Xavier Beauvois’ film, Of Gods and Men has been awarded many honours around the world. It won Best Film at The Cesar Awards, Cannes Film Festival and The Trophees’ in France, and a string of international awards. The film’s subject is original. Its atypical characters and a very honest and engaging storyline are not what we have been spoon-fed in modern cinema. It is also refreshing to see such spartan, sincere and humble cinematography.
Set in the 1990s, the story focuses on a small brotherhood of French Trappist monks, who live in Algeria’s Atlas Mountains. The Brothers live a modest life based on acts of goodwill and charity amid the troubled North African region. When a group of Muslim extremists threaten the safety of the small community that they serve, the brothers have to decide whether to stay or return to their native France.
Lambert Wilson, who plays Brother Christian, is superb as the Abbot of the monks. Hopefully, he will continue to play such multi-faceted and unique characters, instead of the dubious roles English-speaking audiences have previously seen him in (Catwoman with Halle Berry, Babylon A.D and The Matrix Revolutions). Michael Lonsdale, who plays the frail and aging Brother Luc, is, as always, dynamic and intensely charismatic. Lonsdale’s performance gives the film a sincere tenderness. His character’s all-encompassing love and humanity are unforgettable.
This film does not preach or judge. It appears to have no religious or political agenda. The final few minutes are enigmatic. Tchaikovsky’s famous ‘Swan Lake’ ballet theme plays in the background as the brothers eat in a style reminiscent of Michelangelo’s ‘Last Supper’. The camera pans between each monk’s face, showing their changing emotions beautifully and intensely. The audience is left to ponder the final scenes and arrive at their own conclusions. It’s refreshing to see a film that encourages you to think.
This demure, yet captivating, film lingers in your memory long after you leave the cinema. Of Gods and Men lets us see the human spirit both triumph and falter. This exquisite piece of cinema truly deserves all its accolades. If you go to see one film this year, let it be Of Gods and Men.
Of Gods and Men
Rated MA 15+
Released 26th May 2011
Screening at: Palace Cinemas, Como, Cinema Nova, Carlton and selected Village Cinemas (TBA)