The French film <i>Of Gods and Men</i> may not make movie-goers want to take a vow of chastity and sequester themselves in the African wilderness, but it will certainly compel them to admire the eight French Trappist monks at the center of this thriller set in 1990s Algeria. The monks live in a modest but beautifully verdant compound high in the Algerian mountains. The monks and the villagers till the fields together, celebrate joyous Muslim holidays, and share the camaraderie of their neighbors. Their destinies are intertwined. But outside of their walled compound is a more combative, disturbing world. Algeria has broken out into civil war between the corrupt government and the packs of Islamic rebels who roam the countryside, committing horrible acts of cruelty. As the violence escalates, the monks are warned to accept the protection of the army. Then the town authorities implore them to flee the country. The monks, however, seem to see staying as not only an expression of their faith, but as an expression of their solidarity with the villagers, who don’t have the option of fleeing. The two communities — the abbey and the village — have grown up side by side. For the monks to abandon them in a time of crisis strikes Christian as wrong, and through the persuasive power of his logic and intelligence, the other monks ultimately agree, some with great difficulty. A winner of the grand prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, director Xavier Beauvois’ film is not a rousing drama, but instead a story that takes its cue from the restraint of the monks’ lives.
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Official Site: www.sonyclassics.com/ofgodsandmen
Director: Xavier Beauvois
Writer: Xavier Beauvois and Etienne Comar
Cast: Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, Olivier Rabourdin, Philippe Laudenbach, Jacques Herlin, Loïc Pichon, Xavier Maly, Jean-Marie Frin, Abdelhafid Metalsi and Sabrina Ouazani
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