LFF Review: The Unknown Saint

Nothing does dark and sardonic quite like the human imagination. We, as a species, are fatally flawed. We build societies and communities which are inherently unfair, then complain about it. We make bureaucratic processes so complex that they become virtually impossible to navigate. Almost Kafkaesque, you could say. Indeed, there’s something so delightfully fun about and impossible yarn. A tale such as Catch-22. A simple task becomes an epic saga in Alaa Eddine Aljem’s new film, The Unknown Saint.

With the police on his tail, Amine (Younes Bouab) buries a bag of loot on an anonymous mountainside next to a deserted village. Sever years later, on being released from prison, he goes to collect his ill-gotten gains, only to discover a mausoleum dedicated to ‘the Unknown Saint’ on the spot. With a thriving community nearby. Along with Ahmed the Brain (Salah Bensalah), they must find a way to outwit the shrine guard (Abdelghani Kitab) and his guard dog, whilst not arousing the suspicions of the locals.

The Unknown Saint is a darkly comedic parable about a man whose plans are thwarted at every step. Ajem has created an absurdist delight. A film which makes its serious points subtly to allow the comedy to lead the narrative. Both Bouab and Bensalah are brilliant as the hapless duo who seem fated never to fulfil their mission. The Unknown Saint is droll, acerbic and rather brilliant take on crime, religion and ‘progress’.

The Unknown Saint screens again at London Film Festival on 4 October.

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