Thursday, May 26, 2011

A late May evening at the movies - Of Gods and Men

As I sat in the theatre last evening, I lost track of time and space and felt as if I were in a little Algerian village. Though there was poverty and illness, there was an almost idyllic quality of life. Christian monks, of the Order of the Cistercians, better known as Trappists, and Muslim people existed together in peace. Both groups participated in the market, the monks bringing honey from their bees. The Christian doctor ministered to his Muslim patients with great love and care. When there was a special Muslim occasion, the monks were all invited, and were clearly very moved by the ceremony.

We see a young girl seeking innocent romantic advice from this old monk. She asks if he has been in love, and he said, yes, many times but it was sixty years ago, and then he found the greatest love of all.

There's a scene that is almost painful in its everyday normalcy where the monks' car has broken down and several Muslim women walking the road stop. They banter like old friends, and then go their separate ways.

The landscape is amazing. The town is full of steps connecting the different levels. There are wide empty spaces outside of town. In one scene we see two monks building a wall, and one of them just forgets the work as he stares off into the vast, beautiful countryside. I learned after the movie that it was filmed in Morocco, but my guess is that the feeling of the land is the same.

This film is based on a true story which occurred in the 1990s during the Algerian civil war. Suddenly, startlingly some people are brutally murdered. They were Croatian workers, killed in an anti-foreigner rampage. Now it is clear that the monks are in danger if they stay. They talk and pray about it. Do they leave their calling, or do they stay and risk death? This is the underlying question of the movie but the viewer almost forgets as the monks go about their quotidian routines.

This is not a fast-paced movie. The viewer becomes almost a participant in the monastic life. When the monks chant, the filmmaker shows the whole thing, not a little fragment. There is stillness as a monk loads wood onto a cart. We feel we are observers of something sacred and we are changed by our being amongst these quiet believers in this truly wonderful film.

Before I show you the trailer, I want to share some words of Mary Oliver which I read just this week.
You have to be in the world to understand what the spiritual is about, and you have to be spiritual in order to truly be able to accept what the world is about.


  1. Nan,
    It amazes me how the things that you choose to review and write about are things that are close to my heart.
    We actually have a monastery here in Rockdale County, Georgia and it is such an AMAZING place. Built in the 40's by the monks themselves, it is a place of great beauty and serenity.
    I know that I would love to see this movie and I thank you for the review.

    Peace! Kay

  2. Oh, Kay isn't that wonderful. I've never visited a monastery but would like to do so. You will love this movie, I'm quite sure.

  3. Your words and the trailer are compelling, Nan. These foreign films do not always get the attention they deserve. I, too, would love to see this and will be on the lookout (or rent it). Thank you.

  4. Penny, I hope you can see it. Such a fine film.

  5. Beautiful review and beautiful post Nan!
    This movie would be something I would love to watch although it must be heart-breaking.
    Peace and Unity together work in perfect harmony!
    Your photos are once again fabulous!
    Just recently my daughter watched a movie online and then mentioned it to me, highly recommending it and said that I would love it!
    Now I see that you just recommended it...
    Another Year, which I promptly placed a hold on at my library!
    Thanks or sharing!
    P.S. I just watched another movie recently through tears.
    If you like The Sound of Music, you will love touching:
    Sounds of Mumbai (

  6. Joanne, how nice to hear from you! It is a wonderful film. Thanks for the Mumbai recommendation.

  7. I will certainly get the DVD to share amongst the family, I will probably weep throughout the whole thing, but good tears.
    Have you seen a film called (I think), The Great Silence? It is about monastic life in France, a very special experience, very quiet, less of the world than Of Gods and Men, but I think Mary O. would still like it.

  8. The film I mentioned in a previous post is actually called, 'Into Great Silence', not as previously stated!

  9. It sounds like a movie I would like. I like movies that bring you into the real lives of people that live so differently than I do. I find the mundane ordinary things are often the most extraordinary.
    To answer your questions, yes those were buttercups and we went up as far as Portland. ME. We breakfasted at the IHOP in South Portland. If you are ever in that area you would not be disappointed by breakfast there.

  10. Carole, I have seen Into Great Silence, and I remember it as being slow and quiet. I'll be interested to hear what you think of this one.

    Hip Chick, it is very moving and wonderful.


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