This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Of Gods and Men

I've been watching a lot of Leonard Maltin's "Off-Hollywood" movies. These are generally Maltin's five movies to watch for (each month) that aren't necessarily the big movie hits that come out of Hollywood.

This will have **SPOILERS** so you may want to watch the movie and come back and read my post to compare notes.

Of Gods and Men is a French movie that really moved me. Not being a religious person, I was more curious about why this movie was a winner of so many awards (except in the US where we make sure our films are sappy and commercial).

It is loosely (maybe tightly) based on a real life incident from 1996. But the gist of this movie is wonderful as it's about christians (the Trappist Monks that this movie is mainly about) living with, caring for, and befriending rural Muslims in Algeria. The movie depicts the lives of the monks intermingled with the lives of the Muslims.

They join their Muslim traditions and then go back and do their daily life of prayer. There is no biases, no condescension, no 'sell-our-religion-because-it's-better' from both sides. Everyone lived in harmony being who they were.

Until Islamic terrorists and the government of Algeria clash and start impeding into the rural area where the Muslims and the monks have lived in harmony. At one point, the lead Islamic terrorist dude and his posse invade the monastery and demand medical attention for one of their soldiers, further from the monastery. The chosen leader of the monastery, Christian, stands up firmly with a no way, Jose. Our doctor stays, our medicine stays. We see the people of this village - they come to us. You can bring your sick to us.

Amazingly, the terrorists leave, with the monks unharmed. Eventually, they return with their wounded soldier.

But the Algerian government, along with the French government, plead with the monks to leave because they are in grave danger. The crux of this movie is just wonderful in that, these men of faith battle with their own dilemma of staying and risk their lives, or leaving to the safe housing of another monastery with their lives. Christian never wavers - his intention is to stay with these people. There is never the thought that God will protect them; that their status as monks will save them from harm. He knows that staying will be risking his life, and the lives of the other monks.

Through most of the movie, the decision "do I stay or do I go" continues amongst the monks. Eventually, all come together to stay. And eventually, the Islamic terrorists, minus the lead terror dude that Christian encountered earlier, comes and takes all of the monks except for one, who successfully hid from the kidnappings.

The movie ends with the monks being led into the woods by the terrorists. We know what happens and if you read about the real incident, where the monks are killed. By who is unclear - the kidnappers? Or the Algerian Army in a failed attempt to save them. Regardless, it's a heartbreaking end.

I love the quote (by Blaise Pascal) that showed up at the end of the movie:
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. 

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