February 24, 2011

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Movie review: Of Gods and Men is a Moving Meditation on Faith (Una LaMarche, February 24, 2011, NY Observer)

The plot, which is sparse but riveting, centers on the monks' deliberations over whether they should stay in Algeria despite the threat of violence, or flee to France, where they will be safe. Each man struggles in his own way, both within himself and with God, to find an answer—an answer that we already know ends in death. And yet somehow, Of Gods and Men doesn't end on a note of wrist-slitting darkness. On the contrary, Beauvois creates an uplifting meditation on faith and courage.

The monks, led by Brother Christian (the excellent Lambert Wilson, whom US audiences may recognize as The Merovingian from The Matrix movies), live an austere life of faith and service at a picturesque monastery up the hill from a poverty-stricken village. The townspeople depend on the monks for medical care—which is doled out by Brother Luc (Michael Lonsdale), an asthmatic Santa Claus doppelganger—as well as for religious guidance. But when a group of local Croatian construction workers are killed by an armed fundamentalist group, the monks find themselves both targets and potential saviors. "We feel like birds on a branch," one of the monks says to the community's governing board, explaining their concern for their safety. "We are the birds," a local woman corrects him. "You are the branch."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 24, 2011 7:29 PM
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