Based on the great Gothic novel by Matthew Lewis, the film tells of Brother Ambrosio, brilliantly played by Vincent Cassel, a charismatic monk whose fiery sermons have spread the fame of his monastery. Local gentry flock to hear his sermons. Then a young man with a masked face is brought to the monastery with a plea that he be accepted as a novice. Though there is
resistance from some of the brothers, this happens and the lad is allowed to dwell alone in a tower room. In the grounds is a
garden which Ambrosio has created which is not used by the others. Ambrosio finds the novice there who reveals that he is
actually a young woman whose bodily charms seduce Ambrosio. He does, however, force her to leave. Approached by a local lady to visit her sick mother-in-law, he does so but finds himself falling for her - he does have sex with her but is found doing so by her fiance - imprisoned, sentenced and punished, he is left finally to the torments of hell. Very well filmed, the
director combines both the fervour of religion and the temptations of the flesh and it is easy to see why the book is looked on as a proto-surreal one. I must read it. In passing, when Cassel strips for the consumation of his lust, his physique could claim to match, male to female, that of his wife!