REVIEW: Of Gods and Men

5 10 2011

For the record, I don’t hate understated movies.  I love a movie that can say a lot without actually saying much at all.  I can appreciate when the mood or the atmosphere tells the story instead of a 200-page script.

But “Of Gods and Men” is that kind of understated that can really rub me the wrong way.  It’s the kind of movie I can only admire because of the overarching thematic content that deals with keeping faith in a higher power amidst the most crushing worldly forces.  It is painfully deliberative, so slow that it feels like a ten-hour mini-series with the plot arc of a short film.

It gives zero character development save for their de facto leader, the aptly named Christian, choosing to follow them as a uniform group.  Yes, monks and all believers view themselves as one in the body of Christ, I know.  But just for the sake of the narrative, couldn’t director Xavier Beauvois have done something to distinguish each of them?  It’s a crummy feeling to get to the end of a movie and only feel a connection to one person when you are supposed to feel connected to the whole group.

I do think the journey of these Algerian monks is fascinating, and their tenaciously peaceful resistance to the encroaching Muslim population is truly a divine act.  I just wish I didn’t have to see them gardening so much.  The movie may be a good watch if for nothing other than one fantastic scene where the monks silently reaffirm their commitment to the community and to each other to the tune of the “Swan Lake” theme.  It’s a well-executed and moving moment in a movie that otherwise does very little movement at all.  B- /