I'm not going to argue that there's no way Of Gods and Men
could be better, or that you can't pick out bits to criticize as "flat" -- though I think even the "flatter" bits often serve the material well, particularly when the director has reason to wish to be as unobtrusive and invisible as possible. (Certainly we wouldn't want DePalmaesque camera movements in the opening chant scene, for instance. And I don't mean to pick on Christian's use of the word "dynamic," but are you really saying that, say, Ozu's stationary camera and fixed point of view hurts his films? I suspect not, but I don't know what "dynamic" means except "moving.")
FWIW, Andrew O'Hehir refers to Of Gods
' "austere but spectacular visual language." Andrew Schenker in Slant sketches some quick strokes: "Through a series of austerely lit fixed takes and slow, methodical pans, Beauvois evokes the daily life of the monks and the vast sweep of the valley landscape, while with a slightly livelier camera he gives us a sense of the mutually beneficial encounters between Christian and Muslim." That's exactly what I remember, and in the main how I think it should be.
I don't think it's right to call Of Gods
"a 'plain' film with a powerful message." I don't think its power is solely in its "message," for one thing, as if we were talking about a "message" film like Courageous
. I think it is a powerful work of art -- a powerful drama with a powerful exploration of humanity, of characters, of ambiguity and conflict, of the no-man's-land between high ideals and hard realities, of truth and goodness and beauty. And I think that its visual approach is a key part of its power.
The response I've seen in receptive viewers to Of Gods
is akin to a new clarity of self-knowledge. I've seen Christians and non-Christians come away shattered, conscious of their eyes being newly opened to who they are, to what life is all about. It's not simply an assent to a message. It's a transformative encounter with a vision of life, made possible through art.
Edited by SDG, 28 February 2012 - 10:05 AM.