Friday, July 15, 2011

Haunting movie

What makes a film great?  My simple answer involves the extent to which it haunts me long after I have seen it.  Perhaps this is why I do not watch them a second time. I have just seen Of Gods and Men and it is going on my list of great ones.  The link takes you to reviews (mostly very positive) and more description of what is involved. 

It is based on  a true story of a small group of French Trappist monks living and working by a small Algerian village during the 1990s civil war.  One of the monks is the locals' only source of basic medical care.  The monks are caught between jihadist terrorists, a corrupt Algerian government (and army), their loyalties to the villagers who are also terrorized and the monks' understanding of their own vows.  Several Europeans in the area were just murdered.  Should the monks stay or go?

First, this is not about a "clash of civilizations."  The Algerian side has many expressions and even the small group of monks cannot easily converge to a single view or understanding.  Good acting, music, photography and all that.  But what is best about the film is the depiction of the agonies of conscience and faith experienced by each of the conflicted monks.  The viewer grasps and experinces these without a the benefit of lot of dialog.

We see and read news clippings about tragedy and devastation in Afganistan, Iraq, Lybia, Pakistan and many other places in that region on a daily basis.  These conflicts are a big part of our times and this film does take us to a corner of that world.