Legendary orator and pillar of the church Ambrosio (Vincent Cassel) has his devotion to God thrown into question by the arrival of Valerio (Déborah François), a young woman masquarading as a chap to get closer to him, at his monastery. An encounter with the lovely Antonia (Joséphine Japy) furthers his crisis of faith, and the respected monk becomes increasingly debauched.
Matthew Lewis’s bawdy Gothic classic has been crying-out for a suitably baroque adaptation, but, unfortunately, Dominic Moll’s film isn’t it. With Cassel onboard as loopy Ambrosio, everything was set up for a full-throttle, nutso reading of Lewis’ text, but the director has stripped it down, eschewing some of the more overtly supernatural and OTT elements to leave something quite slight; the motivation behind the monk’s ultimate fall is never satisfactorily rendered. An overwrought atmosphere, some nice aesthetic nods to classic horror cinema and the ever-watchable, if oddly subdued, Cassel aside, there’s little to dispel thoughts of this as a missed opportunity. [Chris Fyvie]