Friday, March 11, 2011

Of Gods and Men (France 2010)

Based on a true story. Under threat by fundamentalist terrorists, a group of Trappist monks stationed with an impoverished Algerian community must decide whether to leave or stay.

A significant film, but flawed.  The fatal shortcoming is the treatment of the Islamists as the dark other -  a real failure to deal with the complexities of Jihadism and the historical legacy of colonialism.  The actions of the insurgent leader Ali Fayattia are left hanging and this underdevelopment reinforces an exclusivist perspective.  Great performances by a wonderful cast though.

The film failed to connect with me emotionally. I found myself observing rather than participating. The spirituality is there, but Beauvois keeps you at a distance. The widescreen works well for the scenic images, but his long focus shots of the protagonists distance us from the drama and are too diffuse in their impact. The ‘last supper’ scene goes on too long and the sudden use of close-ups with the ‘alien’ music jar - the use of Tchaikovsky is a mis-step - it is imposed and unnecessary.