Screened as part of NZIFF 2015
Featuring a fine performance from Viggo Mortensen and an original soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Far from Men is a tense tale of honour and friendship that bears all the hallmarks of a classic frontier Western, not least in its vast Algerian desert setting. The year is 1954; the war is beginning and village schoolteacher Daru (Mortensen), an ex-French Army soldier, is caught in the crossfire. Born in Algeria but Spanish by lineage, he’s perceived as alien by both locals and colonisers alike. He’s obliged by the French police to escort a dissident (Reda Kateb, A Prophet) to a regional court to face trial for murder. Skirmishes with groups of soldiers, locals and rebels are fraught with suspicion and danger, constantly forcing the question of where Daru’s loyalties truly lie.
Based on ‘The Guest’, a short story by Albert Camus, writer/director David Oelhoffen’s drama underplays its contemporary relevance to resonant effect.
“Far from Men is a quietly grand, beautiful film… Taking the conventions of Western films to different countries, planets, time periods or political situations is hardly new, but when it’s done well, it never gets old… It’s an intimate story of personal duty and the power of friendship that nonetheless unfolds against a huge backdrop, a contrast in scale that is a characterizing element of a great genre Western. And Guillaume Deffontaines’ luxuriant photography mirrors that contrast, expending just as much care in the lighting of faces and expressions as in the luscious widescreen desert and mountain vistas.” — Jessica Kiang, The Playlist