Sony Pictures Classics | Release Date: February 25, 2011
7.0
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6
ShiiraMay 26, 2011
This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. On one hand, you see Bill Maher's point in "Religulous" when he describes religion in terms of having a "neurological disorder" while he walks through Grand Central Station with Andrew Newberg, an eminent researcher in the field of nuclear brain imaging. The neuroscientist and Maher are in agreement that "if a billion people can believe in something, it can still be ridiculous." It's one thing, however, to poke fun at the Truckers Chapel, or the Creation Museum, or a ministry run by a former member of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, but it's another thing to exercise that same officious manner and condescending tone to a formidable opponent. Somebody who believes that mankind and dinosaurs coexisted in prehistoric times, of course, is going to be no match for the quick-witted and acid-tongued host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher", not to mention, the United States senator who makes up a word("indigously"), and confuses the usage for "legitimacy" with "literacy" in reference to his claim that Jesus' teachings were a factual discourse. These non-academics are easy targets. But try telling a Carthusian monk that his faith, the God he devoted his entire life to, has the erudite heft of a faerie tale, whose stories, in Maher's estimation, are on equal footing and interchangeable with "Jack & the Beanstalk". True enough, "religion [can be] detrimental to the progress of humanity" with all the gross ideological differences that give rise to wars, but the stand-up comic's wiseacre rhetoric, when juxtaposed against the static images featuring the monks of La Grande Chartreuse, contemplating God from the cramped space of their cells in "Into Deep Silence", can't help but come off as pedagogically cruel, because what if, as the agnostic narrator asks in "Religulous", they're wrong? Correspondingly, if Christianity is indeed a knockoff of Mediterranean religions, primarily the Egyptians' Book of the Dead, then the nine Trappist monks who cast caution to the wind and refused to back down from Algerian Islamic fundamentalists in "Of Gods and Men", died by their assassins' bullets for an ages-old fabrication, which is, as Cee-Lo wails soulfully, indeed, "crazy". For sure, the Catholic church could use some good PR, amid all the countless scandals that have come to light involving pedophilic priests with their seeming lack of remorse and arrogance. Whereas, the hermetic conditions of the Carthusian monks removes illicit prurient temptations from the equation, the Cistercian order who had occupied the Tibhirine Monastery before their violent deaths in 1996, lived among their Algerian neighbors seemingly without any transgressive incidents. While counseling a young Islamic girl about matters of the heart, Brother Luc looks perfectly fatherly, just way we would want our religious leaders to behave, therefore living up to the Christian ideals of charity, generosity, love, and unity. And in the wake of the monks' first contact with terrorists outside their monastery gates on Christmas eve, you can add piety and morality to the list, as well, when Brother Christian convinces the other Trappists to stay and face certain death, proving Maher's point that religion is a neurological disorder. But still, even the most hardline non-believer has to concede, however begrudgingly, the courage of their convictions. Their stubbornness may be infuriating, but not in the hypocritical sense, like the Russian Mennonite farmer in "Silent Light", who insists that his wife should continue to observe their faith in solemn prayer, this in spite of himself being an adulterer. But did the monks' non-action, the decision to resign from life, perhaps, have a touch of vainglorious egotism mixed in with their valor and bravery? In "The Passion of Joan of Arc", the Maid of Orleans is told, "You have no right to die. Your king still needs you," not to mention, the French people she professes to fight for. Call it what you want, but martyrdom is still suicide, a prideful sin, in which people can't be saved from beyond the grave. To be fair, "Of Gods and Men" does show not only the radical fundamentalist side of Islam, but the apolitical, peace-loving Muslims(the existence of a non-radicalized sect is what Maher refuses to acknowledge despite the entreating of his Middle East interviewees), as well. And yet, the film remains imbalanced because it fails to provide the underlying cause behind the terror, which is the century-old(and then some) French occupation of Algeria. This incomplete record of the bigger picture is also what flaws "Hiroshima mon amour". When the Japanese man tells his foreign lover, "I was off fighting the war," he might have been one of the soldiers who participated in the Rape of Nanking, or a pilot that descended upon Pearl Harbor on D-day. The moviegoer sympathizes with the Trappist monks, as well as the victims of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, but violence doesn't occur in a vacuum. Expand
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5
NJWolfgangJul 25, 2011
The conflict is explained and there is a sense of tension. But the film falls way short. There is no backdrop or depth to why the Villagers would support these Monks as the film basically eliminates the core of their interaction. TheThe conflict is explained and there is a sense of tension. But the film falls way short. There is no backdrop or depth to why the Villagers would support these Monks as the film basically eliminates the core of their interaction. The performances are quite good, which is what redeems the film, but the film itself lacks a great deal. If all we are too see is this external conflict, which is minimal by the way; with Government forces and extremists one would think the script would paint a back drop as to why these men were so valuable to their community. The film just doesn't do that. Could have been a great movie but ended up rather mediocre Expand
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