Is based on a true story revolving around dedicated French Monks living in a remote village in Algeria’s Atlas Mountains; the monastery, a medical oasis for the poor Muslim population. It is the mid- 1990s and the esoteric, simple and pure existence led by the monks is poignantly portrayed by actors of immense depth; they imbue their characters with an earthy, saintly aroma; their path to godliness is paved with legitimate and worthy intentions. Etienne Comar’s and Xavier Beauvois brilliant script and Caroline Champetier’s glorious cinematography cloak with intelligence and stunning sensitivity the lives of these unworldly but imminently wise, good men.
The Cistercian monks are led by Christian (remarkably handsome Lambert Wilson, the delicious villain, The Merovingian in the “Matrix” series). Christian is erudite and in possession of a steely conscience that enforces his moral fortitude and intransigent courage. Nine monks must choose to stay or leave a village that is now savaged, ravaged by terrorists, whose quest is to annihilate any person who differs from their religious extremism. We watch the excruciating psychological, emotional, intellectual task of each Monk as he delves into his psyche, soul for an answer; it is a lugubrious, painful process; enlightenment dawns extracting a tremendous toll.
The movie is resplendent in depicting the ease and camaraderie existing between the villagers and the monks, especially Luc (Michael Lonsdale), the general practitioner, whose limited medical expertise is desperately needed by the villagers; all ripped asunder by marauders, fanatics slaughtering those whose crime lies solely in their “otherness”.
“Of Gods And Men’s” pace is intentionally slow; the power of the dilemma escalates as each man anguishes over his decision; culminating in one of the most majestic scenes I have witnessed on the screen: a dinner, reminiscent of the “last supper”, wine, country fare consumed while from a tape deck Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” spreads its divine magic, the camera caresses each man as his heart bleeds and his tears flow; not a word is spoken but incredulous silence renders these few minutes such profound, spiritual dignity, its significance will resonate forever in one’s memory.
“Of Gods And Men”, totally devoid of sensationalism, is haunting, illusive and leaves the viewer wondering, questioning why some succeed and others fail in breeching the unfathomable distance between the two.