I just finished watching Of Gods and Men, which is a profoundly moving spiritual film that nourishes the soul with its powerful gospel message. Of Gods and Men is based on an event in Algeria in 1996, when eight French Cistercian monks were taken hostage by terrorists. They live peacefully in a Muslim community, caring for the sick and the poor, and employing some of their neighbors as workers. Brother Luc is the aging, asthmatic doctor who cares for the sick and gives them “grandfatherly” advice.
Most of the film is focused on the daily activities of the monks: community prayer, gardening, cooking, making honey, sharing meals together, and helping their neighbors. There is a revolution in the land and terrorism abounds – a group of Croatian workers have their throats slit. The monks are offered military protection, but they refuse assistance from a corrupt government. The Algerian government then asks the monks to leave, and they must decide what to do both individually and as a community. The group is initially split – some express fear, confusion, uncertainty, and the desire to leave, while others believe their work is here and that they are called to stay. One of the monks suggests that they should pray about their decision, which is also what Brother Christian, the prior, encourages them to do.
In the meantime, the terrorists pay the monks a visit on Christmas Eve, demanding that they provide medical care to a wounded comrade. Brother Christian refuses, quoting the Koran to their leader. Christian also tells him that this night is not like any other night – it is Christ’s birthday. The leader apologizes and the terrorists leave peacefully.
I won’t divulge what happens later in the film, but will share that this film brought much joy and peace to my heart. It is a contemplative experience captured on film, much like Into Great Silence, but this time, the filmmaker delves even deeper into the minds, hearts, and souls of the monks whose lives he recreates so appealingly on film. This is truly a masterpiece and a must-see movie.