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Of Gods and Men Reviews

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Super Reviewer

July 22, 2014
A group of Trappist monks must decide to flee or remain when a nearby village is threatened by Muslim extremists.
As slow burns go, Of Gods and Men is one of the most compelling. Tightly scripted and slowly but tensely paced, as this story unfolds, the film's themes emerge subtly: the film portrays the austerity of faith and how faith leads to a sense of security and conviction. While I'm not personally committed to these theses, the film's portrayal is richly textured and compelling. By the end of the film, we get to know these monks about as well as we get to know anyone in an understated French film, and it's hard not to admire them.
Overall, this is profound and compelling story well-told.
Luke B

Super Reviewer

February 28, 2013
A slow and touching drama that looks at the true story of a group of monks who refuse to leave their monastery despite the danger they are faced with. This film skyrockets to levels of absolute perfection thanks to the way it handles religion on such a human level. The religious aspects are part of the characters, and not necessarily part of the film itself. Lambert Wilson is astonishing as the quiet but strong monk Christian, who must decide whether to stay and possibly die or leave and live. We are shown the true power of the human spirit without ever having to face over sentimental music or melodramatics. Every scene is handled with absolute faith in the cast and writing, as one scene tears us apart with tension, without needless editing nor a bombastic soundtrack. A gentle masterpiece.

Super Reviewer

January 7, 2012
Loosely based on actual events that took place between 1993 and 1996, this is the story of 8 French monks living in Algeria in harmony with their Muslim neighbors in the surrounding village.

This particular group of monks are from the Cistercian Order, which means that their defining feature, beyond pacifism, is that they do not proselytize or evangelize. Instead, they devote themselves to pray, worship, and serving the needs of the public at large, which in this case is running a clinic that provides the medical needs of the locals.

Despite their differences in faith, ethnicity, and heritage, these men coexist nicely with the Muslims. All of that changes however, when a group of Islamic Fundamentalists kill a group of foreign workers, upsetting the delicate balance. As the fear and tensions rise, the monks find themselves and their faith tested, forcing them to make some tough choices, especially when they are taken hostage.

Despite the fact that I often have a really irreverent regard for religion (primarily my own beliefs), I can get serious at times, and have much respect for productions such as this movie, that take issues of faith, religion, and acceptance seriously. Being a Catholic, and having spent time around monks at an Abbey, I can say that the film does a great job of how they portray monastic life.

This film is quite quiet, contemplative, and thoughtful, much like its characters. The film has a deliberately easy pace, allowing the viewer to really relax and drink in the world these character inhabit, providing a nice look at the everyday workings of monks doing the mission they were called out for.

I also appreciate the portrayal of the Muslims, and how it's not a purely black and white situation. When things get sour, they are handled in an appropriately downplayed manner, relying on subtlety instead of going visceral.

The film is quite moving, and there's many great moments, but the best moment, hands down, has to be the sequence set to "Swan Lake", which absolutely floored me.

While the ending doesn't totally come as a surprise (especially since its based on true events), it is nevertheless quite good. You could argue that the characters and their motives could have been better developed, but I feel like they did it decently enough. The actors likewise, do a good job, and are quite convincing as a group of men with great senses of compassion and devotion. Where the film really shines is in the departments of mood, tone, atmosphere, production design, and cinematography. It's all simply beautiful.

All in all, this is quite a film. I kept getting interrupted while viewing it, which kept taking me out of the experience, so, if not for that, I'd probably be giving this a higher grade. As it stand though, I have a lot of admiration for this. It's certainly not a film for everyone, but if you've enjoyed what you've read, and think you might like it, then give it a shot.
Emile T

Super Reviewer

November 19, 2010
This movie, as beautiful as it is, still presents some dumb technical flaws and the story left me pretty cold, perhaps because I think religion is evil, but I believe something went wrong in the development of the characters. There was a way to get me to understand their motives and it failed to do so. It is not by showing me a man planting seeds that the movie will get me to sympathize with the character.

As good as this movie was, I don't think it deserves all the praise, for this movie offers too much religious points of view and, in the end, fails to keep any rational humanity for itself.

Super Reviewer

January 28, 2011
It's one of those movies you can talk about it for days.Disturbing and thoughtful,brought up again unanswered questions about god,religion and philosophy of life.Cannes Grand Prize winner which is better movie than Golden Palm winner Uncle Boonmee.
Carlos M

Super Reviewer

November 14, 2010
A wonderful film that moved me to tears and left me completely speechless. The story, based on real events, is developed in a perfect slow pace, taking the necessary time to present us to each one of the characters and their lives together, and make us truly care about them and the tense situation they find themselves in.
Dillon L

Super Reviewer

December 19, 2011
Meditative and contemplative; a thought provoking masterpiece.

Super Reviewer

March 20, 2011
In the 1990's, a group of eight French monks go about their daily business of prayer and study in a monastery in Algeria. Brother Luc(Michael Lonsdale) runs a clinic for the local villagers. In order to support the monastery, the monks harvest honey which they sell at market. But events in country threaten the fragile peace, starting with the murder of teenage girls and a teacher for talking about true love. Things take a frightening turn for the monks when Croatian workers are brutally killed, leading some to believe that westerners are now being targeted. However, Brother Christian(Lambert Wilson), their elected leader, refuses military protection, to the anger and consternation of his fellow monks who are starting to discuss a possible evacuation.

Based on a true story, "Of Gods and Men" is a subtly powerful and immensely moving film with a great use of silence that deftly shows the differences between the devout and the fanatical who thrive on ignorance.(When the terrorists come to raid the monastery, they first ask for the Pope.) The monks, many of whom have been there for decades, provide valuable services that the government does not, and are not out to convert, unlike the fanatics.(And it is an accurate assessment that the monks cannot work with the military there, as the people fear them for different reasons than the terrorists.) As one villager puts it, the monks are the branch on which the villagers rest and are invited to village celebrations. That also goes to the movie's main point of there only being one god, of many names, as it does not matter what you call him. Christian studies the Koran which impresses Ali Fayattia(Farid Larbi), a terrorist leader. As he bravely stands up to him, Christian is visibly trembling, symbolizing the resolve of the other monks, even as they are partially consumed by their fear and doubts.
Jeff T

Super Reviewer

March 2, 2011
Serious-minded adult entertainment about Big Ideas is hard to come by, and OF GODS AND MEN certainly delivers on all those levels. But is it entertaining? I honestly don't know. Don't get me wrong; I like movies that challenge intellectually as much as emotionally - and I like this film. But in telling the story of an incredibly fascinating group of monks dealing with terrorists in Algeria in the '90's (true story), I often felt that I should be more compelled by the story, and not just appreciative of its existence. Well acted, well shot, but also in the end, I might've been just a little . . . well . . .
Alec B

Super Reviewer

August 29, 2011
The plot would suggest a sappy and predictable story filled with swelling music and hammy performances, and while the film belabors its point quite often its actually very understated. As a quiet meditation on the courage of a few monks, it works.

Super Reviewer

June 8, 2011
Of God's and Men is a film with only the sound of Gregorian chants and the bustle of natural life for a soundtrack. Dialogue is sparse but what is said resonates all the more for the silence and it moves at a meditative pace that only serves to heighten the tension as the film progresses.

Written and directed by Frenchman Xavier Beauvois, the flick is loosely based on the lives of the Cistercian monks of Tibhirine in Algeria and their capture by terrorists in 1996. The Cistercian monastery had been in Algeria since colonial days and, although there were fewer than 10 monks living there in the 1990's, they were still part of village life. They dedicated their lives to study, prayer and manual labour for their survival. Their mission was not to evangelise but to offer witness to their Christian faith in a region where the majority of people were muslim.

In 1996, the conflict between Jama Islamiah and the Algerian government is intense. After a local group of Croatian workers is murdered by terrorists, the government sends the army to protect the monastery. Brother Christian (Lambert Wilson) who appears to be the most scholarly of the brothers (he writes and thinks most profoundly on matters of faith and theology, and has read widely, including the Koran, so his understanding of the 'villagers' faith is well informed) resolutely opposes the protection, which puts him at odds with some of the other brothers, who argue that he has violated the rules of the community by not discussing the decision with them, nor confronting the larger question of whether their life of witness extends to the ultimate sacrifice at the hands of terrorists.

Finally, Brother Christian asks each monk what he would like to do. The group is divided but the oldest monk, Brother Amadee (Jacques Herlin), believes "it is too soon" to reach a conclusion. At this point, when the villagers, some of the monks, the local politician and the army believe it is time for the monks to leave, it seems impossible that by the end of the film the audience is so convinced of the rightness of their decision to stay.

The pace of the film reinforces the complexity of a life of faith and deep spirituality. The slow unveiling of a change of heart and mind, the slow realisation and acceptance of the purpose in a spiritual life of work and meditation is, at times, overwhelming. The story itself is compelling, but the way in which it is told by Beauvois and performed by the cast is inspired.
Daniel P

Super Reviewer

January 11, 2011
Beautiful and moving film with an especially heart-rending sequence set to the music of Swan Lake. Slow paced but involving, with natural performances and stunning photography. Important themes are explored subtly, and there are no easy answers.
George N

Super Reviewer

March 27, 2011
A fragile, quiet, beautiful true story of a brotherhood of 8 monks who are faced with a life-changing dilemma. Either leave their beloved village for fear of being massacred by Islamic fundamentalists in the region, or stay and risk being kidnapped. A wonderfully reflective meditation on martyrdom and an exploration of faith and fellowship, this film achieves being a modern-day 'Schindler's List' by excluding the melodrama, having a perfect acting ensemble, and writing that makes one really love these characters, without cliche. A truly perfect film. I cried multiple times.
Lord Naseby
Lord Naseby

Super Reviewer

October 3, 2011
Myerla's winning film. I know I put this one off too long. Sorry...

Acting/characters: The performances in this film were pretty stellar. They fit with the overall tone of the film. Everything about the characters was very slow and deliberate and I think the actors acted their characters to perfection. You really felt the fear that they were going through despite the fact that they still managed to keep inner peace for the most part. I liked how incredibly selfless the monks in this film were. They knew what their fate was going to be if they stayed but rather than leaving they chose to stay and help the people around them as much as they could. Even though they had moments of doubt (who can blame them!?) they still managed to gain strength from God and continue their lives. It was beautifully acted. 10/10

Plot: One of the things I liked about this film was how it showed religion in a great light without preaching about religion. The film opens with the Christian monks and the Muslims in their community living in absolutely perfect harmony. They go to each other for advice, for prayer requests, they join each other in celebration, it was simply wonderful to watch. Like the monks themselves the plot moved at a very slow and deliberate pace but it did not get boring for even the briefest moments. It also did a great job emulating the growing fear that the monks had but still being peaceful at the same time. One of the best things about it was that is showed that there is a significant difference between actual Muslims and the f****** who find it necessary to blow up and kill people who do not agree with them. I liked that. I just thought it was awesome how they kept the tone and pacing of the film slow and deliberate without being really boring. That is difficult to do.

Screenplay: The whole thing is in French with bits in Arabic (I think). I think that it was a great script overall. once again, it was slow and deliberate but it was still really interesting listening to the monks talking particularly when they are deciding whether to stay or go. While some of the best scenes in the film were the ones without dialogue (particularly the excellent scene near the end where the monks are drinking wine and listening to Tchaikovsky) the dialogue heavy scenes did not fall behind. Since the film didn't rely on action or anything like that whatsoever to move the plot along, the dialogue is incredibly important because the film is carried by the characters and the dialogue. I think it was excellent. 10/10

Likableness: I liked this film a whole lot and I would have no qualms about watching it again. I would highly suggest it to anyone who hasn't seen it. It is a slow film but I don't feel that that makes it boring. The characters are very well done and the acting is superb. Plus it manages to show religion in a good light without being preachy about how religion is misinterpreted by society today. Plus there is the fact this this all actually happened which makes the story that much more powerful. It was a very good movie. 10/10

Final Score: 40/40 100% (P)
Tomatometer Rating: 93%
Tomatometer rating if my review was added: 93%

TRIVIA TIME: 1. The official French submission for the Foreign Language Film Award at the 83rd Academy Awards.

Super Reviewer

January 14, 2011
I need to see this again, right now it's a low 8, might go up on future viewings.
March 12, 2013
Absolutely beautiful movie. Long, slow, and artsy. But beautiful from a cinematic standpoint as well as a story telling standpoint.
April 16, 2012
' 1/2象太? 1/4 1/4 3/4-' 1/2??">该信(TM)个~ (R)
November 18, 2011
Although I am not religious myself, the subject matter will never cease to be intriguing to me. There is something about it, the fanatical and mystical, the beauty and togetherness of it which will always remain a part of me and my interests, whether I actually call myself religious or not. The thing is, I am fascinated with all religions and feel as though they should all be approached with an equal, open mindset. This approach is somewhat mirrored in this French film, Of Gods and Men, which was the official submission of France into the 2010 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Although it did not garner a nomination, it still received must praise and attention.

The film is set in the 90s amidst turmoil in Algeria, which was formerly a French colony. A group of Christian monks run a monastery there in a small village. Despite the country, and the village, being predominantly Muslim, the monks are welcomed there because they provide much needed support to the small village, whether that be in the form of medicine or guidance. But when terrorists begin to threaten the area, the monks begin to discuss their safety and the possibility of leaving Algeria and returning to France. The small contingent of monks, led by Christian (Lambert Wilson), encounter the terrorists, villagers, and even contemplate the Almighty before finally coming to their logical end.

Religious narratives can be some of the most powerful set to film. The setup in this film, with the juxtaposition of the Christian monks against the terrorists in a Muslim country and Muslim village is very telling not only of the social conditions in Algeria then, but also of the social conditions in the Western World today. I will try not get into politics because, while I love talking about the controversial subject of religion, politics is a different bag altogether. But needless to say, writer/director Xavier Beauvois raises some interesting philosophical and religious questions with his film.

However, the problem with the film really is the fact that it is slow and not a whole lot happens. I mark it as the problem, though I must also admit that it seems to be the only way to make this sort of film: quiet, reflective, and slow is the way to go. But here, the reflectiveness, and the great questions that are being presented to the viewer, are not treated with enough interesting dialogue and discussion by the characters, the group of monks. Instead the film seems to inch along, replaying the same scene over and over: the monks discussing whether to leave or to stay.

By all accounts the film should be applauded for presenting such an important subject matter in the world today, and the fight for not just the French, but the whole world for religious freedom and peace at large, especially while abroad. And the characters in the film each have their distinguishing characteristics and reasons to relate to them and enjoy spending time with them. But at the end of the day it just didn't grab me like a film like this should have, or like other films have. It almost feels like Beauvois came to the table with a great idea for a movie, and a good vision for how to do it, but just didn't fully flesh out his idea. It's incomplete, but that also means that some viewers will be able to bring their own vision to the film to perhaps be able to complete it. Sadly, I was not one of those viewers, even if I wish I were.
June 7, 2014
Its a slow brew, but well worth a watch. Monks in Algeria faced with the decisions of leaving their Islamic flock & people desperately needing help, or risk their lives by staying for fear of being killed by the Islamic terrorists. Superb acting from Michael Longsdale, who has never seem so aged and yet wise for the role he plays. Based on a true story.
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