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Of Gods and Men (2010)

Xavier Beauvois

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#41 SDG

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 09:48 PM


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.

#42 Persona

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 10:03 PM

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

#43 Tyler

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Posted 10 March 2011 - 09:43 AM

NPR interviewed Lambert "The Merovingian" Wilson about Of Gods and Men.

#44 Nathan Douglas

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 04:40 AM

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.

#45 SDG

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 05:58 AM

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.

#46 Darrel Manson

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 10:34 AM

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, 11 March 2011 - 10:34 AM.


#47 SDG

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 10:44 AM

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, 11 March 2011 - 10:46 AM.


#48 vjmorton

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 11:18 AM

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")?

#49 SDG

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 11:28 AM

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.

#50 vjmorton

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 11:34 AM

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?

#51 SDG

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 12:13 PM

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?

Ebert is thinking of the "century of life of usefulness remaining" to the monks if they leave Algeria. In other words, Ebert means that by staying in Algeria and tempting fate, the monks are depriving other people they could be serving. What Ebert doesn't consider, or even interact with, are the historical obligations linking the monks to this particular community.

#52 vjmorton

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 12:33 PM

ohhhhh ... well ... that's very different. Never mind
[/Litella]

#53 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 09:53 AM

The Mere Comments blog at Touchstone magazine quotes this bit of backstory from a book on the real-life monks that gives me a new appreciation for the film and for one of its characters in particular:

In his book The Monks of Tibihrine, author John W. Kiser

tells the story of a French policeman, Lieutenant Christian de Chergé, in 1959 who befriended a local Muslim policeman assigned to assist him in the dangerous days of the Algerian war for independence. The Frenchman enjoyed the company of the Moslem because “he could talk unself-consciously about God, unlike in France, where God talk made people uncomfortable.” His friend, Mohammed, rankled him when he said, “You Christians don’t know how to pray. We never see French soldiers praying. You say you believe in God. How can you not pray if you believe in God?” Christian struggled for an answer.

On one of their conversational walks in countryside, rebel soldiers fell upon them and Mohammed put himself between Christian and their aimed rifles, insisting that the Frenchman was a godly man and a friend of Muslims. The fells withdrew, but “the next day Mohammed was found with his throat slit near his home … where he lived with his wife and ten children.”

By 1964, our French lieutenant Christian de Chergé had become a priest. In 1968 he became a Trappist monk and joined Tibhrine in 1971. As brother Christian-Marie he was elected prior in 1984 and again 1990. Some 36 years after his friend Mohammed had had his throat cut by rebels, Christian himself would be killed by Muslim terrorists along with six of his Trappist brothers.


Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 15 March 2011 - 09:54 AM.


#54 Nathan Douglas

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 01:04 AM

Don't know if you were going to post this SDG, so forgive me if this is jumping the gun: How Catholic is Of Gods and Men?

As much as I like this film, I have not been champing at the bit to see it again...until I read your article. Now I'm itching to return for a second viewing. Hopefully, this week.

#55 Christian

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Posted 26 March 2011 - 05:42 PM

A friend referred me to a "Fresh Air" interview with one of the film's advisors. On that page, I read this, which surprised me (not spoilering the text because I think the outcome of the monks is well known):

The movie, which stars Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale, is based on the story of seven French monks who worked in a monastery in a rural Algerian village. In 1996, during the Algerian Civil War, they were kidnapped and later executed. Though the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria was officially held responsible for their murders, recent documents declassified by the French secret services indicate that the killings may have been a mistake on the part of the Algerian army during a rescue attempt.

#56 Crow

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 12:11 AM

I thought it was an excellent and thought-provoking film, a look at a group of monks living the Christian life in community among themselves and among their neighbors. We see these men wrestling honestly with the difficult choice of facing matyrdom, and wrestling with the consequences to their own calling, and with the relationships they have built within the town where they live. And the singing and the prayers of these men in their monastery are beautiful. This will surely find itself on the A&F Top 100 film list in the future.

#57 Overstreet

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 01:36 AM

So... why "Swan Lake"? Any thoughts?

And, did I miss something during that scene?
Spoiler


It's such a powerful scene - so much so that I think it's redeemed that music for me. (I worried that I'd always associate it with Black Swan.) But I found myself a little distracted watching it, wondering if I'd missed something.

#58 Overstreet

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 11:42 AM

I've posted a few thoughts on the film, or rather, on the audience that's likely to ignore it.

#59 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 07:53 PM

Overstreet wrote:
: It's such a powerful scene - so much so that I think it's redeemed that music for me. (I worried that I'd always associate it with Black Swan.)

I saw this movie at the local film festival, two days after seeing a Russian cartoon called The Ugly Duckling, which ALSO made prominent use of Swan Lake on its soundtrack, so for me the music will always be associated with those two films simultaneously. I didn't see Black Swan until I got the screener a couple months later.

#60 Overstreet

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 12:45 AM

Here's a paragraph from the Christianity Today review:

Spoiler


Um...

Okay, I get that this is an historical incident.

I get that a lot of people know the outcome of the situation.

But to me, this deserves a stronger term than "spoilers."

On the other hand, I guess they just saved a whole lot of people about ten bucks each.

I saw it with a close friend who had never heard about the incident. He had no idea how it was going to end. And I think the film was more impactful for him that way.

It certainly wouldn't have moved me as deeply if I'd read a description of the final scenes before I went in.

Sheesh.

Edited by Overstreet, 28 March 2011 - 12:54 AM.






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