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London Film Festival Review: Of Gods And Men

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The London Film kacak iddaa Festival has officially begun. Of course it technically began last Wednesday, but kacak bahis anyone who has even been to a film festival knows illegal bahis that they only truly begin online bahis once you bahis siteleri see your first French film. For all their overblown claims about haute cuisine guvenilir bahis siteleri and Eiffel Towers (compensating much?), the true talent of the French is producing films that really get the festival spirit going: the hidden gems easy to canli bahis siteleri overlook among the shinier, big-budget alternatives. The sad truth is, these are often only chosen to canli bahis fill in schedule gaps or because there's an actor in it you like and it seems wasteful to go to a festival and only watch iddaa siteleri movies that cost over one hundred million dollars and will be filling up multiplexes within the month. They're the films you will probably only ever see once, will never appear in a cinema near you, yet will remain your cherished bahis secret for every film discussion in the years to come. Of Gods And Men is that film to a tee. And for the record, I only booked it after spotting the great Michael 'Hugo Drax' Lonsdale amongst the cast list.http://betstories.net/

The London Film Festival has officially begun. Of course it technically began last Wednesday, but anyone who has even been to a film festival knows that they only truly begin once you see your first French film. For all their overblown claims about haute cuisine and Eiffel Towers (compensating much?), the true talent of the French is producing films that really get the festival spirit going: the hidden gems easy to overlook among the shinier, big-budget alternatives. The sad truth is, these are often only chosen to fill in schedule gaps or because there's an actor in it you like and it seems wasteful to go to a festival and only watch movies that cost over one hundred million dollars and will be filling up multiplexes within the month. They're the films you will probably only ever see once, will never appear in a cinema near you, yet will remain your cherished secret for every film discussion in the years to come. Of Gods And Men is that film to a tee. And for the record, I only booked it after spotting the great Michael 'Hugo Drax' Lonsdale amongst the cast list.

Based on a true story, the film tells the story of seven monks belonging to a monastery in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria, living in friendship with the small Muslim village surrounding them. But as the threat of fundamentalist violence and its military opposition closes in on the community, the monks must decide whether to save their lives by fleeing or standing by their friends and their beliefs.

Director Xavier Beauvois tells his story slowly and with great passion. Much of the first act is dedicated to giving the audience a window into the monks' way of life and role as the bedrock of the local community. This means a number of lingering shots of wood being collected, vegetable patches being watered, hymns being sung and advice being shared. Even once the story takes effect, the film rarely leaves the walls of the monastery. This is a small and personal experience, observing seven men having to reconcile their faith with their human fears and make the biggest decision of their lives. If explosions and car chases are your cinematic thing, you'll be out of the cinema within half an hour.

Yet to suggest that the film is not exciting, in its own way, would be a fallacy. We get to know these characters and understand the importance of what they do so deeply that by the time their home and lives are thrown into jeopardy, even the most minor events become imbued with dread. Beauvois at times seems to be playing with filmgoers' natural tendency to be on the lookout for foreshadowing: in how many other films have a flock of birds noisily abandoning their habitat or an unexpected onset of bad weather signalled some terrible event? Here they happen and pass, but the knowledge of the horrors lying in the shadows of the protective hills around the village keep your eyes glued anxiously to the screen.

Whenever the violent outside world does intrude on monastic life, it does so suddenly and without warning. In a peaceful and reflective film, these loud invasions shatter the illusion of safety that is built up within the monastery's stone walls. Just as the monks depend on their faith to keep them safe (refusing military protection, as they abhor violence and do not wish to see village life disrupted), so does the audience. Sometimes, it works: the first time the terrorists breach the walls, they call for the monks' leader Christian (played by Lambert Wilson) to either give them what they want or suffer the consequences. Instead he calmly refuses, reminding them of words from the book they purport to worship and the monks' primary duty to use their limited resources to assist the local villagers. It is a clash between ideologies, one enforcing belief through weapons and intimidation, the other using it as a means of bringing people together and finding common ground. In a year where cinema has shown us dream manipulators fighting in rotating hotel corridors, mercenaries shooting down fighter planes from a free-falling tank and a Canadian hipster fighting evil exes with a flaming katana, all are eclipsed by a single unarmed monk gathering courage and talking down an angry terrorist group holding his friends at gunpoint.

In the brief Q&A with writer/producer Etienne Comar which followed the film, he stated that despite holding Catholic beliefs up until his teenage years, he did not intend the film to carry a religious message as much as a humanist one. Yet in the post-9/11 era that has seen the emergence of an angry new breed of atheism and faiths split by divisions amongst themselves as much as with others (the film might feel like a direct response to the recent Qur'an burning controversy, had it not been released in France several months before Pastor Jones' decidedly unchristian threats), it's difficult not to see a plea for unity among people of all beliefs in the story of these simple but brave men standing firm in their faith against the horrors of the outside world. It asks that we not just remember the damage that corrupted religious ideologies can do, but also the positive common messages at the heart of all true faith and their power to give strength in the face of adversity. The film's most moving scene depicts the monks drowning out with hymns the intrusive noise of a patrolling helicopter. In understanding how much the local village has come to love and depend on them in spite of their different beliefs, they are able to give each other the support to overcome their own personal crises.

Of Gods And Men is arthouse cinema at its most exquisite. It is slow, but uses that gradual pace to create an interdependence between the characters and the audience. As the monks conquer their doubts and discover a new conviction in their beliefs and decisions, it is a victory for everyone who has ever felt alone in time of need. Without the audience, the monks' message would be lost. The performances are uniformly flawless, with Lambert Wilson's Christian a hero admirable for his unspoken courage and selflessness, though it's Michael Lonsdale's soft-spoken and gently humourous doctor Luc who steals the film. The letter he writes to his family, authentically transcribed from one written by the real man, is as heart-breaking as it is inspirational. This is a film where stories are told in every line on each elderly face and five seconds of expressed wisdom is infinitely more fulfilling than five films' worth of action. As Christian says when reassuring one of his doubting flock: "Our mission is to be brother to everyone." Wherever those monks are now: mission succeeded.

Score: 8.50 - Spectacular (Movies that score between 8.50 and 9.00 are some of the best films its genre has ever created, and fans of any genre will thoroughly enjoy them)

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Of Gods and Men reviewed by Xander Markham

8.5

GREAT

Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
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Xander Markham
Xander MarkhamAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Living just outside London, I represent Flixist’s entire UK branch. My film obsession manifested itself during a childhood spent watching Bond movies, Italian Westerns and all things samurai. I... more + disclosures


 


 


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