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Of Gods and Men (2010)

February 27, 2011


Written by: Xavier Beauvois (adaptation) (dialogue) and Etienne Comar (screenplay)

Produced by: Pascal Caucheteux and Etienne Comar

Directed by: Xavier Beauvois

Rated PG-13 for a momentary scene of startling wartime violence, some disturbing images and brief language. (originally Rated R for a scene of graphic violence.)

122 min.

U.S. Release Date: February 25, 2011 (limited)

I hear it all the time.  “I thought it was a good movie, but it was too slow.”  The word “slow” is so often used as a negative description of films when real life itself, if viewed cinematically, would be painfully slow.   Xavier Beauvois’ film Of Gods and Men tells the story of a band of monks who live in a town under attack by a fundamentalist terrorist group.  Naturally, a film about a monastic lifestyle should be conveyed in a “slow” style, but should that be counted against it?




Brother Christian (Lambert Wilson) leads a group of monks living in a mountain village outside Algiers.  The community outside the monastery is mostly made up of Muslims, and the monks have worked to cultivate a culture acceptance between the monastery and the village.  The monks observe many Muslim traditions, are well versed in the Koran, and provide medical and charitable assistance to the townspeople.  The monastery is an oasis of calm and peace as Algeria is caught up in civil war, with forces led by Muslim extremists leading a bloody campaign across the countryside.  Brother Christian and his monks choose not to take sides in the conflict; they refuse the protection of the military while also denying assistance to the insurgents.  The monks’ efforts to remain neutral seem successful until the war is brought to their doorstep.



The message behind Of Gods and Men is a simple but impactful one: stick to your beliefs, no matter what else is going on in the world.  Brother Christian is an incredibly bold and strong character throughout this film and, frankly, I was shocked that he did some of the things he did in opposition of the various military forces throughout the story.  While the film’s message was a stand out, the basic logistics behind the screenwriting and story were not all there.  Though the story is based on actual events (really based, not “based”), there was little to no context given as to who these monks were, where they were from, where they were, who the townspeople were, who the insurgents were, who the military was… basically everything was left for audiences to just guess about.  Not that I’m against leaving certain plot points up for viewer interpretation, but basic story background should be explained.


That said, the acting performances were very strong and all the actors came across as earnest and sincere.  Each of the actors that played the monks, when their characters’ confronted sad or distressing subjects, looked so “spiritually in-tune” as if they really loved everyone unconditionally.



Overall, Of Gods and Men isn’t a fun watch by any stretch.  Also, it is a slow-going film, but don’t view that as a detractor.  Documenting the monastic life is, of course, going to seem bland at times, but some great performances should make it worthwhile.



Rating: **1/2



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