Recounting the tragedy that befell seven Trappist monks during Algerian Civil War of the mid-nineties, Of Gods and Men is a pensive and stern meditation on the nature of religious faith. When they’re thrown into the middle of the political strife, the men are provided with the ultimate challenge of their calling.
There are talking points within that are hinted at but remain for the most part uninvestigated – the nature of the war itself, the relationships between the Christians and Muslims, the legacy of colonialism – instead focusing almost constantly on the impending crisis of spirituality.
At times this film, with its repeated scenes of hymnal refrains and daily chores, is overly ponderous, though one could argue that its glacial pace serves to accentuate the mundane routines of much of religious life. However its intense climactic scene, powerfully sound-tracked by the frantic minor scales of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is worth the wait.
Words: Ian Lamont