Thursday, July 7, 2011

Of Gods and Men

Xavier Beauvois, France, 2010 (9.4*)
Grand Jury Prize, Cannes
Beautifully filmed, gripping story of a small group of French Trappist monks who run a local hospital in the mountains of Algeria, who treat hundreds of poor local villagers a week, mostly children. Suddenly, Islamic fundamentalists start executing foreigners in the region, including one Algerian teen not wearing a veil in public.

The government wants to send the military to guard the small monastery, but their leader, Brother Christian, well protrayed by Lambert Wilson, who displays an even temperament and firm resolve fueled by inner faith, refuses to sanction the proximity of weapons to their sanctuary. My favorite actor in the cast is the veteran Michael Lonsdale (the French patriarch who helped the Isaelis find terrorists in Munich), who is the real doctor for the clinic, and who lived much of his life in the secular world, so he can see events unfolding without a clouded perspective.

In the face of increasing threat from extremists, the brothers must decide to follow their calling and service to their faith, or face the reality of the modern world and continue their mission elsewhere, either back in France or a safer country in Africa.

This is a recounting of real events, which adds more weight to all decisions involved, the characters are all real people. Beautifully filmed in a dramatic mountain setting with awe-inspiring vistas; you can understand why they chose to build a monastery at this location. It's rare that a film about faith and religion can also successfully deal with real issues like this film. This one of the best films about faith ever made, and is a work of rare cinematic art.

Winner of five awards out of 11 nominations, including the Grand Jury Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Cannes.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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