The UHF of the film world.
Latest news

Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.18.10] Germany movie review drama

Year: 2010
Director: Xavier Beauvois
Writers: Xavier Beauvois, Etienne Comar
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 9 out of 10

At a time when religion has come to a cross roads and faith has turned into a word that is smirked at, comes Xavier Beauvois’ Of Gods and Men, a film which puts the question of faith and what one is willing to do for their beliefs, front and centre. The Grand Jury Prize winner at Cannes, Beauvois’ film is a fictionalized account (though a very modest and authentic one) of the events leading up to the 1996 so called “Tibhirine attack” in which a group of monks was taken hostage by Islamic fundamentalists and eventually killed.

Starring Lambert Wilson as Christian, the leader of the monastery near Algeria’s Atlas Mountains, the story takes place outside a small, a largely Muslim town. Christian and his brothers provide the townspeople with medical attention and clothing but beyond that, they’re also friends and confidants, and throughout the film, we see the brotherhood providing guidance and speaking to the townspeople as friends and equals.

Life for the monks and the townspeople turns rough when the country experiences political and religious unrest and a group of Islamic militants arrives in the area. Fearful for their safety, Algerian officials ask the brothers to leave the area and what follows are a number of meetings between the brothers as they try to decide whether to flee the area or to stay and complete their spiritual calling.

Some may find Christian and his brother’s decision to stay more of a political statement than a commitment to their faith but Beauvois provides an intimate and contemplative look at these men and their struggles with both their faith and their decision to stay, a decision that is tightly tied to their faith. When the final decision is made, there’s no question, in my mind at least, that the group is choosing to stay because they truly believe this is their calling and that regardless of how things end, staying is the only thing that feels right.

Featuring brilliant performances from Wilson, Michael Lonsdale as Luc and Olivier Rabourdin as Christophe, the one individual most at odds with his faith, and combined with gorgeous cinematography from Caroline Champetier which often paints a picture of tranquil pastorals , Of Gods and Men is a transformative film, one that quietly encourages the viewer to consider our own actions and how far we are willing to go in support of our beliefs, regardless of what that faith they are rooted in. There’s an otherworldly feel to the film which is partly created by the setting and design and also by the sparse soundtrack of chants by the monks which give an ethereal feel to the entire production.

Of Gods and Men’s most powerful moment comes not at a showdown between them monks and the insurgents but rather at a “last supper” which turns from a celebratory event to one of quiet abdication which is captured with no spoken words but rather heart breaking close ups which speak more powerfully than any words could.

There is so much to love and take in in Xavier Beauvois’ film that a second and perhaps third viewing would be required to fully grasp the profound power of not only the film but the actions of these individuals. It’s refreshing to see a film that isn’t afraid to look at the good people and aspects of religious faith and Of Gods and Men does so in a poetic, quietly beautiful testament of personal belief.

You might also like

Leave a comment