David Oelhoffen’s adaptation of The Guest, a short story by Albert Camus, expands the story’s scope beyond Camus’ single schoolroom setting to the desolate wilderness of the Algerian steppes. French film Far From Men fleshes out its source’s narrative by adopting Western tropes like tense standoffs erupting into gunfire while retaining its stark moral conflict.
Set in 1954, with tensions mounting between Algerian rebels and the colonial French government, the Ffilm follows the path of schoolteacher Daru (Viggo Mortensen) and his Algerian prisoner Mohamed (Reda Kateb) through a treacherous moral no-man’s-land. Their violent encounters with rebels and soldiers accentuate the difficult decisions facing Daru. Decisions between responsibility and humanity, between family and freedom, between duty and sympathy; decisions with strong parallels to contemporary conflicts between Western governments and terrorist insurgents.
Far From Men’s austere tone is as unforgiving as its setting; the carefully-considered performances of the two lead actors – each doing excellent work – bring light to an otherwise gruelling trek. There’s a harsh beauty here, but don’t expect either a laugh riot or an action-packed adventure. While the film is far from ‘entertaining’, the questions it poses regarding justice and morality are as relevant today as they were half-a-century ago.