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Not telling the whole story
on 22 November 2011
Of Gods and Men is a film based on a real event in Algeria of 1996,the story of a group of Cistercian monks living in the Atlas mountains.They offer pastoral care to the villagers nearby,which includes medicines and first aid.Some of them have been there for up to 50 years,following the ejection of the French colonialist government and armed forces from Algeria.Their leader,Brother Christian, sees no conflict between the Koran and Christianity,that they should be the best of friends.The film depicts the daily rituals,routines,prayers and hymns of the group as they enact their deep beliefs.They are seen singing, despite the hovering of a helicopter, as if it's not there.
Into this scenario an Islamist fundamentalist group massacres a team of foreign workers and fear sweeps through the region.The group invade the monastery one day to ask for medical help for a wounded man.They want medicines or Luc to travel with them to heal the wounded man.Christian doesn't go along with this,saying they don't have the medicines to spare and Luc is too old to travel.They declare their faith and friendly relationship with the local Muslims and the Koran.The group leave.After this the government minister and the army offer them protection, but they decline.The tension within the order deepens as they debate whether to stay or go.Some feel by going they would be abandoning their beliefs,the monastery and the community who depends upon them.Others feel they would be like sheep to the slaughter,they didn't come to be sacrificed.
Once they decide to stay their courage gives them peace.There is a moving climax where they unite around the table in a Last Supper and listen to Tchaikovsky's music.The only trouble I had with it is it doesn't dig deep enough into the complexity of the religion and politics.Who did the killing?Why only their heads were found,not bodies, maybe due to the evidence of how they were killed and by whom.In attempting to sell this to the French audience, have they glossed over issues for a mass market?Although beautifully paced,acted and filmed,there is a lack ofdepth and substance.A documentary investigating may have turned over more stones,not been swallowed by the bread of faith,moving though it is.There is a small documentary on some of the real monks in extras.