Of Gods and Men (M)

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Review byMatthew Turner10/12/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 122 mins

Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a gripping, thought-provoking and ultimately powerfully moving drama with some extraordinary sequences and terrific performances from Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale.

What's it all about?
Directed by Xavier Beauvois, Of Gods and Men (Des hommes et des dieux, original title fans) is based on true events that took place in Tibhirine in 1996. Lambert Wilson stars as Brother Christian, the leader of a group of eight monks – including medic Brother Luc (Michael Lonsdale) and aged Brother Amdee (Jacques Herlin) – who live in a Cistercian monastery in rural Algeria and share a peaceful and supportive relationship with the local community, despite their religious differences.

When a rise in fundamentalist violence leads to the slaughter of some Christian construction workers in a nearby district, the monks are warned that their safety might be in danger, though Brother Christian rejects the government's offer of military protection. However, after a confrontation with terrorist leader Ali Fayattia (Farid Larbi), the monks have to decide whether to stand their ground or to abandon their community and return to France.

The Good
Wilson and Lonsdale are terrific as Christian and Luc and there's strong support from each of their fellow monks, creating rounded characters with distinct personalities. Larbi is equally good as Ali Fayattia, particularly in his confrontations with Christian over the meaning of the Qu'ran which are extremely well handled.

The script is excellent, raising some thought-provoking questions about tolerance and the nature of extremism, as well as the meaning and importance of faith in a world beset with fundamentalist violence. Exceedingly effective is the way in which each of the monks is shown arriving at their decision in their own way, leading to a pair of scenes that have a weird parallel with 12 Angry Men, where the monks sit around a table and vote as to whether they should stay or go.

The Great
Beauvois orchestrates some extraordinary sequences, most notably a wonderful scene where the monks listen to the music from Swan Lake, and a haunting, devastating final shot. The film is also unbearably tense in places, as Beauvois handles both moments of shocking violence (the attack on the construction workers) and quietly moving scenes of the monks interacting with the community, with equal skill.

Worth seeing?
Of Gods and Men is an impressively directed, superbly written and brilliantly acted drama that is by turns gripping, provocative and powerfully moving. Highly recommended.

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Of Gods and Men (M)
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Content updated: 26/02/2020 11:47

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