Review of Of Gods and Men

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Based on a true story, Of Gods and Men is set in a remote part of Algeria where a small group of Trappists have lived for decades in harmony with the Muslims of the village of Tibhirine. The monks fill their days with gardening, beekeeping and prayers. But in the mid-1990s, a civil war erupts, and Islamic terrorists slaughter a group of Croatian road workers just to make a statement. The monks must decide whether to leave or stay, thus making for the moral dilemma of the movie.
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Movie Review: "Of Gods and Men"

-- Rating: PG-13
Length: 122 minutes
Release Date: September 8, 2010
Directed By: Xavier Beauvois
Genre: Drama/History

Many wars and prejudices are based on religion, which can either brutally divide individuals or successfully unite groups of people together. "Of Gods and Men" depicts both possibilities a religion can bring and the sacrifices members are willing to make in order to uphold their beliefs and help one another. It also shows how individuals can depend on one another and live next to each other peacefully despite different religious orientations.

"Of Gods and Men" is based on a true story of eight French monks living in a monastery in Algeria. It is about the love and humility of these monks towards their community, which the monastery has been a part of since the middle of the 19th century. It also depicts the ultimate sacrifice that a group of men is willing to make to do the right thing. After a rash of violence breaks out in the community, the monks must make the choice of whether to stay or relocate.

The Cold War was a time of great political tension between the United States and her allies and the Soviet Union and other communist nations. It resulted in a large-scale civil war, which tore Algeria apart. Residents experienced beheadings and other acts of violence from Islamic insurgents. The monks, in an effort to support the citizens of Algeria, wanted to stay and share the love of God; however, insurgents were threatened by this act of humility.

The film begins in a catholic monastery in Algeria, which coexists in harmony with the local Muslim residents. The monks sell food in the market and take part in celebrations and activities with their Muslim neighbors in the village. They are very much a part of the lives of the residents in this small town. The monastery was built in this remote area to help bring the word of God to non-Christian residents. After a group of Croatian highway workers, who were volunteers at the monastery, were brutally murdered in broad daylight, military authorities approach the monks and tell them they should leave the area for their own safety. The men, who range from middle aged to elderly, spend their daily lives quietly keeping honeybees, farming, and praying. They are humble and lead lives of complete charity. After much deliberation, the group decides to take a vote on whether or not they will remain at the monastery. They unanimously agree to stay because the community has grown to depend on their friendship. It also depends on the monks for medicine.

Christian (Lambert Wilson) is the prior of the monastery. He spends a large amount of time reading the Koran in order to understand his Islamic friends. He also begins to pray for the Islamic terrorists and for anyone who might try to take his life while spreading the word of God. When the military authorities are told that the monks will continue to live in the monastery, they offer their protection, which the monks refuse. The monks are afraid that the military presence will destroy their relationship with the residents. They risk their lives by infuriating the fundamentalists by spreading their Christian beliefs, as well as by upsetting the Algerian army by providing medicine and aid to wounded militants. They accept their fate and continue to live their lives as they always have. They drink wine, listen to classical music, and abide by age-old traditions. One night, extremists break into the monastery and abduct seven of the monks.

Wilson lends an award-winning performance to this film. His emotional display of meekness throughout the film is extremely moving. He has also played other dramatic roles such as in "Babylon A.D.," "The Princess of Montpensier," and "The Lazarus Project." Michael Linsdale plays the role of the elderly Luc, who is the physician in the group. He helps treat the villagers who have been attacked by the insurgents. Linsdale also appeared in "Let There Be Light" and "Ronin."

The focus of "Of Gods and Men" is on religious devotion and loyalty to God in the midst of political turmoil. It closely resembles the lives of the Cistern monks of the Tibhirine, who lived in Algeria from 1993 until they were abducted in 1996. It is a deeply moving tale of the love of Christian men who have chosen to live in the midst of a war-ravaged nation. It helps serve as a reminder of our own responsibility to not only our loved ones but also to those who are suffering around us. The film takes people on an emotional journey that is hard to forget.

Rating: 4 out of 5