Film: Of Gods and Men

As it seems to be open season in the media for challenging Christianity (not a bad thing I hasten to add), I was intrigued by Of Gods and Men and the critical praise it had received. Saw it last week at the QFT and came away with plenty to think about. It is the true story of a monastery of Trappist monks in Algeria in the mid nineties. They continue to minister to the local villagers in simple, practical ways…even while under violent threat from Islamist terrorists, and an insecure corrupt Government. The film follows the monks’ daily routines slowly and painstakingly, following each members’ journey towards making the decision whether or not to flee the region.

Peace is genuinely never given a chance
The leader of the Monastery challenges the leader of an armed gang in a tense encounter on Christmas Eve, calling into question their language and behaviour. There is no retaliation from the gang…just a stunned, albeit uneasy, truce, which results in the Monastery and village being left in peace.

In places of worship are we scared of each other’s voices?
Central to the film is the wonderful music. When I say music there is no score, just the daily chanting of the Monks as they carry out their duties. I believe there is comforting, reassuring beauty and solidarity in being surrounded by other voices in unison. There was no individual beauty in their voices..but there was such feeling there. In our mainstream Evangelical culture we have chosen to drown singing out with trend-chasing rock band arrangements. If the bombs come…we can’t wait for the band to kick in first.

Joy is found and wisdom revealed in the everyday
The monks each came to their decision while undertaking life’s daily grind. This was one of the most un-“Hollywood” films I have seen. It unfolded at its own pace, with very limited dialogue, as God seemed to reveal himself through the mundane details of every day.

It’s worth trying to catch this in the cinema, where you can let its rhythm and mood fully draw you in. A masterpiece.

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About Jonny
Brought up in Ards, currently residing in East Belfast. Married to Lisa. We also have a dog and a cat.

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