What compels a group of French Trappist monks to become modern-day martyrs in Algeria? Stupidity? Stubborn idealism? The answer that Of Gods and Men (Des hommes et des dieux) presents is similar to that presented by martyrs in the history – their love of God and their unwillingness to abandon the people.
The monks lived in harmony with the Muslim population in the village – with one of them acting as the village doctor, and the rest working with the locals to grow foodstock and manage their honey production. The situation was disturbed when a group of militant Muslims approached the village and started killing the people, including foreigners. Although the monks contemplated leaving the monastery, at the end they realised that their lives were there and that they should not leave the villagers astray. Although initially the felt like “birds on a branch”, the villagers convinced them that they were the birds and that the monastery and the monks were the branch that held them together.
Of Gods and Men is a powerful movie that left me speechless as I left the cinema – it’s quite rare thesedays to find a movie that impacts me emotionally. Yes, there are a lot of good movies that would make me babble about it, but to find one that makes me stop and continuously ponder, is a rare occasion indeed. The movie is based on a true story of the assasination of seven monks in 1996; it’s still unclear who killed them – the terrorists or the government who bungled the rescue operation.
The movie is France’s official entry for the 2011 Academy Awards and I can see why – it is powerful and beautiful in its simplicity. Although a sense of dread and fear permeates through the movie, it is the monks’ faith and love that makes this movie so thought-provoking and impactful. When the leader of the monks, Brother Christian (Lambert Wilson) conducted a vote whether the monks would leave or not, all of them opted to stay – one said this beautiful statement, “No servant is greater than his master” (taken from John 15:20). In other words, because they give their lives to God, they have no other choice than just to continue their work and as Jesus himself was persecuted, they should also accept persecution.
It makes me think as well whether I do have the courage to stay if I were faced with that situation. Would I opt to leave the people to return to the comfort of ‘home’, even when I know that I would be risking myself? Would I question my faith in God? In one of the scenes, one of the monks read a passage from Matthew 10 which contains this line in verse 39, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” This movie is a beautiful example of this verse. Although one may think that their death is in vain, the movie has ensured that their story of love and faith will live on.
In a climate where faith is seen as irrelevant and Christianity is considered to be a fair game for mockery, it’s good to see something different. Rather than hearing stories about abusing priests, it is refreshing to know that there are those who genuinely serve the people around them, out of their love for the people and their obedience to God.
You should see this movie.