First thing that comes to your mind after watching this film is: what a powerful movie. Then comes the flood of thoughts. Even few hours after you have come out of the theater, in every gap moment you find yourself wandering in the thoughts about Of Gods and Men.
The start of the film is as unpretentious as a beginning can be – those are the daily routines of 8 french monks living in a monastery in the Atlas mountains. Very casual scenes of Christianity and Islam living together friendly. The monastery is a place to get cured, to get dressed, to solve some paperwork. In few words – the monks and the “monastery is like a branch for the birds – the villagers to repose on”. This is what the locals think of their eight Christian brothers.
Though, this is not a trivial theme, this picture is going to get far more complicated and nuanced than that. The film starts to take progressively the spectator in its power after a thrilling event: a group of foreign workers are slaughtered by Islamist radicals. There is a series of murders spreading out in the whole country, immersing everyone into a feeling of terror. Foreigners, locals with a less strict point of view on interpretation of the Coran and behavior norms all fall for victims to this massacre. It is clear for everyone that the next target sooner than later will be the monastery.
From here Xavier Beauvois takes a turn from the theme of the two religion co-habitation. It is the human nature, who is now fighting with the soul and with the mind. Under the present circumstances, when human life is so fragile and so uncertain, arises the question – how far will the faith in God go? Will this faith take over the self preservation instinct; What will become a greater value – to sacrifice their own lives in order to continue being the branch for the locals. From here Beauvois starts a merciless psychologic analyze of an individual in danger, in isolation. It seems, that Of Gods and Men is set around one question: to stay a monk and risk being killed or to become human and leave to a safer place? This is no longer a subjective vision of the environment we live in, this is a rather a blank page for the thoughts and questions that go through the head of spectator, waiting to be filled. The final of the movie does not end anything, in fact, it begins the tries to understand why it had to be this particular result.
Generally, the most valuable part of this picture is its structure. By setting his film tis way, the director makes it impossible for the viewer to not involve emotionally. In the end – for one more time, Of Gods and Men is not only avery detailed work; it may help to answer such existential questions like: What is a religion? What is faith? What it is that makes us worthy the definition – human being?