Far From Men: Caught between “Lose-Lose” Situation
“Trust in the creator. He will be there for you. Give to him. He will give to you. Ask him. He will provide.“
I am an ardent fan of slow human dramas if they are well made with honest intentions. Not those that create drama exaggerating the characters and their emotional spectrum tweaked to make you sympathize with them, and in the process the film suffocates from unnecessary melodrama & eventually you fail to connect with the characters. Far from men exactly falls into the category of honestly intended films, which shows two characters who faces moral and social question and strongly, but in very subtle manner, flirts with existentialism.
Far From Men is adapted from the short story The Guest by Nobel Prize winning author Albert Camus, which was written as an allegory of French-Algerian tensions. Writer-director David Oelhoffen paints the beautiful but deserted landscape canvas with the colors of palpating human drama that will certainly move you. The film echoes the psyche of two men from different strata who are thrown into a “lose- lose” situation and they have to make a hard choice of choosing the best of the losing options.
Far From Men opens inside a poorly constructed classroom surrounded by tall & naked mountains of Atlas Plateau in Algerian countryside, where Daru (Viggo Mortensen) is teaching History and he talks about ‘Writing’ in brief. Algeria is on the brink of war with France for independence, and Daru firmly believes in the power of education over going for a war holding a gun and killing people. Daru is a kind of a character who is fed up with volatile dynamics of this world that is ironically trying to achieve peace & freedom through the war. And so he is living a reclusive life, educating kids and even playing with them in an isolated land so to avoid the unresting & disturbing situation between Algeria and French.
A local Algerian man Mohamed (Reda Kateb) is brought to Daru by an old acquaintance and he is asked to escort Mohamed to the town of Tinguit. Mohamed has confessed his crime of killing his cousin after a property dispute. Daru is least interested in escorting this man and eventually he tries to free his captive, but he refuses to go. Mohamed has to sacrifice his own life to salvage his family from being killed by his vindictive cousins, if he runs away from the trial, where Mohamed’s execution is a certainty. Unfortunately Daru is sucked into the zone he has been long avoiding. And they both set for a long trek that involves the two men stumbling first into vengeful cousins, then a band of guerrillas and finally the French army.
On the surface, the film derives its drama from the chemistry both the leading men share, but if you dig a little deeper, you will see it as a brilliant character study that has a terrific character arc. When Mohamed starts his journey without knowing anything of the outer world, he soon realizes how the world has substantial impact on his moral dilemma and it literally questions his existential crisis. Also the character of Daru who seems introvert and little rough in start, slowly mellows down looking at the vulnerability of Mohamed and his honesty that teaches him a thing or two.
Far from men has some tense scenes, few scenes might question your own values and it is set against stunning & breathtaking landscapes. Viggo Mortensen is arguably one of the most underrated actors who never takes his popularity to his head, and sticks to meatier role that other stars merely brag about. His still eyes and body language is so captivating that his performances looks as beautiful as the landscapes.
Rating : ****1/2