Thursday, May 5, 2011

Of Gods and Men

Director: Xavier Beauvois
Starring: Michael Lonsdale, Lambert Wilson

When a group of French (Trappist) monks living in Algeria come under threat of grave danger it divides their community. Some want to help the villagers they are pledged to serve, whereas others do not want to become martyrs. The movie examines ways men of faith deal with the crisis and the uneasy relationship between deep faith and a turbulent world. Set in 1996 the movie takes place when militant Islamist elements insisted all foreigners leave Algeria. The pious monks live a simple life devoted to God and keep honeybees to sell honey at the local market. All this is now under threat after a woman is stabbed for not wearing a veil in public and other deaths follow. Alarm for their safety mounts and the Algerian authorities advise the monks to leave or receive protection from the army. In accord with the locals and despite escalating violence the monks vote to stick it out. As the inevitable approaches they listen to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake’ resigned in their fate. The movie is rather slow but has good performances by the cast. Lambert Wilson (Christian), Jacques Herlin (Amédée), and Michael Lonsdale (Luc) are particularly outstanding. In terms of characterization this movie is easily on a par with Sidney Lumet’s Twelve Angry Men and Frank Pierson’s Conspiracy. Compelling viewing.

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