Writer-director David Oelhoffen’s screenplay for Far From Men was inspired by l’Hote, the classic short story by Albert Camus. Taking Camus’ basic themes of cultural differences and isolation both geographical and individual, Oelhoffen has not only fleshed out the two central characters but embroiled them in the complexities of the Algerian civil war. It is 1954. Daru (Viggo Mortensen), a reclusive teacher in a remote mountain school, is charged with taking a young Arab, Mohamed (Reda Kateb), to the authorities in Tinguit, where the latter will almost certainly be executed for having killed his cousin. Yet if Daru follows his initial impulse to let Mohamed go he realises that the local settlers will kill the Arab in retaliation for the slaughter of their herd by rebels.
Reluctantly, Daru sets out with him for Tinguit. Because of the dangers presented by rebels and settlers alike, the pair leave the beaten track and set out to cross the rugged Atlas Mountains. Both men disclose truths about themselves on their perilous journey. We learn that Mohamed is actually determined to sacrifice his own life in order to put an end to a blood feud between his family and another, hence his insistence upon reaching Tinguit.
Daru reveals that he is of Andalusian descent, regarded as French by the Arabs and Arab by the French settlers. Although he served in the French army during World War II he refuses to align himself with either the French or the Algerian rebels. Encounters with both rebels and the French army enroute to Tinguit reinforce his stance. Both Daru and Mohamed are men of courage and honour. By the end of the film, however, both individually have to make life-changing decisions that essentially compromises their ideals in order to survive.
Filmed almost totally outdoors by Guillaume Deffontaines, Far From Men presents us with one majestic panorama after another. The original soundtrack for the film is composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis — need I say more?
This is a superlative film.