Of Gods and Men (Xavier Beauvois, 2010)

What's it about? On the outskirts of a North African village, a group of Cistercian monks live in peaceful harmony with their Muslim neighbours. But their faith and their devotion to their community is tested when increasing rebel activity in the area threatens their lives. Based on true events.

Is it any good? Best described as slow-moving; rather slow in the first hour, rather moving in the second. The slow pacing is deliberate, intended to reflect the gentle routine of prayer, work and meditation in the monastery, whilst the second half of the film features little more than the monks sitting around discussing their options. As such, this is not a film to get the heart thumping, although there are a couple of tense scenes as the rebels make their presence known. Instead, it concerns itself with tackling some heavy spiritual themes in a graceful and non-judgmental manner. Many have praised it for this austere, measured approach to such themes and it also commendably strives to be even-handed in its depiction of both Christian and Muslim religions. However, although it has been embraced by many as a celebration of faith in the face of evil, an equally valid interpretation could be that devout religious belief is a stifling thing. Are the monks brave? Or deluded? Or institutionalised? Or maybe all of these things? Each individual viewer will probably have a different take, depending on what they personally bring to the film. Nonetheless, regardless of religious views, there is no denying the power of the affecting, wordless scene near the end, as the monks listen to the beautiful music from Swan Lake and share a glass of red wine, contemplating their fate and taking strength from each other's company. Although I wasn't that bowled over by the film in its entirety, that scene was really very good indeed.

Anything else I should know? Incidentally, I live only a stone's throw from a Cistercian monastery. I think after watching this I'll stop throwing stones at them.

What does the Fonz think? Cos I gotta have faith, I gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith

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