OF GODS AND MEN – The Review
In most religious motion pictures the subject of faith is explored and discussed. Faith is at the heart of the new French film from director Xavier Beauvois OF GODS AND MEN based on real events in 1996. The faith of the men profiled is put to the ultimate test when a political uprising threatens their very existence.
The Trappist monks of the Tibhirine monastery lived in harmony with the mostly Muslim residents of the local Algerian village. These monks leds a simple life. Their days were spent dispensing medicine and medical advice to the villagers, bible study, worship, cleaning, tending the gardens and beehives, cooking, and selling their jars of honey at the local market. This life is disrupted by the emergence of a radical insurgent group, the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria. These guerrilla forces first attack and kill a group of Croatians constructing a highway. Christian, the monk’s leader ( Lambert Wilson ), is contacted by local government officials about stationing soldiers at the monastery. He refuses the offer of military protection. Hearing of this meeting, some of the other monks voice their dissatisfaction at not being asked their thoughts on this. Finally late at night the men’s slumber is ended when the guerrillas burst through the gates and demand their medicine supply. At their next group meeting the monks discuss and vote on what to do about this threat. Christian, the doctor Luc ( Michael Lonsdale ), and two others wish to remain there and take their chances against the unrest. Others wish to leave for France immediately. They do not believe that their possible martyrdom would have any impact. Still others think they should gradually abandon the monastery. While the men mull over these ideas they are shocked when the military controlled government begins harassing the villagers in order to find the insurgents. On Christmas Eve the rebels again storm the monastery and demand that the doctor return with them. Christian and the monks stand their ground and refuse to comply. After being given some food and medicine, the rebels return to the countryside. The monks know that the fighters will eventually return. Will they be able to stand up to them or should they leave the monastery and the village?
OF GODS AND MEN is a very moving story told with great skill by Beauvois and all the actors involved. The men portraying the monks take great care to show their individual quirks and very different opinions. Kudos to Lambert as the strong, but conflicted Christian and Lonsdale as the compassionate healer, Luc. The photography of the region is stunning. The rocky desert suddenly erupts into green, rolling countryside. The film is leisurely paced,which helps make the sudden appearances by the rebels more tense and suspenseful. Lovely hymns highlight the soundtrack. This is a well made story that will leave you thinking about the power of faith and how it can be strong when tested by violence.
Overall Rating: Four Out of Five Stars