January 27, 2012
The film depicts the life of eight Trappist monks at Our Lady of the Atlas monastery in Algeria during Algeria's civil war in the 1990s. Unlike Into Great Silence—another excellent film portraying the lives of monks—Of Gods and Men focuses not merely on the day-to-day practices, routines, and disciplines of the monastery, but on how such routines can be maintained in the face of a deadly, and very real, threat of Islamic terrorists and the violence of war. Of Gods and Men is a violent film, but it is so good because the conflict—the seed of drama—is not one between men with guns, but within the hearts of men who self-consciously exist to love God and love their neighbours, and they do so within an institution dedicated to that task. The film's greatest struggle is fought both within the hearts of the brothers and among them. In the face of terrible violence, violence which threatened their lives, the question "do we stay or do we go?" is more compelling than any showdown between snarling men with loaded .44 magnums.
Faithful presence. Those two words returned to my mind again and again as I reflected on the movie Of Gods and Men.
The film depicts the life of eight Trappist monks at Our Lady of t...