Of Gods and Men is an account of life in an Algerian monastery in the mid-1990s as the monks face a threat of violence from Islamic fundamentalists in a peaceful corner of the Atlas Mountains.
The film traces the mental and emotional journey the monks make as they struggle to decide whether to stay in this dangerous place that they have been called to serve or whether they should return to France.In the end they stay.
The film is based on a true story ,is beautifully acted and at times very emotional, particularly when the monks (as danger intensifies) eat and drink wine together as they listen to the haunting music from Swan Lake.A last supper together.
I am not a film critic so I just want to offer a few reflections on the film
- Faith is often joyful but it is always a serious business- These men were disciples,followers, they were concious that they were people under orders and those orders affected their decisions They were afraid but they obeyed at great cost.
- The idea of authentic community (in this case brotherhood) came across powerfully in the film.These people lived together ,got on each others nerves at times,they worshipped together ,prayed together ,broke bread together and the strong sense of Christian community gave them strength to serve and eventually to suffer together
- They were all committed to their mission to the poor and needy ,they identified strongly with those they were called to serve,and they would serve anyone in any way they felt called to do
- The film also portrayed the agonising decisions some leaders have to make as we see The Abbott initially trying to make decisions on his own,and then he starts to speak to each of the monks in turn and out of the conversation comes a deeper trust and a unanimous decision to stay
- As we see The Abbot take this emotional journey we see the immense responsibility he feels and the courage he shows It is also striking that who he is is much more important than what he says. A lesson,perhaps, for all Christian leaders.