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Of Gods and Men (2010)

198 posts in this topic

vjmorton wrote:

: Sorry but Brody's point is, to put it in the most charitable way possible -- ahistoric, ignorant and self-satisfied tosh.

Hmmm, I'm just wondering if you're actually taking aim at "Brody's point" or at one of his sub-points. Certainly, one can argue that the film climaxes with a scene of the monks bidding farewell to "worldly pleasures" without going beyond that to say anything about which worldview is based on which other worldview.

: The claim that Western secularism underlies the Church can be believed by nobody with any knowledge of history before his own lifetime.

Not to nit-pick the nit-picking or anything (who, me?), but I wonder if history of this sort would even be relevant here. The question is not which worldview provided the origin of which other worldview, but which worldview provides the broader framework for which other worldview in the here and now. Parents come before children, but sometimes children pay the parents' bills (in nursing homes, etc.).

But even ignoring all that, if we DO want to make a historically-grounded argument, then the fact that the Church came before secularism in a broader-history-of-the-universe sense doesn't necessarily help us deal with this particular story and its location in a particular place and time: To wit, when French Catholic monks started coming into French colonial territories ... well, are you saying that the French colonial interests were piggybacking on a Catholic mission? Or is it possible that the Catholic mission was piggybacking on an essentially secular operation?

SDG wrote:

: "I liked it a lot, too, and I can understand why narrow, narcissistic critics of a less-religious bent who are only interested in movies that tell them about worlds and people like themselves might not care for it all that much."

: There. Fixed it for you.

Um, say what? I thought Brody LIKED the film. He might not have liked it for the same reasons that you or I do, but like it, he did. So you haven't "fixed" anything here. If anything, you've introduced a new element of confusion.

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Um, say what? I thought Brody LIKED the film. He might not have liked it for the same reasons that you or I do, but like it, he did. So you haven't "fixed" anything here. If anything, you've introduced a new element of confusion.

Check again. I was glossing on your earlier comment in relation to nonreligious critics (other than Brody) who might not care for it. My point was that non-religious critics put off by the film's religiosity were probably affected by more than mere non-religiousness. The example of nonreligious critics (possibly including Brody) who liked the film rather supports my point. Sorry for any confusion.

Edited by SDG

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vjmorton wrote:

: Sorry but Brody's point is, to put it in the most charitable way possible -- ahistoric, ignorant and self-satisfied tosh.

Hmmm, I'm just wondering if you're actually taking aim at "Brody's point" or at one of his sub-points. Certainly, one can argue that the film climaxes with a scene of the monks bidding farewell to "worldly pleasures" without going beyond that to say anything about which worldview is based on which other worldview.

One can. Brody does not. He quite specifically says "the faith that underlies their faith," that is, Catholicism, "is that of secular European ideals of individual liberty and self-expression." He couldn't have been clearer, frankly. One can even interpret the scene entirely within religiously orthodox framework of knowing the real relationship between the Church and worldly pleasures -- that martyrdom is not the same thing at all the same thing as world-denial or -abandonment. But because Brody seems to think music and alcohol were or are frowned on by the Church, that ignorant statement about what underlies what does in fact "follow." (Aside: the fact he thinks this disinclines me to think he's making any points at all that stem from knowledgeability about religion.)

: The claim that Western secularism underlies the Church can be believed by nobody with any knowledge of history before his own lifetime.

I wonder if history of this sort would even be relevant here. The question is not which worldview provided the origin of which other worldview, but which worldview provides the broader framework for which other worldview in the here and now. Parents come before children, but sometimes children pay the parents' bills (in nursing homes, etc.).

Perhaps, and I certainly wouldn't dispute the claim that many people today come to embrace some or other religion as an instanciation of some more-fundamental-to-them secular commitment.

But Brody makes that claim about this film and these monks, for which there is (1) no real support in the film (the issue never comes up, either way), (2) no evidence I'm aware of regarding the real-life monks (and I doubt, just given their age). Unless he was making some very broad point about the universe, it's not obvious what he could have meant.

But even ignoring all that, if we DO want to make a historically-grounded argument, then the fact that the Church came before secularism in a broader-history-of-the-universe sense doesn't necessarily help us deal with this particular story and its location in a particular place and time

I agree it doesn't. But Brody brings it up regarding, not the relationship between the Church and the state in French colonies (I'm no expert, but I suspect that like with most social causality, each hand was washing the other), but the wine and Swan Lake scene at the end and he speaks in the most-general-possible terms, as if he thinks his bass-ackwards claim provides some excuse to like the film without seeming to endorse its religiosity or back those nasty teabagging Christianists.

Edited by vjmorton

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SDG wrote:

: Check again. I was glossing on your earlier comment in relation to nonreligious critics (other than Brody) who might not care for it.

Yeah, I knew what you were glossing on, but it wasn't clear to me how a nearly year-old reference to critics who DON'T like the film was relevant to a current critic who DOES like the film. It seemed rather out-of-the-blue, at best.

: My point was that non-religious critics put off by the film's religiosity were probably affected by more than mere non-religiousness. The example of nonreligious critics (possibly including Brody) who liked the film rather supports my point.

Ah, okay.

vjmorton wrote:

: One can. Brody does not. He quite specifically says "the faith that underlies their faith," that is, Catholicism, "is that of secular European ideals of individual liberty and self-expression." He couldn't have been clearer, frankly.

Ah, okay. If he is suggesting that the monks' Catholicism is based on their belief in secularism, then, yes, that does seem debatable, or at least presumptuous. I don't think it is *impossible* for any person's faith to be built, in some sense, on the belief that faith is a freely-chosen form of self-expression, but I don't think anything in Of Gods and Men supports that thesis.

: One can even interpret the scene entirely within religiously orthodox framework of knowing the real relationship between the Church and worldly pleasures -- that martyrdom is not the same thing at all the same thing as world-denial or -abandonment.

Perhaps not, but, historically, monasticism (which came to prominence around the same time Christianity was legitimized by the state) HAS been seen as a FORM or TYPE of martyrdom.

: But because Brody seems to think music and alcohol were or are frowned on by the Church . . .

Um, I didn't get that impression from what Brody wrote. But it's possible he DID express that idea and I was blind to it because it's such a self-evidently silly idea that I can't believe rational people would express it unless they made it blindingly obvious.

Hmmm. Did I just say I might have been blind to something because it wasn't blindingly obvious? Blind if I do, blind if I don't.

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Victor: Wait till you see Of Gods and Men in 30 Seconds. Ha ha ha ha

And here it is:

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Hey! Yer jumpin the gun Benchwarmer! :)

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Hey! Yer jumpin the gun Benchwarmer! :)

You just got SCOOPED.

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Hey! Yer jumpin the gun Benchwarmer! :)

Did you REALLY think everyone could wait another full day? Sheesh, get with the times man! ;)

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Oh! By the way, I am finally catching this at the French Film Festival in Sydney this Friday night with my Dad and younger brother Sam. I'm thinking of taking my 10-year-old sister to see A Cat in Paris at some stage as well. Any other recommendations? Anyone?

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Oh! By the way, I am finally catching this at the French Film Festival in Sydney this Friday night with my Dad and younger brother Sam. I'm thinking of taking my 10-year-old sister to see A Cat in Paris at some stage as well. Any other recommendations? Anyone?

straying OT, but ...

I quite liked all three of the other films besides OF GODS AND MEN that are playing there and that I've seen -- POTICHE, as Ozon back at the italicized women's pic; LOVE CRIME, as ALL ABOUT EVE set in the world of corporate espionage; and CARLOS (my Tweets compiled here) provided it's the original 5.5-hour cut.

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Thanks Victor. I will keep your thoughts in mind over the next few weeks. Much appreciated!

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My full review.

Xavier Beauvois’ sublime Of Gods and Men is that almost unheard-of film that you do not judge — it judges you. ...

It tells the story of nine imperfect men who made a difficult choice to stay in a war-torn foreign country that countless citizens would gladly have fled if they could. Caught between a corrupt military government and violent extremist Muslim groups, the brothers’ choices are defined by two other relationships. One is their relationship with the Muslim villagers of Tibhirine, who regard the monks as their friends and benefactors. The other relationship is the crucial one, with a unseen Beloved.

Filmed in Morocco in French and Arabic, the film brings an almost documentary quality to how the Trappists live, pray and work, recalling Into Great Silence and the more recent No Greater Love. But here the pealing of monastery bells alternates with the adhan (the Muslim call to prayer). This is not sinister or threatening to the monks, who are truly part of the local community. ...

It is luminously beautiful, suffused by beauty natural and manmade, sacred and secular, moral and spiritual. Veteran cinematographer Caroline Champetier takes in the grandeur of the landscape and the seemingly haphazard architecture of the village in lingering takes and tracking shots. Christian climbs a lightly wooded hill amid a flock of sheep, a good shepherd with sheep beyond his own flock. A gunman lying supine with his feet in the foreground visually echoes Mantegna’s Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, challenging us to see Jesus in a terrorist. And when Luc presses his cheek to a large wall painting of Christ, the monk’s head and the Savior’s side become a single image of spiritual intimacy, a cinematic icon, a window into heaven. ...

More than once, the Tibhirine monks speak to us in their own words. ... I could dissent theologically from a word or two here, but before the depth and integrity of the martyred author’s Christian spirit, from his acknowledgment of his own complicity to his embracing even the unknown “friend of the last minute who knew not what you were doing” and looking hopefully for their reunion as “happy thieves in paradise,” I can only place my hand over my mouth.

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My full review.

Xavier Beauvois’ sublime Of Gods and Men is that almost unheard-of film that you do not judge — it judges you. ...

In another part of his review, Steve writes:

Seldom have I read so many reviews justly genuflecting to a film amid such inability to explain why, or with such unconvincing rationalizations for critical discomfort.

Curious ... was there any reason you didn't get back to that? Space? Not wanting to become the white Armond? Besides that Richard Brody bit referenced above in this thread, even the capsule I wrote at Toronto was frustrated at an uncomprehending critic (Kirk Honeycutt at the Hollywood Reporter).

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Curious ... was there any reason you didn't get back to that? Space? Not wanting to become the white Armond? Besides that Richard Brody bit referenced above in this thread, even the capsule I wrote at Toronto was frustrated at an uncomprehending critic (Kirk Honeycutt at the Hollywood Reporter).

Space, yes, or rather length. I went over 1400 words, which I consider crazy long for a review, and never even came close to running out of stuff to say. I could have written another 500 words, easy. I would be happy to spend some time and space criticizing the critics, but this wasn't the place to do it.

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I would be happy to spend some time and space criticizing the critics, but this wasn't the place to do it.

Why not do it now then? :)

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I would be happy to spend some time and space criticizing the critics, but this wasn't the place to do it.

Why not do it now then? :)

Well, "now" is relative. Between tonight and this weekend my every waking hour and then some is spoken for, but I might get back to it.

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SDG and I are actually out cruising tonight. No more messages, we're busy. Check ya later, dadio

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Ebert:

Did they make the right choice? In their own idealistic terms, yes. In realistic terms, I say no. They have the ability to help many who need it for years to come. It is egotism to believe their help must take place in this specific monastery. Between the eight of them, they have perhaps a century of life of usefulness remaining. Do they have a right to deprive those who need it of their service? In doing so, are they committing the sin of pride?

I found myself resisting the film’s pull of easy emotion. There are fundamental questions here, and the film doesn’t engage them. I believe Christian should have had the humility to lead his monks away from the path of self-sacrifice.

I've learned to be disappointed with Ebert over the last few years, but this one is really frustrating. Did he not understand anything about the roots they'd grown into the village and its people? Did the frail condition of the older men not register?

The line about Christian is interesting in what is suggests about the instant fame that the Internet has facilitated via viral media, but these monks didn't live in a viral age. They had no way of knowing how the news of their fate would play out. His argument assumes the monks know they are in a tasteful, somber Cinema of Quality film and that the assurance that they will be lionized for their sacrifice is foremost in their minds. Give me a break.

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I've learned to be disappointed with Ebert over the last few years, but this one is really frustrating.

Indeed. It's like he wrote this based on notes made during the early scenes, and later developments didn't register.

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The person sitting next to me when I saw it was adamant that they should have left. And on one level - the one Ebert identifies - that case makes sense. If they had made that choice, they might today be at work doing worthy ministry. I'm not sure that perspective was much a part of the debate in the film. It seemed more of leaving to avoid having throats slit.

But the film is only partly about that choice. It is far more about a recognition of who these monks are as a community and as followers of Christ. It is about the witness they bore to what it means to understand that they and all those they met were God's children.

Edited by Darrel Manson

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The person sitting next to me when I saw it was adamant that they should have left. And on one level - the one Ebert identifies - that case makes sense. If they had made that choice, they might today be at work doing worthy ministry. I'm not sure that perspective was much a part of the debate in the film. It seemed more of leaving to avoid having throats slit.

But the film is only partly about that choice. It is far more about a recognition of who these monks are as a community and as followers of Christ. It is about the witness they bore to what it means to understand that they and all those they met were God's children.

I don't quarrel with anyone for disagreeing with the monks' decision, or for criticizing the movie on that grounds. I do quarrel with anyone who criticizes the film on that grounds without engaging or even acknowledging the reasoning behind their decision.

Edited by SDG

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Ebert isn't even correct that the monks don't consider the effect the loss of their ministry would have on the villagers. What else could the villager who gives the "you are the branch" speech be referring to (it IS a villager, right?).

Another weird bit. Ebert says early: "they never try to convert anyone to Christianity?" Do Trappists EVER do that (I'm 90% sure "no")?

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Ebert isn't even correct that the monks don't consider the effect the loss of their ministry would have on the villagers.

...does he actually say that? I've read his review more than once and I don't see that. AFAICT, it's Ebert himself who isn't considering that.

What else could the villager who gives the "you are the branch" speech be referring to (it IS a villager, right?).

Right, and right. Ebert writes: "Between the eight of them, they have perhaps a century of life of usefulness remaining. Do they have a right to deprive those who need it of their service?" But responsibility is not abstract, it is found in the entanglements of our lives. This monastery and this village are fundamentally intertwined; the monks have a duty to these people. It may not be an unbreakable obligation, but the monks can't simply say, "We have decided to go be useful elsewhere," as if this would have no impact on the villagers.

Another weird bit. Ebert says early: "they never try to convert anyone to Christianity?" Do Trappists EVER do that (I'm 90% sure "no")?

That's my understanding too.

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Ebert isn't even correct that the monks don't consider the effect the loss of their ministry would have on the villagers.

...does he actually say that? I've read his review more than once and I don't see that. AFAICT, it's Ebert himself who isn't considering that.

I took this Ebert quote you cite yourself ...

Between the eight of them, they have perhaps a century of life of usefulness remaining. Do they have a right to deprive those who need it of their service?

... as meaning that. After all, who else would be being deprived of their services if not the villagers?

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