A Propheti as the English title goes is a definitive report on contemporary penitentiary life and the social milieu which properly calls prison home.ii If you have any interest in the matter and just about three hoursiii to satisfy that interest, watching this is what you should be doing - it will probably get you further than spending that time reading, even should you know what to read and somehow have access to it.
But leaving aside the wealth of particular information, such as for instance the straight razor trickiv, and the notable opportunity for cultural immersion - always and everywhere the mark of the well made cultural product - this film offers some higher order benefits to the viewer.
The first is a demolishing criticism of freedom, embodied in the scene of the first snow. Some men run out, like children, and play with snowballs, squealing in delight. If you didn't know better you could think they're just some dudes having dude fun together, after which they'll go back to their warm hunting lodge where loving wives and smart children await. This is not so, of course, but why is it not so ? What is the difference between those dudes and these dudes ?
It's a question worth meditating upon, and if you do you will necessarily realise that the only difference is the ideology. The taboo. The things that some dudes won't ever do, even though there's no good reason not to do them. The fact that the dudes with the warm hunting lodge having fun would never, under any circumstances, gouge one another's eyes out with a spoon while sitting around a table chatting - whereas the other dudes just might - is what makes the world of difference.
Freedom, you see, it's not all that it's cracked up to be. The unfree will behave in certain ways, and that behaviour, if slavish, if controlled, nevertheless allows an entire complexity to be built. A free man will behave in any random way, and that puts an insane amount of pressure on any and all things, resulting in very sharp limits for "the tallest building that can be built", metaphorically speaking. It's true that in this world every thing that stands has an incredibly detailed, fascinating relief etched on every side by the extremely strong winds. It is however also true that no thing will stand for very long, and that such a world is but a desert by another name.
Which is why freedom is not for everyone. As self serving and unfair that observation may seem, it is nevertheless a fact, flowing from nude reality rather than interest. Freedom is for somev, but not for all.
The second is a rather sharp take on demographics. This is interspersed all through the film, but eventually the image forms. Take the corrupt guardian won't do for 5 what he did for 20. If the leader of the 5, that used to be the leader of the 20 insists he may get a pacifying ersatz, but the point remains : he will not, no matter what, come hell or high water, ever, under any circumstances or in any way never ever EVER get for 5 what he'd get for 20. Fucking period. And when there's just one...
This is why gangland is fundamentally at war, and will remain fundamentally at war permanently. This is what made feudal Europe a story of the succession of wars. This permanent duality of property and biology, the desire of old men to retain relevance long after they've lost itvi, their baseless, ridiculous hope that if they tell the youngster that he needs them rather than the other way around something somehow changes.vii People never have and never will manage to cure themselves of magical thinking, or in the immortal words of Marsellus Wallace (the guy that's too butch to look like a bitch) :
You see, this profession is filled to the brim with unrealistic motherfuckers. Motherfuckers who thought their ass would age like wine. If you mean it turns to vinegar, it does. If you mean it gets better with age, it don’t.
There you go, there you have it, that's the whole story. So you have "Roth IRA" accounts which mean you'll be able to decide on the disposition of goods long after you've ceased being able to make goods ? Because why ? Who in his fucking right mind would believe such a thing, and why would they ? I said earlier
There isn’t, nor is there going to be a way, manner, instrument or device through which to protect the passive from the active.
and so it stands. What more, and why and wherefore ?
It is indeed rare for a film to be the sharp pin of reality that bursts the bubble you were daydreaming. Fiction is really supposed to work the other way, isn't it ? Make sure to leave a complaint on the matter.———
- 2009, by Jacques Audiard, with Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup. [↩]
- If you automatically think "wretches" you're simply not one of them. If you automatically think "free people" you simply are one of them, with the accuracy and elegance of the form you gave that thought a likely predictor as to how well you would or will fare among the other troop. [↩]
- The film is lengthy, at 155 minutes. It flows rather well, you likely won't notice its length from inside. [↩]
- To kill someone with nothing of a straight razor, you must first understand that the straight razor is a foil, and capillary forces a thing. To keep the blade safe, put it on your tongue, retract the tongue, lay it flush against the palate and remove air. Much like fuel needs air to burn, the blade can only cut you if there's a space for it to work. Attached to the palate, devoid of that air, it can cut about as much as a sticker. It will stay attached for even minutes at a time, and you can always rectify it during speech pauses for air, so you can maintain it there indefinitely. Not "with a lot of skill", it doesn't take an afternoon to learn to do this, and an afternoon isn't what "a lot of skill" takes.
To kill, place tongue on razor, break the airseal so it transfers from palate to tongue, put tongue out so blade emerges completely, push base of tongue against top teeth and while keeping the upper lip away retract tongue. The blade will spin against the teeth much like if you were hand shuffling a deck of cards, and its end will come to lie on your upper lip, at which point you can use the lower lip to prop the other end in between the teeth and you're ready to go. [↩]
- The solution where freedom is for none, as previously discussed, may come ahead of the situation where freedom is for all, but doesn't hold a candle to the situation where freedom is actually exercised by well chosen some. [↩]
- Which is not really that much worse, nor in any way different from the desire of old women to retain relevance long after they've lost fertility, by the way. Exactly the same war carried in exactly the same manner with nominally "different" weapons, except absolutely not at all different in any way. Because they can't be, that's why. [↩]
- Seriously, I owe something to all the people that wrote in English before me ? What may that be ? If I will I do, and if I will not you can stand on your head atop a shrine built out of "intellectual property rights" and try to shit clouds or something. [↩]