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  • As Vivekananda has said, "The intensest love that humanity has ever known has come from religion, and the most diabolical hatred that humanity has known has come from religion." Both of these elements are present in Xavier Beauvois Of Gods and Men, the story of seven Roman Catholic French Trappist monks kidnapped by radical Islamists from their monastery in the village of Tibhirine in Algeria during the 1990s Algerian Civil War. The film depicts the sacrifices people of good will in both religions are willing to make for each other, and that the separation between religions is not an unbridgeable gap.

    Winner of the Grand Prix at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, Of Gods and Men stars Lambert Wilson as Christian, Prior of the monks, and 79-year-old Michael Lonsdale as a world weary medic who treats up to 150 Moslem villagers each day. The film derives its title from the Book of Psalms, Psalm 82:6-7 quoted at the beginning of the film: "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes." Filmed in Morocco, the film shows the daily life of the Trappist monks before the terrorist threat becomes real.

    Though a large part of their day consists of contemplation and devotion, living in close contact with the Muslim population allows them to interact with them in a positive way, healing the sick, selling honey in the nearby markets, and caring for the aged. In addition, daily chores such as cooking, gardening, loading wood for the fireplace, and cleaning take up a large part of the day. Soon word gets around about the murder of European workers on a construction site by the terrorists and the monks recoil in horror when they learn about the stabbing of a woman riding on a bus by Islamic fundamentalists simply because she was not wearing a veil.

    The Algerian government asks the monks to leave for their own safety but Christian tells them that their calling is to serve the people of the community and he insists on remaining, though he is willing to let the other monks decide. The issue becomes suddenly more immediate when a group of fundamentalists show up at the monastery on Christmas Eve demanding medicine for their wounded colleagues. Though the request is refused, Christian quotes the Koran to their spokesman Ali Fayattia (Farid Larbi) and they end up shaking hands, though the Prior senses rightly that they will be back.

    When all agree that they will not abandon the monastery even at the risk of death, the dramatic high point of the film is reached when the monks recreate the Last Supper by sitting around a small table drinking wine and listening to a recording of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake ballet. As the camera pans from face to face, we can observe a beatific smile on some faces and tears on others, demonstrating an inner poetry and reverence for life. The monks are not Christian moralists but spiritualists confronting the extremes of the human condition, characters who point the way to overcoming despair.

    The monks, like the Curé de Torcy in Bernanos' Diary of a Country Priest, love poverty "with a deep, reasoned, lucid love as equal loves equal", expressing the eternal struggle of the spirit to know Christ and to come to terms with his anguish. The heroes of the film are not saints. They are flesh and blood human beings, full of ambiguity and fear, but never far from compassion and humility, willing to offer us the possibility of a world transformed by grace.
  • This film appealed to me in several ways. I liked the direct, intimate approach in the way it was filmed. It was very refreshing to see hymns used as a big part of the soundtrack, very different as to what you usually hear :)

    In the cinema where i was watching the film, the average age must have been a lot higher than usual, and a few seats away, someone was even quietly singing along with some of the hymns, very bizarre feeling in a cinema!!

    I liked the fact that they treated the subject of faith and the possibility of coexistence of Christianity and Islam, as well as the differences, in a very simple, every-day-life-way.

    What was new to me was the visualization of fraternity. This aspect was a big thing throughout the whole movie. It is one of the things i least understood about priests and monks until now. It was amazing to see this feeling i have never personally experienced come alive on the screen and sort of being able to feel it myself.

    I also liked that they used 'real' people and not pretty Hollywood types, but i suppose that is normal in a production like this.

    I liked that a lot was left unspoken, unexplained and open for various interpretations.

    The scenes i liked best was the one where: *the abbot was at a lake to find inspiration for his tough decision. *the 'last supper' with the close-ups of the monks' faces and the ballet music *the terrorist and the abbot talk about the birth of Jesus *the ending (usually i don't like abrupt and vague endings like these, but in this film it was bearable and befitting, because in real life it is also still unknown what exactly has happened).
  • Chris Morris's debut Four Lions (2010) found fame in it's irreverent portrayal of Islamic fundamentalism in Yorkshire: the headlines that accompanied Brass Eye (1997-2001) successfully carried on into a low-key marketing campaign in that debut feature. Beauvois' film isn't so much a farcical account of the spiralling contradictions of religious extremism. But it does share its preoccupation with exactly how far one, or rather a small community, can go to devote themselves to their beliefs.

    The film is located in the 1996 Algerian Civil War, and tells the true story of a monastery under threat from the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA). Dom. Christian (Lambert Wilson) takes it upon himself to express their intentions to ignore the threats, and continue their mission of goodwill. This is disputed by the group throughout, whose dilemma forces some of them to question their allegiance to God, and jeopardise their own health (as with the outstanding Michael Lonsdale's, Luc). Coping with the sacrifices involved in such an all-consuming faith is key to the themes here ("We're not here for martyrdom" reminds Christian), and it's difficult to recall a more delicate, understated study. An excellent example of Beauvois' achievement, both visually and performance-wise, is the kiss Luc places on the mural of Christ. Moments like this underline the dependency they all share on one thing alone: their religion. It looms over them, both haunting and cradling them throughout, like the vast, unspoiled skylines which constantly diminish them beneath - Caroline Champetier's cinematography is key to the affect created.

    Tranquil moments like Luc's, where the viewer is allowed in such close, personal space, are almost unsettling in the access that's granted. The beauty achieved in these meditative scenes is all the more striking as we're reminded that these men are nearing the end of their lives. Death is always present – from direct representation (as with the brutal throat-slitting of the Croat workers) to the indirect (the technique of cutting from the most tranquil scene to the loudest, most destructive scene).

    The film is an anti-thriller in its treatment of fear and terror - the key moment occurs before the half-way point, and the viewer is left fearing for a reprisal for the duration. Beauvois' alternative narrative, featuring a fairly clear split down the middle, also featured in his previous Don't Forget You're Going to Die (1995) and To Mathieu (2000). Similarly, more recently, Mia Hansen-Love's Father of My Children (2010) involved a number of characters picking up the pieces in the wake of death. French colonialism in Algeria is only once directly attacked, when the police chief demands they leave. However, when viewed in a similar light to, say, Hidden (Cache, Michael Haneke, 2005), the occupation these men choose, the service they provided, the sacrifice they made, could too, easily be forgotten. So while the terrorism fears, today shared globally, are a focal point, a narrative of this kind reminds one not to forget the horrors of the past.

    Of Gods and Men is testament to a thriving New French Cinema. Thought-provoking, rich in content both (formally and thematically), it's difficult to find fault with a film that so meticulously justifies its choices: the landscape is artwork, the tone is perfect, and the performances are achingly affective throughout.
  • I seem to fall between the two camps of critical reaction. The majority who feel this is a classic, great film, or a sizable minority who call the film boring, historically inaccurate, and all surface.

    I find myself agreeing with some points made by the critics, e.g., being bothered that the film never really examines how hated the French were for their earlier colonialism. That larger context is part of what makes these Brothers targets. One passing mention is hardly enough to deal with a huge element of the underpinnings of the story.

    You could use it to make the Brothers seem even more brave and to more deeply understand that they took a risk to reach out and just be there even before things get 'bad', and/or to make the hatred they faced from the terrorists and the Army not just seem random.

    To be clear, that hatred is unforgivable. But understanding how something happened, or why your enemy hates you doesn't equal forgiving terrorism. But is part of the path to peace. And it is something these wise, well read monks would have known about and must have been part of their thoughts and discussions, though its largely avoided here.

    I also agree that the film is slow in parts, sometimes needed to establish the rhythm of the monks' lives, but other times getting repetitive with no seeming advantage.

    In addition, besides the two main characters, the other monks are largely one-note sketches, and the sudden turn around of those who wanted to leave – maybe the most fascinating action in the film - is largely under explored, Some of the time spent used on repeated rituals or re-tread conversations could have been used to deepen the understanding of those men and their heartrending confusion.

    It also bothered me that those who wanted to leave are never given the strong or convincing arguments they easily could have. They're almost made to seem cowardly, or 'wrong'. The film could have gone further in it's compassion towards these men, and understanding that this was a complex decision, even on a theological level. When does God want us to martyr ourselves and when would God rather we not sacrifice the gift of life to find a way to live to fight another day? I can think of a number of third choices between surrender and simply running away. These men must have examined those options, but there is little sign of it here. I have no problem with the film's conclusion, but I wish it had felt both sides presented with equal weight and seriousness, as I assume must have happened among the real monks.

    But my biggest problem is that the film's style, while inviting thought, is somewhat emotionally distancing, so while my brain was deeply engaged, my heart was less than I wish it was. I wanted to weep for these men and for the world, but I found myself more caught in mind than in emotions. I believe the story was strong enough to carry both.

    Now, all that said, I still think, unlike many of the professional critics that raised these points, that this is a very, very good film, made with intelligence and passion. It is visually simple but stunning to look at. Its slow pace adds to the meditative, un-Hollywood feel that eschews inflating drama for its own sake, and allows us a taste of the peace these men experience by living in their simple, giving way, even in the midst of war. And there are scenes of sheer brilliance, where whole stories are told on peoples' faces with little or no dialogue. Scenes where a combination of photography and acting capture a huge range of complex emotions. We watch fear, joy, transcendence, defeat, and loss run through the hearts of these men within seconds of each other without a word needing to be said, That is film-making of a high order.

    Ultimately, this is a film that deserves and needs to be seen. A plea for peace and courage in the face of hatred. But that doesn't mean it isn't a flawed work, or that acknowledging those flaws dismisses those very good things the film does accomplish.
  • At the strong recommendation of the panel of 'Le Masque et La Plume' I went to see this film.

    I was struck by, as others have said here, the fraternity that existed between the priests. I thought the most interesting aspect of the film was the relationship between the priests. At times you can feel the tension because of the strong decision they had to make. Also it being 7-8 men living together it was interesting to see the different personalities in a group environment; you have the natural leader, the introverted, the brave, the scared etc.etc.

    I imagine like most people who've seen this film the performance by Wilson Lambert was very touching. He was totally believable as the cloister's leader.

    Unfortunately the church is undergoing a very hard time in regards mostly to child abuse, it's nice to have a reminder of the positive aspects. I myself went to a catholic school with some Brothers and a monastery on campus. I have a very positive image.

    Particular favourite scenes are when they prepare and sell the honey at market and of course when they listen to Swan Lake and enjoy a glass of wine.
  • ¨Des Hommes et Des Dieux¨is a magnificent religious picture about faith and sacrifice . Under threat by Islamic terrorists, a group (Laudembach , Rabourdin , Herlin, Pichon , Maly) of Trappist priests ( led by Lambert Wilson) stationed with an impoverished Algerian society must decide whether to leave or stay .French priests are living, working and praying in a catholic monastery in Algeria in the 90s during civil war and while help by various means to Algerian people , as the doctor monk (Michael Londsdale) heals ills , and other teaches and writes letters . It starts showing how the Islamic locals and the Christian community coexist in harmony. The situation with the Algerian Fundamentalist-terrorists turns worse . They are very much appreciated by the local Arab population, but very much in danger . This becomes clear after some Croation workers are cruelly murdered by the guerrilla-forces. At some point they are threatened and unwanted by both guerrilla-fighters , the government and Military ,their presence results to less and less sure and obvious . In the end they are all can be kidnapped by the terrorists to swap them for their own prisoners in France or hidden or getting freedom to God.

    This spiritual film is full of good feeling , stern life , touching sacrifice ,and enjoyable relationship among monks . It describes their simple and austere existence only threatened by Islamism and intolerance , but they will have to decide whether to stay or go back to France . Tension and drama enhances when intense confrontations take place with each other, the terrorists and the locals, they all decide to stay. Sensational performances from main cast as Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale along with the remaining monks as Rabourdin , Laudenbach ,and Pichon . Special mention to Jacques Herlin as likable old priest , Herlin is a veteran secondary actor continuously working from the 60s . Sensible and religious music score based in Gregorian songs . Very good and extraordinary cinematography filmed on location in Tioumliline Monastery, Azrou, Morocco . This powerful picture is stunningly directed by Xavier Beaouvous , a good actor , writer and director . Rating : Better than average ; well worth watching , because it is plenty of luminous sensibility , brotherhood , love ,holy feeling, faith and martyrdom.
  • The plot of this film can be summarised as: Christian monks live peacefully in Muslim country, political situation changes, monks have to decide whether to leave or to stay. Boring, you may say, nothing happens, you may say and, in one sense you'd be right. But..... The point about this film is not the plot. What this film acknowledges is that the real drama of human existence is internal, the real action in our lives takes place inside of us and the real journeys that we make are in our minds and our souls. This is a film about relationships, between different communities, between individual members of the same community, between individuals and God and between individuals and themselves. This is a film about identity and place - two things we all have in common, like it or not. Personally, I found the religious aspect of the film intriguing. We live in a world in which religion is, again, being used to justify momentous acts. An analysis of how that works and what it means has to be relevant. But even if you are not interested by this, or are, as I know many people are, turned off by the mention of the words "religion" or "God" what the film does is to allow it's audience to begin to look behind these literal concepts at how the spiritual (whatever that might mean to you) functions in our daily lives. So, 9/10. 10/10 is very tempting but the film is not perfect. It would probably be boring if it was and a very definite recommendation. Oh, and by the way, it has some beautiful scenery, some stunning and innovative cinematography and some crackingly good looking men.
  • Of Gods and Men (2010) Des hommes et des dieux (original title) directed by Xavier Beauvois, is a powerful drama about good, deeply religious men

    trying to live a truly caring, peaceful life under difficult circumstances.

    A small group of French monks have lived in a monastery in Algeria for many years. They are clearly different in a cultural sense from the surrounding community. However, their simple life and acts of charity are welcomed and accepted by the Muslims in the adjacent village.

    The plot revolves around the threat of death from militants in the region. The Algerian revolution has succeeded in forcing out the French colonial forces. The Algerian government and army officials want the monks to leave and return to France for reasons of safety. The monastery is seen as a remnant of colonialism, and is therefore the target of nationalistic and religious violence. The problem revolves around the questions, "Will the monks stay?" and "What will happen if they do?"

    Lambert Wilson plays Christian, the elected leader of the monks. He does an outstanding job of portraying a man who could have succeeded as a leader in almost any undertaking. However, he has chosen monastic life, and now his leadership has become a matter of life and death.

    Veteran French actor Michael Lonsdale plays Luc, an elderly physician who can barely walk, but can still heal. The acting is uniformly excellent. In fact, the acting was so good that my wife and I had to remind ourselves that this is a movie, and these men are actors,not monks.

    The music, mostly chants sung daily by the monks, was superb.

    This is a very powerful film. We saw it at the excellent Little Theatre in Rochester, NY. If you can't see it in a theater, the movie should work almost as well on DVD.
  • In 1996, in Algeria, eight French monks of The Monastery Notre-Dame de l'Atlas of Tibhirine have a simple life serving the poor community that was raised around the monastery. During the Algerian Civil War, they are threatened by terrorist but they decide to stay in the country and not return to France.

    One night, the extremists break in the monastery and abduct seven monks. A couple of months later, they are found dead in controversial circumstances.

    "Des hommes et des dieux" is a film based on a true story and supported by top-notch performances. The official and non-official versions of the death of the Tibhirine priests can be found in Internet. My vote is seven.

    Title (Brazil): "Homens e Deuses" ("Men and Gods")
  • Warning: Spoilers
    With the Catholic Church getting so much bad press these days as a result of allegations of sexual abuse, it's refreshing to watch a story about Christians who are the good guys.  Based on a true story, 'Of Gods and Men' chronicles the tragic tale of a group of Trappist monks in Algeria who were murdered by terrorists during the mid 90s.   

    The story begins with a group of seven monks led by their leader, aptly named Christian. They live in a monastery which has been part of an French-Arabic-speaking community for years.  The monks minister to the local townspeople, providing counseling and medical assistance.  One of the monks, Luc, apparently was a physician before entering the order and feels overwhelmed, seeing approximately 150 villagers per day.  

    The monk's peaceful life is interrupted when a group of Croatian workers are murdered by terrorists near the monastery.  The scene is very realistic, as the armed terrorists suddenly drive up to a work site in vans and begin slaughtering each man one by man, slitting their throats.  They allow a local worker to leave but all foreigners are marked for execution.

    The local authorities offer to post soldiers at the monastery to protect them but the monks refuse.  Soon, Ali Fayattia, a local terrorist commander, pays a visit with his gun toting thugs at his side.  They need medical assistance for wounded comrades but Christian refuses to let any of the monks leave with them.  Christian displays great courage when he tells Fayattia he won't talk to them on the monastery grounds while his men are holding weapons.  Fayattia appears to respect Christian and agrees to speak to him right outside the monastery grounds. Christian, quoting the Koran, convinces Fayattia to leave, convincing him that they do not have the medical supplies to treat the wounded men.  

    The near slaughter propels a crisis of conscience amongst the monks. These simple, spiritual men are now faced with the reality of evil impinging on their ordered existence. They debate amongst themselves whether they should stay or leave.  During the first vote, a couple of the monks vote to leave as they fear for their life; another is undecided, another two are in favor of staying and Christian joins an older monk in waiting for a sign from God. 

    The film tautly depicts a world surrounding a peaceful enclave ready to explode.  Local townspeople inform the monks of a young woman who is murdered by teenagers because she refused to wear a veil. Soon, a local military commander accuse Christian of collaborating with the terrorists after hearing rumors that he permitted treatment of one of Fayattia's wounded men (the rumor turns out to be true).  Later Christian is called upon by the Army to identify the body of man who has been identified as Fayattia.  Christian says it's him but it appears that the local military commander doesn't believe him.

    The situation becomes more dire as local news reports bring more bad news of terrorist attacks.  When the monks travel by car, they pass burned out cars on the side of road with soldiers milling about—the aftermath of terrorist attacks on innocent victims.  There's more intimidation from the Army as they harass villagers at the monastery's clinic and send a helicopter to pass over the monastery while the monks embrace one another, while chanting a hymn.  

    The monks finally hold a second vote and after a great amount of soul-searching all decide to stay at the monastery.  While music from Swan Lake plays, they hold a Last Supper of sorts, with the camera focusing on the beatific visage of each monk.  As Christian remarks in substance, their work of Christian charity is simply a reflection of  the work of their maker. They cannot leave Algeria since they have promised God that they will always help the people they have promised to serve.

    The ending is masterfully understated.  Instead of focusing on the slaughter of the innocents, we merely see the terrorists march the captive monks up a mountain while it snows; the scene eventually fading to white, followed by the credits chronicling the fate of the principals.  

    Of Gods and Men works on two levels.  First it depicts the courage of the monks as they face death. Can any of us say we would have been as courageous as the monks were here?  Secondly, it's a cautionary tale about the danger of evil in the world today.  No one is safe from these fanatics who seek to destroy the innocent with impunity.

    Despite my admiration for the monks' courage in the face of an encroaching horror, I still am troubled by the fact that they remained at the monastery. What good is martyrdom when they could have packed up and helped other people in an area where their own lives wouldn't have been placed in jeopardy.

    Of Gods and Men is sometimes slow-moving, particularly when the monks are either chanting or performing rituals of religious devotion. Despite this, there are many reasons to admire this true tale brought to the screen with great sensitivity and insight.
  • theman-0853322 May 2015
    Some IMDb reviews complain this movie is slow. They are right, but fail to understand that the slowness is in the service of the story. These are men that choose to lead a life of routine and work and service. They choose a life in which each day follows the previous, and meaning comes from curing wounds in small children and selling honey in the local market so they can heal more wounds tomorrow.

    Some reviewers say nothing really happens in this movie. Apart for a bunch of murders and the monks' bravery and despair, they are right. The monks seem passive. They foolishly choose to die rather than flee. They surrender their lives to the will of the God they believe in and the love of the community they have served for a hundred years. Is that dumb?

    Was that the right thing to do? What purpose did their sacrifice serve? What if they had fled? What would the rest of their lives been like?

    I love it when a movie makes me truly think. This one did.
  • 'Of Gods and Men', inspired by a true story, tells of a group of Christian monks living in Algeria and trying to come to terms with the rise in Islamic terrorism, which threatens their way of life and indeed, their chances of even staying alive. But the film is very slow. The beginning is almost impossible to enjoy; once one comes to share a sense of the monks' dilemma, it becomes more interesting, but the pace is still glacial: there are a few visually powerful scenes which overstay their welcome simply by over-extending themselves. The depiction of the monks, and even (in brief glimpses) of the terrorists, is humane, but there's only so many scenes of men signing hymns that a film needs, and this one has too many of them.
  • The other day I watched the film Compliance, which tells a true story in the form of a drama. I didn't find much in the film and wondered why it added nothing to the events other than showing them. I mention this because the opposite is true with Of Gods and Men. Here we have a true story told but done in a way that adds to the characters, engages the viewer and has room for thought. The priests of the story struggle with whether or not to leave their monastery in Algeria once it becomes very dangerous due to the actions of fundamentalists in the region. This is the majority of the film in a nutshell and as such it is perhaps not a film that could stand a mass audience.

    I don't say this in a condescending way, but just that the film is probably too slow for the casual viewer – not that others "won't get it" or any such nonsense as that. I liked the film but even for me there were times where it lingered too long or spent too long showing us certain aspects of life in the monastery. It did feel longer than 2 hours and I think this is mostly down to the fact that the whole film has a very slow pace and very gentle delivery. The upside of this is that it does have more emotional impact as a result – because the characters are clearer, we understand their minds and I enjoyed that I was able to see their struggle and also understand the reasons for their decisions because I had seen the role they played.

    The film matches the slow pace with some beautiful shots; visually it is a very still film and it does feel at times that it is like a great painting, with the use of light and atmosphere. The performances are where the film delivers best though. Everyone is strong and seems to have understood their characters very well because they are convincing and engaging. The ballet music meal towards the end of the film is the best example but there are plenty of equally strong and expressive moments throughout.

    It is a slow film and even though I liked it, I did still struggle with the glacial pace at times. It rewards and satisfies at the same time, but a few times you do need to stick with it while it unfolds slowly.
  • dbdumonteil22 September 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    This the story of monks from Tibéhirinin in the months preceding their assassination in 1996;they were abducted by GIA extremists and disappeared in mysterious circumstances .They could have come back to their country and save their life but they were not born to give up,and like the Carmelites nuns during the French revolution (who refused to live their convent and were guillotined ),they became martyrs.They did not ask for any protection by the army either.

    The movie focuses on faith ,on life inside the monastery,prayers,canticles,but also the desire of these seven men to embrace other cultures and the world outside (agriculture,medical care,celebrations) The top-flight cast gives moments of brilliance:brother Luc(Lambert Wilson) explaining to brother Christian he does not fear death ;when you have true faith inside you ,when Christ walks on your side "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow and death,I will fear no evil,cause you are with me....." When Herodias's soldiers (the terrorists) arrive ,the monks refuse to cooperate and it's their death warrant that they sign on the very Christmas night.

    At a time when most of the French cinema is set rigidly in boring sentimental bland love stories,not-so-funny comedies and poorly-written thrillers ,it is high time it crossed the borders and that it returned to past glories ."Des Hommes Et Des Dieux,by far Beauvois 's best movie to date ,shows the way.
  • I feel awful about giving this film a low score, but I felt I had to on the merits of my levels of interest in what was happening or what was about to happen. It very much played out like the daily life of a monk - nothing was hurried, everything was calm and done in a pure and careful manner. In this way it perfectly matched the mood and the setting of the subjects of the film. But it meant that as a viewer we sat and watched while the characters would have endless prayer meetings, or silent contemplations, or long walks, or read books (to themselves - we don't even know what they were reading), or eat food, or have more prayers, or go for another walk. All done without a word spoken. This went on. And on. And on .... and on. The acting was very good from all parts, and it certainly felt realistic from all parts. But if, like me, you are not a Christian, you begin to question the depth of the story. Of course, it is a terribly sad true story. But then again, in war, there are millions of sad true stories. It almost felt like it was an attempt to glorify the religion, rather than to tell the story, since - as the film says at the end - the ultimate events were never known. In summary, it's a story which doesn't stand out from any other sad story of conflict, but we watch nearly two hours of nothing really happening, followed by film makers' guesses as to what may have happened at the end. I wouldn't advise watching this unless you strongly desire to feel closer to the world of a monk, and to feel closer to a film maker's guess at an individual story of war.
  • This is a wildly over rated film. I was quite looking forward to it but, found the incessant scenes of monks living their solitary existence farming, praying, eating and chanting to be painfully boring.

    I echo the sentiment of another reviewer and felt as if I had been heavily sedated while watching this film. Yes, we saw a few segments of the Monks interacting with the local Algerians at social events but, we never really had a chance to discover the individual personalities of any of the characters.

    The film would have benefited had there been some endearing moments of humor or whimsy to make us feel closer to these men. Instead however by the time the story reaches its inevitable conclusion it is nowhere as powerful or sad as it might have been because we have barely glimpsed these characters personalities beyond the excessively dull scenes of them in prayer.

    This is the cinematic equivalent of counting sheep. By the time the first chanting scene arrives you will be in a deep and restful slumber. Sweet Dreams.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Immediately after the opening credits this film made me feel like I was injected with a powerful opiate, putting me into a deep, sleep-like state. It was hard to understand the immediacy of this somnolence. The chanting scenes helped as sleep prolonging lullabies. Although the film was painfully slow and overly long - it did have some scenes of clarity and emotion. "The Last Supper" scene (I magically resurfaced at this point) almost brought tears my to eyeballs but after a short evaluation I realized that the word "maudlin" was more appropriate. See this film only with a well-caffeinated friend who can hold your hand and fill you in afterward with an abridged version.
  • Depending on your prejudices and perspectives this will be either wondrous to behold or deadly dull. At opposite ends if you're an impatient atheist you won't get much out of this maybe apart from admiring all the languorous panoramic views of bits of Algeria, contemplative chanting and emotive acting. Maybe! If you're a tolerant Christian it will be an engrossing journey full of deep inner meanings, rustling cassocks and dogs barking in the unidirectional distance. Maybe not! One side can fume at perceived do-gooders soft on Evil - whatever that might be, the other will rejoice in the perceived moral and intellectual superiority of their religion - whatever that might be. I try to tread the Middle Way: a well meaning well made film of a group of men saddled with a big problem: religions.

    True story of a band of monks minding their own business and their flock while getting gradually caught up in civil war, their inner anguish over whether to stay or leave and of course, ours. Christianity might have progressed slightly since the Dark Ages, but it still seems overall the motto of religion is Gotta Kill – the film reaffirms the view it's so much easier to destroy than create, these monks tried to create good around them but as usual were beaten by the forces of Satan. When will the world's working class or people with no money at all stop killing the world's working class or people with no money at all? What difference did the murder of tens of millions of old men make to the battalions of our Betters in WW2? The monks' inter-relationships were well shown, tender respect at (nearly) all times but imho unfortunately and unintentionally occasionally bordering to those evinced by the 7 Dwarfs to each other in Snow White. A lot of little things happen and add up during the 2 hours (reminiscent of some of Akira Kurosawa's classics), one of the most poignant for me being Christian's spectacles steaming up with the emotion at being part of the simple camaraderie at the supper table. The film's end was poignant too but the real ending was only alluded to, as it probably wasn't on-message! Forgive my flippancy but I know for a solid fact true believers are too holy to be nasty to me and true deniers shouldn't care at all.

    The copy I watched had small arty Times font English subtitles but not too irritating. Was it worth the time and cost to me or not? Yes - remember it's a true story - it's thoughtful and thought provoking, maybe not in ways it was meant to but the only thing I can advise to do is settle down and see what you think. If you're in a somnolent posture you probably won't make it to the end though!
  • Long! Long faces. Long scenes. Long, long shots. I understand that this story has historical and religious significance. I understand that it is based on a true story that is dramatic and compelling. This movie is not.

    We quickly see that these are French monks at a monastery in Algeria. But do we really need scene after scene of the Catholic liturgy, with Gregorian chants, that go on from start to finish? After the first one, they add nothing to the story, or our understanding of the characters, other than to make you pray... pray the scene will soon be over.

    Do we really need repeated long shots of a car driving on a barren road, starting at one edge of the screen, and driving slowly, slowly, toward the other edge, until it finally clears the shot? I know. Let action clear the edge of the screen before you cut. But this was not action. It was molasses flowing.

    And it is not the fault of the actors, who are clearly good at their craft. But it seems as if the director pointed the camera at each one of them and told them to emote. And they did. And the director said, "That's it. Keep on emoting. Emote more. More..." And when the director was done with that actor he turned to the next and said, "Emote. Keep emoting. More. More..." Seriously, there is one scene where that is exactly what they do. With all eight monks. In fact, they may have gone around the table twice. I lost track.

    There are a handful of tense scenes (a small handful, believe me) with the terrorists, and with the army. But these were poorly developed, and remarkably un-tense considering the events.

    And yet you stick with it because of the high ratings. You think, "This has to get better. The film won awards. People rave about it." Don't think that. If you don't love this film from the beginning, you will not love it at the end. It never gets better.

    These "film makers" never learned that it is plot and character that drive a movie... Not how long you can hold your finger on the camera's shutter release before yelling "Cut!"
  • johno-2112 February 2011
    I saw this last month at the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival where it won the FIPRESCI Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It has also won in that same category by the National Board of Review and was France's official submission to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film although it didn't make the short list. Making its debut at the Cannes Film Festival it went on to win the Grand Prix Award there. This is set in 1996 and is based on the events of a true story that took place during the struggle for power by different Islamic guerrilla groups and the government in Algeria. Caught in the middle are a group of French Roman Catholic Trappist Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance operating the self-sufficient monastery of Tibhiirine in the Algeian highlands and helping the people its nearby village. The monks have been largely left alone by the area guerrilla fighters but when their leader is killed he is replaced by an even more brutal leader and the threat to their existence is imminent. They must decide to stay or go. From writer/director Xavier Beauvois this is a dark film that moves slow in it's two hours. Great cinematography from veteran photographer Caroline Champetier with a beautiful production design by Barthélémy in converting an abandoned monastery in Morroco that hadn't been used in 40 years for the setting. Lambert Wilson leads the ensemble cast as the Christian the leader of the monks with veteran actor Michael Lonsdale as the monastery and village doctor. This film is about 30 minutes to long and too artistically clichéd for my liking. Lots of audiences and critics love it but I would only give it a 7.0 out 10
  • This has been the most terrible movie I have ever seen in the theatre. It is incredibly boring, such that I think a genuine effort was put into making it so. I almost got up to leave the theatre a few times during the movie. The story is very weak, and the only way they could pull it off was to say at the end that it was based on a true story. The story is awfully superficial, not coherent, and in some ways an advocate of colonial ideology... one can't understand what these people were doing there in the first place. I assume the French government supported the corrupt poppet government of Algeria at the time, and by observing the uprising in the mid-east these days, one can understand who is really on whose side and how the people of those countries really feel about their governments and their supporters. The movie tries so hard to show the monks' presence was essential for the people of the region that they couldn't live without them; but the question that comes to mind is that how could the villagers survived the history if it was so... possibly the light version of the missionary propaganda. I was misled by the positive reviews, and am not sure how come most of the reviews are so uniformly positive. I can not see anyone who is not particularly interested in the Christian faith to like or enjoy this movie even a bit.

    Beautiful pictures though, and that is the only reason the movie may deserve a 4/10.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I cannot see how this film is enjoyable, literally nothing happens! How someone managed to pitch this as a two hour film is beyond me and when I read France has nominated this for an Oscar I was aghast.

    I generally like French cinema but can offer no positives from this film, the 4 minutes of slow-mo close ups of the monks faces while they listen to Tchaikovsky is a one of the worst scenes I have ever witnessed. Some nice scenes of the countryside, no interesting dialogue and far to many scenes of men with their faces screwed up fighting with their conscious. Second worst film I've seen in years behind Enter the Void.
  • One can react to a film in many ways including: intellectually, viscerally, emotionally, cognitively, spiritually and aesthetically. One's reaction to a particular film is the result of complex interactions of all of the above and the characteristics of the film itself. Certain films are more likely to bring out particular types of reactions. This film works on many levels and will draw out complex and individual responses from each viewer.

    My responses were heavily influenced by my being a member of Catholic men's religious order that has a long (and ongoing) history or missionary work that, at times, puts our men in danger. This was true in the centuries since our founding and remains true for a number of my friends who are working "undercover" in several countries.

    I first watched Of Gods and Men with another member of the order who had already seen it but wanted to share the video and the experience with me. We watched on a small not very good TV with wretched sound. But within moments of the opening all of that faded away. When it was over I sat in the dark room stunned.

    I know several Trappist monks. I admire their lives and occasionally retreat at one of the their monasteries. While their vocation to contemplative monastic life is not my vocation, the bond of being in religious vows allows us to share something fundamental and vital. I was stunned when I read about the killings in Algeria and followed the story closely in the papers. Before watching the film I read the very well-written The Monks of Tibhirine that supplied some back story and biographical information that was not included in the film, a great deal about the history of Islamic fundamentalism in Algeria and much history of the French in Algeria.

    The scenes during which the men were discerning God's will, both as a community and individually, ring true. The lack of consensus, the bickering, the fear, the acceptance and the gradual movement of the Spirit are the same for all orders when they engage in corporate discernment emerging from each member's individual discernment.

    Though forewarned by my buddy, the scene of Swan Lake playing in the refectory was emotionally wrenching. The looks on the men's faces as the music swirled and the sense of community returned could never be described in words. I've been as deeply moved and emotionally drained each time I've watched the movie since (about four times since the initial viewing a year ago).

    Quibbles about the lack of action are absurd. That is not the kind of life we lead as religious. Prayer, Mass, and contemplation (even in an active order) are the backbone of our lives together and as individuals. The combination of the honesty of the portrayals of the men's and the community's spiritual crises along with the sublime cinematography combine to make this an extraordinary film on all levels.
  • Of monks who live their life for God, and of terrorists who we don't know for whom they live their life. The terrorists were likely supposed to be nameless, faceless antagonists. The monks were probably supposed to be the opposite. But for a film with so much set-up, there was so little characterization and plot.

    I'm usually not one for action, in most cases, the less the better. I am one for characters, and will find things in them to cling to even when they're not there. But here, whether or not it was lost in translation, there was nothing to these men of God.

    The monastery was in a small village where nearby workers were killed by terrorists. The monks were told they needed police protection but they refused. Half of them believed they need to stay since the village needed them. The other half wanted to leave. Why the villagers needed them wasn't entirely clear. Yes, the monastery did have a much-needed doctor, but it's not like they provided jobs.

    This is based on a true story. That's what I knew going in, and that's all I knew coming out. I don't know where the story's set, or when, or what the point of it is. I wanted to be educated, and that's mostly why I'm disappointed because I didn't learn anything about this recent history and lifestyle.

    I do have a sneaking suspicion that the point of the story is about coming to inner peace in the face of outside violence by living your life for the love of a greater being. That greater being would be God. Although I don't know which sect of religion these monks adhere to, they would likely be open to people believing in any God if it provided you with meaning, love and peace.

    "Of Gods and Men" is highly praised by most critics. They were probably inspired by the personal resolutions that the monks had to come to. I, on the other hand, don't believe in any greater being. In an effort to not entirely blame this subtle film, that's probably why I didn't find any greater element to connect to.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Of Gods and Men is a fascinating film which presents arguments that will divide people - is it about faith and belief in God, or is it about religion and politics, should we admire the monks or feel compassion or just sigh with frustration at their turmoils? Or could we go one step further and comment that men and their quests for power and identity in the world just leads to one problem after another. I couldn't see any difference between the Islamic extremists, the brutality of the military or the stubborn pride of the monks fixated in their faith and their mission to help people and serve God. Of course we could say that the monks were 'good' but what right did they have to stay in that country when they were asked to leave by the government and that their very presence incited hatred and reminder of French colonialism and made even more violence? This blind arrogance that the monks had, was typically patriarchal as was the assumption that the Islamic extremists (all men as well) had the right to kill and destroy for their beliefs and the army (all male) could inflict a bullying regime in the name of politics and power etc etc. I can assume that when the monks were praying and in their darkest hours they were praying to a MALE God and furthermore, this sacrifice they all made was at the expense of family and bonds back in their own countries. Who knows what suffering they had all left behind for their choice of life. The total lack of feminine presence in the film was extremely powerful in reminding us that without the feminine having equal rights in society (and that includes Islamic society) there is no hope for balance and harmony. We do not live in a world where women have equal rights and that frankly makes the biggest problem. The Algerian peasant women were there in the background herded around like the sheep and goats and one village female elder had one voice in the entire film, the women were symbolically there for child rearing and nothing else. Meanwhile the monks fretted and stormed and prayed and had all kinds of crisis of their inner faith - somewhere they found brotherhood, most poignantly on an evening of a last supper together and with the strangest choice of music playing which brought them all to tears - Swan Lake. This seemed the most unlikely music to bring a group of devout monks to tears. But let's remember the story - Swan Lake is about male/female love and how the union of true love between a man and a woman conquers evil and darkness. Perhaps this is the biggest message of the film - a monk's life without the inclusion of women cannot be a full embrace of life, an Islamic extremist who keeps women in the middle ages cannot truly ever live in peace or harmony and a government and regime that uses bombs and war as a measure of keeping control be that government Algerian or anywhere else in the world, is ultimately destroying generations of children and their hope for a peaceful world - that is the misuse of power and patriarchal power structures that still rule the world we live in.
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