2014)

August. 30,2014
| Drama War

A French teacher in a small Algerian village during the Algerian War forms an unexpected bond with a dissident who is ordered to be turned in to the authorities.


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Simple and well acted, it has tension enough to knot the stomach.


This story has more twists and turns than a second-rate soap opera.

Kaelan Mccaffrey

Like the great film, it's made with a great deal of visible affection both in front of and behind the camera.


The story, direction, characters, and writing/dialogue is akin to taking a tranquilizer shot to the neck, but everything else was so well done.


It's 1954 Algeria. Revolution is in the air. Daru (Viggo Mortensen) is a war veteran teaching little kids in a small remote school house. Another white teacher has been killed and he's warned to leave. He refuses since his family were longtime residents. One day, prisoner Mohamed (Reda Kateb) is brought to the school. Daru is told to bring him to town for trial. Mohamed had killed his cousin. He needs to end the blood feud by getting executed by the French. Their journey is disrupted by the two warring sides.There is beauty in the stark landscape. I like the setup until Mohamed refuses to escape after the attack. He's not much of a prisoner and that drains some of the tension. The level of duty for Daru is pretty low which also drains the tension away. Daru is projecting impossible goodness. There just isn't anything to prevent Daru from walking away. Mohamed don't seem to care about his life. There is no fight for life since both seem perfectly happy to die. I get that it's trying to say something about war and the human nature. That has some value but not much tension.


Brilliant performances by Mortensen and Betak, who play two men and show their story in a war torn 1950s Algiere. The film has a progressive build of relationship between the two characters which is fantastic. They evolve deeply and create definite emotion throughout film; a fantastic effort with character development. Definititely one of Mortensen's best performances. If a film is better than just good I will usually give it a 7.5-8. This french slow paced drama scrapes itself a 9. It exceeded my expectations. It accomplished conveying the story very well. An original score from Nick Cave as well, which perhaps has a slight hint of a downfall. So far one of the two best European films of the year.

Ian Perkins

Daru (Viggo Mortensen)is a second-generation Spanish-Algerian, teaching Arab children in a remote school during Algeria's struggle for independence. He is viewed as a Frenchman by the Arabs, and as an Arab by the French. He gets saddled with the task of taking Mohamed (Reda Kateb), a common, that is non-political, criminal to the authorities in Tinguit. The pair encounter Algerian freedom fighters, French soldiers, Arab tribesmen, stunning landscapes and more along the way. At each turn, Daru's values, culture, position and assumptions are thrown into question, and his bond with Mohamed deepens. Yet at all points this remains a movie with a compelling storyline and beautiful cinematography. There is never a hint of heavy-handed social commentary or political soap-boxing. As a thriller/adventure, or character drama, it would be excellent. But through Daru and Mohamed's developing relationship, the social and political fabric of Algeria is explored at the same time, with exquisite but down-to-earth sensitivity, from the points of view of two ordinary, honest, and in their different ways fundamentally good men.


A French production about the Algerian War of Independence. Viggo Mortensen. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis handling the OST. That was easily enough to hook me into this.Daru's (Viggo) history is hidden in smoke when the movie starts, as he calmly teaches young children… About France, and French geography. So we know that he is involved with the settlement of the French in Algeria in some way, but something has caused his retreat to the Atlas mountains to teach. We aren't told why, but it is made visually obvious by the extended, incredible panoramic shots of these mountains. His retreat to a peaceful life is shattered, as he is handed a prisoner, a dissident against the French settlement who is to be escorted to a trial and, ultimately, execution. This hand-off occurs early in the movie, and throughout the journey makes for some emotional scenes as the two extremely different men slowly understand each other. Despite Daru's protests, the prisoner Mohamed has accepted his fate. Much to Daru's angst then, they begin their journey.It seems like half the film is made up of distant, landscape shots; I was staring mouth agape, my eyes scanning over the big screen to take it all in. These shots are difficult not to stare at, but they aren't simply of the mountains – as the movie progresses we see similar shots, but in these we can just make out a track, and even smaller are the two journeymen who look like ants, even on a cinema screen. If that isn't a visual metaphor for the exhaustive journey the two have in front of them, I don't know what is. It also shows just how far away from home both men are – in completely different ways. They are in the same boat, trying to keep it from sinking, yet they on the surface they couldn't be more different.The film's concept certainly is nothing special: Two people making a long trek across dangerous territory, facing their own mortality, their values and beliefs. The film's exploration of character gives it depth and humanity, while conversely the pair's journey is filmed like a Western, with the raging war for independence providing a violent background to their struggles. Both men have stakes in this war, though again these are very different, and at first unclear. While very different men in many different ways, the one thing they do share, and the one motif that consistently rears its head is honour, and the different ways this value can be interpreted, both during war and otherwise. Themes like this dominate the film (and not in a bad way!) as the journey of the two men is an intimate study of selflessness, doing the right thing, respect, and loyalty.For the most part, this film could easily be transferred to one of many Middle-Eastern countries. Which is in many ways very unfortunate, as many people and countries are still fighting for individuality and freedom from oppression and war. There is no doubt that this notion was considered when writing this film.Unsurprisingly, Viggo is stellar in his role, speaking a slightly accented French to match his Algerian born character. If it were anyone but Viggo you could accuse him of showing off! But he does it so naturally and fits into the film's world so well that you just can't help but admire the guy. Reda Kateb, as the dissident/prisoner, plays an apt and very somber role, fitting his character. Both are essentially in every scene, but the film is far from boring, as not only do we gradually find out more about these two and their respective pasts, what they endure in the final act will have you on your toes.One last thing that was very noticeable to me was the sound-editing and mixing. The use of silence, sounds of harsh winds when appropriate and an ambient OST all combine to create an incredible atmosphere. This combination also creates a unique feeling of tension throughout, especially when the music slowly creeps up on you, letting you wonder where the long trek will lead both men.This effect of tension is heightened drastically when the story takes a sudden, sharp turn. I know I jumped out of my seat a couple of times, not due to anything surprising, but due to the incredible use of music to accompany the images on-screen. This is Cave and Ellis' fifth effort at a soundtrack (I could be wrong on that number) and their second with Mortensen. Somehow I think they have a knack for this! With the most slight of alterations from the source short story by Albert Camus, combined with other texts he wrote about Algeria in the 30's, director David Oefhoffen has created a seamless adaptation.The film certainly doesn't go down the track one would expect from this type of film, which it must be praised for. It is a pity, then, that the last 20 minutes of this film feel so tacked on and separate from the tone set by the first 80 minutes. It almost felt as if they wanted to get past the 90-minute mark, where in reality this film would have been a lot better if it had ended at the 80 minute mark. This is the only major flaw that I could see, that and perhaps the unoriginal narrative.This is obviously a film for those who are fans of foreign films, art films, or Viggo Mortensen. I happen to be a fan of all three so I was very satisfied!www.epilepticmoondancer.net