Of Gods And Men Movie Review
My Review: Of Gods and Men
Of Gods And Men (Original French title: Des hommes et des dieux) is based on the true story of the the monastery of Tibhirine where a small group of Trappist monks peacefully coexisted with their Muslim neighbors in a small Algerian village until the clash between the corrupt government and local thugs and terrorists brought violence to their doorsteps, resulting in the deaths of seven of the nine monks and the closure of the monastery. this quietly powerful movie premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and won the Grand Prix. The movie has been a big success in France and has been released in select U.S. theaters.
This movie begins with a series of glimpses into the lives of the monks as they live amongst their Muslim neighbors. It's a simple life with gardening, selling honey at the market, treating villagers at the clinic, and participating in their own religious activities. Trappist monks spend hours daily in silence but they also spend hours in song. The monks and the villagers co-exist peacefully until violence comes to both Christians and Muslims at the hands of terrorists. The story isn't really about the terrorists or the Algerian government though; instead, the movie is about the decision of the Trappist Monks to stay, despite the very real possibility that they might lose their lives.
This is a true story and their might be a temptation to sort of wrap a halo around the heads of the monks and to portrait them as saints who are not touched by the things of earth but director Xavier Beauvois presents the monks as very real people. They have no desire to be killed and they struggle - really struggle - with deciding whether to stay or leave Algeria, At one point, the monks vote about whether to stay or go and their vote is split. The next several scenes give us glimpses into the mind and emotions of each of the monks and you certainly see their humanity as they struggle with what they should do. In the end, each decides that staying is the right course of action, come what may.
"Of Gods and Men" is in French with English Subtitles and was filmed in Meknes, Morocco at the Benedictine monastery of Tioumlilne, which had been unused for more than 40 years. The monastery was renovated for by the film team, for the movie and careful attention was given to the clothing and language so that it would maintain an Algerian look and feel. The actors also spent time learning Cistercian and Gregorian chants and spent a week living as a monk at an Abbey. The movie is a visual treat - the pastoral settings, along with the depiction of the austere lifestyle of the monks settles on you as the scenes play out and you are gradually able to lay the hustle of modern life aside to match your own internal rhythm to that of the setting.
The story of these men's lives and the deaths of most is certainly a story worth telling and the lives of these men are worth remembering but this movie has value beyond that of just an homage. Our world is in a state of tension right now and the events depicted in this movies are story we see mirrored in current events. The struggle and decision can give us insight into the challenges faced by military personel, diplomates, foreign aid workers, humanitarians, and even journalists who decide to go into war zones or other areas of political unrest. Understanding their struggle may help us to give them the emotional support that they need.
"Of Gods and Men" will certainly give of us with religious beliefs much to think about. Are we willing to lay down our lives for our beliefs? How do we live and build relationships with those around us who follow a different set of beliefs? Easter has just passed and I couldn't help but draw comparisons to Jesus Christ's struggle, prayer, and acceptance in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his crucifiction. He also had no desire to die and facing the reality of the cross was so stressful that his sweat was like drops of blood. He was in anquish and prayed that, if possible, God would spare him this ordeal. But , in the end, he decided to accept his own death for the good of all humanity. (See Luke 22:40 - 46 in the New Testament of the Bible).
Of Gods and Men is a presents a power picture of strength and courage that is displayed through love, service, and sacrifice that can be appreciated by people of all faiths and walks of life.
Of Gods and Men Trailer
Of Gods and Men - Amazon's Editorial Review
The monks at the Trappist monastery in Algeria seem almost to exist outside of time, so it may be a while before we recognize the 1990s as the setting for Of Gods and Men. And old traditions cannot escape new warfare in this stirring movie, based on a true story that happened at a remote enclave of peaceful, studious priests. These Christian monks minister to the largely Muslim (and very poor) villagers in their vicinity, a balance that is threatened by Algeria's Civil War. When nearby radical-Islamist insurgents begin killing foreigners, the monks must face a choice. Will they flee to safety--a perfectly rational and understandable decision that will leave the villagers without their only source of health care--or will they stay on, secure in their spiritual calling despite the possibility of abduction or murder? Director Xavier Beauvois makes an absorbing film from this question, and it's not at all difficult to understand why it became an unexpected box-office smash in France (and ended up winning the Cesar award for best film of 2010). The film is beautifully cast, and sometimes Beauvois simply trains his camera on the lined, weathered faces of his priests, as though allowing those lines to tell the story. Heading the cast is Lambert Wilson (of Matrix fame), who leads his men with an almost regal bearing, and veteran actor Michael Lonsdale, who quietly inhabits the role of the physician in the group.