Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Of Gods and Men

Tibhirine Monastery
The picturesque Atlas Mountains can be seen from the Our Lady of Atlas monastery near the village of Tibhirine, this beautiful setting hides the horrors that took place there during the night of the 26th March 1996 when seven monks were shot and beheaded, their bodies have never been recovered. No one was ever found guilty of the crime; the killers have never being found. During this period a civil war was raging between the Islamist Gia and the Military. The murder not only shocked the local populace but the whole of France. 14 years after the incident Of Gods and Men (2010) tells the story of the monks stand against terrorism and their determination to stay in Algeria amongst the people they served and grew to love.

The Monks.
Set in the North African Mountains, eight Christian monks live in harmony and peace with their Muslim neighbours providing free medical treatment, clothing and advice. When an Islamic fundamentalist group massacres a crew of foreign workers, fear sweeps through the region. The army offers protection, but the monks refuse. The film concentrates on the debate between the courageous monks as to whether they should stay or leave the monastery.

Directed by Xavier Beauvois, better known for acting roles including Female Agents (2008) and Villa Amalia (2009), it was winner of the Grand July Prize at last years Cannes Film Festival. Lots of the background information about individual monks came from the their relatives and was transcribed in to a screenplay by Etienne Comer. Some great French actors the best known being Lambert Wilson who plays the aptly named Brother Christian, Michael Lonsdale is the medic Luc and Olivier Rabourdin plays Brother Christopher populate the film. 

An attentive portrait of the Cistercian monks threatened by terrorists in Algeria. A very accomplished and sensitive film, slow moving and heart breaking. The movie offers no real reason for the treatment of the monks who are seen at the end of the movie calmly walking to their demise accompanied by their perpetrators. Maybe a lesson in commitment for us all?

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