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In 1996, in Algeria, eight French monks of The Monastery Notre-Dame de l'Atlas of Tibhirine have a simple life serving the poor community that was raised around the monastery. During the Algerian Civil War, they are threatened by terrorists but they decide to stay in the country and not return to France.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When Luc leans against the painting, his face and left hand touch it noticeably higher in the close-up than during the preceding shot. See more »
We are martyrs out of love, out of fidelity. If death overtake us, despite ourselves, because up to the end, up to the end we'll try to avoid it. Our mission here is to be brothers to all. Remember that love is eternal hope. Love endures everything.
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Very slow paced at times, but very well observed and acted
The other day I watched the film Compliance, which tells a true story in the form of a drama. I didn't find much in the film and wondered why it added nothing to the events other than showing them. I mention this because the opposite is true with Of Gods and Men. Here we have a true story told but done in a way that adds to the characters, engages the viewer and has room for thought. The priests of the story struggle with whether or not to leave their monastery in Algeria once it becomes very dangerous due to the actions of fundamentalists in the region. This is the majority of the film in a nutshell and as such it is perhaps not a film that could stand a mass audience.
I don't say this in a condescending way, but just that the film is probably too slow for the casual viewer – not that others "won't get it" or any such nonsense as that. I liked the film but even for me there were times where it lingered too long or spent too long showing us certain aspects of life in the monastery. It did feel longer than 2 hours and I think this is mostly down to the fact that the whole film has a very slow pace and very gentle delivery. The upside of this is that it does have more emotional impact as a result – because the characters are clearer, we understand their minds and I enjoyed that I was able to see their struggle and also understand the reasons for their decisions because I had seen the role they played.
The film matches the slow pace with some beautiful shots; visually it is a very still film and it does feel at times that it is like a great painting, with the use of light and atmosphere. The performances are where the film delivers best though. Everyone is strong and seems to have understood their characters very well because they are convincing and engaging. The ballet music meal towards the end of the film is the best example but there are plenty of equally strong and expressive moments throughout.
It is a slow film and even though I liked it, I did still struggle with the glacial pace at times. It rewards and satisfies at the same time, but a few times you do need to stick with it while it unfolds slowly.
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