(Des homes et des dieux)

Dir. Xavier Beauvois. France. 2010

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This slow burn of a film is based on the true story in 1996, when seven French monks were kidnapped by Muslim terrorists from their monastery in Algeria.  The exact details of the kidnapping remain mysterious to this day, which has allowed the director a certain level of freedom of adaptation in this work.  This work of 'faction' has garnered mass critical acclaim the world over, winning the Grand Prix at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and a nomination for Best Film not in the English Language at this years 2011 Bafta Awards.


Led by Dom Christian (Lambert Wilson, The Matrix Reloaded) the brothers must make a bold decision.  Do they flee back to their homeland or do they stay and honour the local community where they are so highly thought of and attempt to counter the violence with peace.  Either way the monks are willing to put their dignity and the sanctity that they stand for in front of the extremist views of the Muslims.  The film is delicate in its handling of opposing religious views, not stating that Christianity is better than Islam.  An early scene shows the monks engaging with Muslims at a religious ceremony; their presence is significant in that it shows their understanding and tolerance towards the opposing faith.  As they are living in a Muslim country, they should not be intolerant of that nation's superior religious view.

The passion for both religious causes is dealt with admirably and with great compassion, too often films that deal with religion as the primary subject matter can over egg the pudding, not so on this occasion.  A dialogue is created between the two differing standpoints and it is indicative that one is not made out to be greater than the other.  It is only when extremist views enter the fold that things take a turn for the worse and the villain of the piece emerges.  Whilst Christian is defiant not to leave their position at the monastery, nor leave their respected footing in the community, opposition comes from brother Luc (Michael Lonsdale), who insists that they leave for their own safety.  As one of the other monks states, 'I did not come here to die'.


Sumptuously shot by Caroline Champetier and efficiently edited by Marie-Julie Maille the film looks and feels like a work to be taken seriously with its overt political comment; most wars are about religion, but when men of God are put in the firing line, has the line been crossed?  A real intelligent film to watch, that makes you ask serious questions whilst not been patronised when presented with information.  Acted with great conviction by the experienced cast and interwoven with beautifully sung hymns and choral works by the actors, this is a strangely compelling film that makes you feel vindicated in selecting to watch it.

Of Gods And Men is released on Monday 11th April 2011 by Artificial Eye on DVD (£15.99 RRP) and Blu-Ray (£19.99 RRP), the special features include a making-of documentary and theatrical trailer.

Jamie Garwood

See Howard Schumann's review Of Gods and Men.

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