Film Review: OF GODS AND MEN

Directed by Xavier Beauvois
Written by Beauvois and Etienne Comar
Starring: Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, Olivier Rabourdin, Philippe Laudenbach

There is a scene near the end in this movie that brought me to tears, an uncommon event. One of the eight monks living in a monastery in Algeria in the nineties brings two bottles of wine and the music from Swan Lake into the common area. As the men drink the wine and listen to the music, the camera moves closer and closer until we are in an extreme close-up. Their faces, so pure, so old, stressed to the breaking point, become the faces of saints or martyrs: alabaster or marble countenances that look like statuary. A trace of tears in every eye.

PLOTS: Of Gods and Men is based on an event which took place in Algeria in 1996. A small group of monks, living in and medically serving a Muslim community, become pawns in a showdown between terrorists and government officials. The Church and the local government want the monks to leave. Only the villagers, a small group of people needing medical assistance, asks them to stay. The movie shows us the lives of these men in the weeks leading up to their decision. We watch them pray, chant, serve the population and struggle with the right thing for both God and men.

The terrorists are a real threat: they have killed Croatian migrant workers and have threatened the monks before. But the government officials are bullies as well. Staying serves little purpose and, in fact, brings too much attention to the struggling villagers, but leaving is difficult for each of them for various reasons.

The last scenes of this film will haunt you. Highly recommended.

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.