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The Convent

The Convent
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The Convent

Move over, Plan Nine From Outer Space, here comes The Convent!

Imagine John Malkovich receiving a book as a present. Imagine him checking it out by grabbing it with both hands, and biting it.

Imagine the worst movie ever made.

Imagine a man working by his desk. A woman walks in and rubs his shoulders, but he pays her no attention. She leaves the room, and you hear a door being slammed shut. Then, a shot of a dark corridor, and the shape of another man walk down it. Next, a door ajar, which also gets slammed. Then a door being opened, and the shadow of a person moving... And another shot of a door, closed, but with light coming from underneath it, but the light being turned off. The woman appears again, walks through a door and slams it shut.

Cut to the man in the corridor, another quick cut to two entirely different people sitting in a kitchen, and then back to a dark room. The lights are turned on, and the first man rises from his bed, and walks out of his room. Back to the woman, who is standing with her back to the door. The door handle is wiggled. Then a knock on the door, and the first man saying "Helen? Helen?" before he walks off. Back in his room, he slams his door. The woman walks out of her room, a light is turned off in another room, and then the second man appears, walking down the corridor. When he walks up to her, she returns to her room and closes the door.

Now, if you watch this a few times, you will start to understand what the filmmakers tried to enact. But the first time, you just sit there scratching your head, going "What in the world was THAT?"

This is THE CONVENT, a bizarre and spectacularly awful b-film, staring none other than John Malkovich. He plays a professor who is working on a theory that Shakespeare was a Jewish man from Spain, named Jacques Peres. His research brings him and his wife to a convent in Portugal. The caretaker, an Al Pacino look-alike named Baltar, dresses only in black and tends to sneak around, say strange things, and stare a lot. In fact, everyone says strange things and stare a great deal in this film - sometimes directly into the camera.

The dialogue is outlandish, and includes such gems as "I am quite serious, sir. Don't think that my notion that the English playwright may be of Spanish-Jewish origin is based on fantasy, on the contrary, it is based on fact!" When there is no dialogue - which is the case for many particularly agonizing sequences - the actors just wander around aimlessly - or just stare. Faust references, and quotations are thrown around like confetti, just to make sure you get the hint. The lighting is horrendous (all images in this article were brightened up). And the music, oh don't get me started on the music. Remember the scary, creepy music from 2001, A Space Odyssey, that was played whenever the monolith showed up? This film plays a similar type of music for about half of the scenes.

Their behavior isn't much better either. In one scene, an old man shows the couple around, but when he comes to a building with a symbol inside that obviously has some sinister effect on him, he throws his arm up in front of his face in best Dracula style, turns around and just stands there. The couple makes nothing of it and walks past him into the building. Perhaps they think this is some quaint Portuguese habit.

Then there's the pentagram. When the couple arrives at the Convent, they are introduced to the staff, in a room with a huge pentagram on the wall. They all stand around it during an entire scene. Perhaps the script pages were lost, where Baltar explains that it was their Feng Shui consultant who put it up, and there ain't no devilry going on, no sir, none at all!

In another scene, Malkovich receives a wrapped gift, which is obviously a book. He holds it up to his ear and shakes it vigorously. Then, grasping it with both hands, he bites it. Perhaps it was a cooking book. We even get to see dental imprints on the book in the next scene. I wonder if they had a dedicated script supervisor running around with a Polaroid camera, dutifully recording everything for continuity? IMDb.com defines a scenery chewer as someone who overacts to the extent, you expect to find bite-marks on the set's furniture. Perhaps it was Malkovich's little joke. Other scenes have miscellaneous rubbish and junk appearing in the frame, just to ensure that you understand that this film was created by complete monkeys all the way from the initial concept, to post-production.

The film ends with a series of footnotes, enlightening the audience as to the following: "A local fisherman saw an enormous fire that destroyed everything, and that Helen and Michael vanished. Baltar was replaced at the convent, by the folks in the kitchen. The fisherman learned that Helen and Michael were living happily in Paris, and that Michael had given up his studies into Jacques Perez in order to study the occult. But not everything the fisherman says is to believed



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