Sony Pictures Classics | Release Date: February 25, 2011
7.1
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Generally favorable reviews based on 38 Ratings
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10
JoshFriesenJul 6, 2014
Of Gods and Men explores a variety of complex religious themes and ideas through the re-telling of a true story of a group of French monks caught up in the Algerian civil war. The film is not a simplistic showcase of good versus evil but isOf Gods and Men explores a variety of complex religious themes and ideas through the re-telling of a true story of a group of French monks caught up in the Algerian civil war. The film is not a simplistic showcase of good versus evil but is instead a deeply human tale of tolerance, fear and strength. No character falls into the trap of caricature, even the terrorists have depth and motive. The believability of the characters creates a realness that makes the film a more powerful emotional experience.
The film begins by introducing us to the monks. The monastery in which they live is a quiet place and their routines consist of tending to the gardens, reading, praying and interacting with the Muslim townsfolk. Importantly one of the monks, Luc (Michael Lonsdale) acts as the town doctor. The relationship between the monks and the townsfolk is one of mutual respect and friendship. The cinematography is gorgeous, capturing the natural beauty of the landscape and the simplistic beauty of the monastery.
The monk’s peaceful existence is shaken when word reaches the town that Islamist militants are taking over the countryside. The slow pace of the opening half is so calming that when violence breaks out the audience shares the peoples shock and worry.
It becomes immediately apparent that the monk’s lives are in danger. The monk’s world slowly comes crumbling down around their epicentre which is the monastery. The French government and Algerian officials urge them to escape while the town’s people plead for them not to abandon them. The group of monks is dividend on what decision to make. Difficult questions cause repressed raw emotions to bubble to the surface. Is it okay to accept help from a corrupt government? When is it acceptable for the Sheppard to leave his flock? What good does martyrdom do?
The group is rightly afraid and sometimes the fear takes control. Lambert Wilson (playing Christian) delivers a fine performance as a man struggling with leadership in a harrowing situation. The first confrontation scene is truly terrific, with trembling Christian putting on a brave face, a combination of fear and determination.
It is hard not to be emotional for the second half of the film. The monk’s moral presence is felt ubiquitously. In every act of violence or cruelty, whether on screen or off, the monk’s sadness permeates from the screen. The honesty of the characters naturally draws the audience’s empathy. There is a specific scene which I will not reveal in which the worldly combines with the spiritual that results in one of the most powerful emotional climaxes I have ever seen.
I highly recommend viewing this film regardless of one’s religious beliefs or background. The film shows both the good that can be achieved through belief as well as the bad. Luc quotes Pascal to remind us that “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction”. The message the film preaches transcends any specific faith as it is one of love, peace, acceptance and harmony.
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9
circularsongsFeb 14, 2013
I've heard that of Gods and Men is a boring movie, especially in reference to certain interminable scenes of rituals of daily monastic life. Psychological rituals are things you do again and again to reduce anxiety. Anthropological ritualsI've heard that of Gods and Men is a boring movie, especially in reference to certain interminable scenes of rituals of daily monastic life. Psychological rituals are things you do again and again to reduce anxiety. Anthropological rituals are means of creating cohesive groups. Are we getting closer to the meaning of life? A Zen quote: "A finger pointing to the moon is not the moon". The rituals in this film are potentially signs pointing to the far more complex signified of the daily ritual enacted between the french Monastary and the Algerian town surrounding. The townspeople rely on the monastary for medical care, and more abstractly, just to be there. Holy men are supposed to keep what is holy holy. When the mujahadeen come, the head monk Christian says they are not allowed into the monastery. When they demand medicine, he says there is no medicine for them. There are no guns allowed in the monastary, and the medicine is for the townspeople. What is holy must be kept holy. But they'll be back. The monks have to decide if the ritual is holy enough to die for. There's a vote; it's split between monks who want to stay and those who want to leave. Christian is undecided. "We are like birds on a branch," says one monk to a townsperson birds who don't know if they will fly away or stay". The townsperson responds: "We are the birds; you are the branch. If you leave, we lose our footing." Falling birds: the unholiness of it is intolerable. Christian decides to stay, and tries to persuade the rest of the monks to do the same. You do not know if he is doing the right thing. Ambiguity is usually not cinematic. In this movie, it is. amm http://www.circularsongs.com Collapse
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8
lasttimeisawMar 19, 2012
A slow-burner and potently religious hymn, 2010 Cannes best director winner, my belated viewing is deterred by the fact that it is based on a brutal historical occurrence. Apparently the film itself holds steady its rumination and put it intoA slow-burner and potently religious hymn, 2010 Cannes best director winner, my belated viewing is deterred by the fact that it is based on a brutal historical occurrence. Apparently the film itself holds steady its rumination and put it into a anti-theatrical perspective, instead of stressing the atrocity of slaughter.

A gradual stewing of incessant depictions of nature sceneries is both a challenge for patience and a dedicative elucidation of the Christian gospel. Juxtaposing with Americanâ
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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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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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7
JamesLMay 4, 2011
I thought the film was way too slow but it made its spiritual point in the last half hour. I think it would have served the director to include a little more about the political situation in Algeria. The film needed something to keep youI thought the film was way too slow but it made its spiritual point in the last half hour. I think it would have served the director to include a little more about the political situation in Algeria. The film needed something to keep you awake. By the way, I am not religious but I was moved. Expand
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8
emkadvApr 29, 2011
While I admit the film moves slowly, it tells the touching story of men who truly live their faith. Although I am not Catholic, I admired the commitment of the monks to make the world a better place -- for everyone, not just for those whoWhile I admit the film moves slowly, it tells the touching story of men who truly live their faith. Although I am not Catholic, I admired the commitment of the monks to make the world a better place -- for everyone, not just for those who shared their religion. Expand
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7
NjihiaApr 24, 2011
While this movie is fairly watchable and a justifiable sit-through, it could have been way better. Considering the depth of the real-life events it's based on, the movie is somewhat weak. It also doesn't help that the regimented life of theWhile this movie is fairly watchable and a justifiable sit-through, it could have been way better. Considering the depth of the real-life events it's based on, the movie is somewhat weak. It also doesn't help that the regimented life of the monks are filmed at length and shown repeatedly. Moreover, the editing feels somewhat jumpy and haphazard. IMHO, it doesn't deserve the astronomical metacritic score it received. Nevertheless, its spiritual themes are intact, making it a worthwhile film. Expand
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1
shaunmedApr 22, 2011
i have no idea what the critics are talking about. this movie is for people who enjoyed the passion of the christ. it is horribly slow and uninteresting. and to top it off it's depressing too. really no need to watch this unless you're superi have no idea what the critics are talking about. this movie is for people who enjoyed the passion of the christ. it is horribly slow and uninteresting. and to top it off it's depressing too. really no need to watch this unless you're super christian and into boring movies. Expand
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9
jeremypApr 20, 2011
The most spiritual and uplifting movie in quite a while. And if you don't like spiritual then how about charity and duty to one's fellow man. It's probably too slow paced for many young people but not for those who are wondering about theirThe most spiritual and uplifting movie in quite a while. And if you don't like spiritual then how about charity and duty to one's fellow man. It's probably too slow paced for many young people but not for those who are wondering about their souls. Eight Trappist monks have to face up to the probability that their lives are in mortal danger if they stay in their monastery in Algeria, which is being ripped apart by a civil war between a secular Muslim government and extremists. How they come individually to their decisions is explored steadily over the movie's length. We see how they live and most importantly how they interweave almost seamlessly with their Arab neighbors. As they abjure from proselytizing and offer medical, farming, and other social needs they are respected. But they are Christians and they are foreigners and the extremists view them with at least a very jaundiced eye, and at most with evil intent. This is not a movie about terrorists, nor a movie about Frenchmen, but about faith and a deep sense of duty to that faith. It's not a movie just for Christians or even Catholics, it's a movie for all faiths and creeds as it speaks to the fundamental question of our role on earth: what is our purpose? Expand
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9
MarcDoyleMar 5, 2011
A beautiful film. Probably helps just a bit if you're Catholic, but the ecumenical spirit among the priests & their Muslim neighbors is refreshing. Finally, we see monks/missionaries/priests in a positive light. Amazing courage in the face ofA beautiful film. Probably helps just a bit if you're Catholic, but the ecumenical spirit among the priests & their Muslim neighbors is refreshing. Finally, we see monks/missionaries/priests in a positive light. Amazing courage in the face of irrational danger. Of the 30+ people in my theater, maybe 8 walked out before it was over - it can be a little slow at times. But it works! Inspirational. Expand
2 of 3 users found this helpful21
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