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Thursday January 20th 2022

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Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men

****1/2

Cast: Lambert Wilson (Christian),Michael Lonsdale (Luc), Olivier Rabordin (Christophe), Phillippe  Laudenbach (Celeslin), Jacquees Herlin Frin (Paul), abdelhafid Metalsi (Nouredine), Sabrince Ouazani (Rabbia), Olivier Perrier (Bruno), Fariid (Ali Fayattia), Adel Bencherif (Le Terroriste).  Country: France. Language: French in English subtitles.  Director: Xavier Beauvois. (PG-13) Running time: 120 minutes.

Riveting throughout, “Of Gods and Men,” is one of those films whereas the principal characters sit on a powder keg knowing at any time it can go off.  The courage to stay put, the eight Trappist monks”' faith and their agape love for the poor Algerian villagers continue in the midst of political turmoil in Algeria largely engineered by the Islamic Salvation Front defeating The National Liberation Front in1991, which overthrew the French in 1962.  In 1993, the Armed Islamic Group orders all foreigners out of Algeria in 30 days.

The film begins in 1996, the monks from France live in a small monastery in the hills close to the village.  Christian (Lambert Wilson), is the prior and has studied the Qur”'an; Luc (Micheal Lonsdale), is the doctor who treats the villagers with no cost.  We learn about each of the six brothers and two priests.  They raise crops, tend beehives, tend to the sick, pray, and eat in common.  The monks are likely prevaricators in post-conciliar sensibilities when it comes to seeking conversions from Islam into Catholicism.

Danger for the monks is lurking nearby, as the terrorists or the Armed Islamic Groups, arrest or kill foreigners.  Croatian migrant workers are captured by armed Algerian men who cut their throats.  Thus the dangers to follow and swallow the handful of Trappist monks illuminate in unintended and ominous consequences in their chant from Psalms 143:3-5:

The enemy persecutes my  soul

He has made me dwell in darkness

With those long dead

My spirit grows faints within me

My  heart within me, dismayed

Today we hear of prejudice towards Muslims and Qur”'an in the United States, and sometimes see a hate crime against a mosque or physical attacks against Muslim on television or internet but those incidents pale in contrast to discrimination and outright murder or serious injury to persons of non-Muslim faiths, namely Christian countries (i.e. Afghanistan,Pakistan,Algeria,etc.).

Beautiful scenes of each monk (all 50 years old) sitting at their dining table all looking with anxiety while listening to Tchaikovsky”'s “Swan Lake” and drinking wine. Brother Christian previously with adeptness managed to keep the men from invading the monks”' entire space.  But, under the pretense of needing drugs for their injuried comrades, they would come back at a later date to raid Brother Lonsdale”'s medical cabinet.  As Easter approaches events become bold against the monks.

Unlike so many films with an underlying ax to grind against Catholicism or evangelical Protestantism, Xavier Beauvois does the decent thing staying on the objective path.  If he had  taken the cheap shot road, he would have undermined his excellent synopsis.

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