Of Gods and Men

A group of monks face a difficult dilemma in "Of Gods and Men."

The new film “Of Gods and Men” is a well-made, earnest, solemn, well acted, if a bit too long, story of a group of French monks in Algeria who face a difficult dilemma.  Muslim terrorists have been wreaking havoc on the surrounding town.  The monastery and the lives of the monks are at risk.  There is no good answer for these men.  If they stay they may be killed, but if they leave they will not be able to be of service to the town’s people.  For example, one of the monks, an elderly man named Luc (Michael Lonsdale) is a doctor who sees over one hundred patients a day.

All that the monks have is their faith.  We are shown in great detail the routine of the monks’ life – prayer, farming, selling their honey and leading a simple life of devotion.

The leader of the monks, Christian (Lambert Wilson) turns down protection offered by the military because he feels that the military is corrupt.  Me? I’d take the protection from the corrupt military, as long it was me they were protecting, and ask if one of their men would give me a ride to the train station, or airport, so I could get out of there.

My main criticism of the film is that it did not provide an explanation of the context in which the story is taking place.  We’re in Algeria, but we don’t know what year, at least not until the closing credits.  What is the political climate?  Who are these terrorists and what do they want? What are their objectives, besides wreaking general havoc?  The way they are presented they seem like standard issue Muslim terrorists.  At one point a government official blames French colonialism for the problem.  Why?  In one scene the terrorists attack and kill some migrant workers from Croatia.  Did they kill these men because they were foreigners or because they were from Croatia and why?

The filmmakers assume a certain level of knowledge on the part of the audience. However, a little narration, or some well written and strategically placed expositional dialogue, would have been a good idea.  It would have enabled me to understand the context, learn some of the history and then be able to concentrate more fully on the film’s central dilemma faced by the monks.

Of Gods and Men, Director Xavier Beauvois, 2010,

Why Not Productions, 122 minutes, rated PG-13

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on March 30, 2011, in New. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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