Faith of Gods and Men

godsandmen

Director Xavier Beauvois’s Of Gods and Men wrestles with heavy questions of post-colonial anger and the essence of humanity in a complex and thoughtful script about the unsolved murders of seven French Trappist monks during the Algerian Civil War. Though there’s plenty of external violence and drama, the film’s true narrative is the group’s internal struggle to reconcile an instinctive drive for self-preservation with a calling to help their poverty-stricken Muslim neighbors and serve in the spirit of their lord. Lambert Wilson shines as Christian, the monastery’s clear-eyed leader who counsels his more doubtful brothers, while the gravelly-voiced Michael Lonsdale personifies the subjugation of the self to the spiritual. Through his subtle observational camerawork and pared-down settings, Beauvois highlights the deep strength and (sometimes detrimental) kindness of men who live their plainly appointed lives in search of a higher truth. Simple but profound issues of love and fidelity take on new urgency as the brothers pray and engage in the humble rapture of Gregorian chant, especially in one strikingly composed and emotionally jarring dinner scene. As the film traverses the heady days of summer to the brutal depths of winter, Beauvois comes to terms with the mysterious faith of this band of outsiders and challenges us to do the same.

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