Boy oh boy, did this 2010 French film make me feel shallow! Of Gods and Men, directed by Xavier Beauvois, was, after all, the winner of the Grand Prize, or possibly Prix, at the Cannes Film Festival. The Wall Street Journal said it was “sublime.” Time magazine said it was “a luminous tale of faith and heroism.” Leonard Maltin said it was an oversight that it didn’t win the Oscar.
And all of that is true. The film is a beautifully acted, beautifully filmed, deeply intelligent evocation of the triumph of the human spirit over fear and hatred.
But it’s also really, really slow. Really. Slooooow.
After about an hour of it, I found myself thinking, “Wow, this is a luminous tale of faith and heroism. I wish it were over now.”
Based on a true story, the movie tells of a community of Trappist monks who serve and love an impoverished Muslim village in the Algeria of the 1990’s. Then there is an uprising of brutally murderous Islamists who, as we all know, can be almost as dangerous as right wing bloggers. The monks have to decide whether to high-tail it out of there or stick to their post and face near certain death. And they do decide. Slowly.
There are some absolutely amazing scenes. Amazing, slow scenes. Like the one where the camera simply travels over the monks’ faces as they sit at dinner and we can read in each man’s expression the outcome of his struggle with fear and faith. “Man,” I remember thinking, “that was a brilliant scene. I wonder if Craig Ferguson is on.”
Okay. I’m being shamelessly snarky. And the reader should know that many people whose opinions I respect really liked this movie. And I really admired and appreciated it and thought it very deep and richly textured. But I would have enjoyed it a lot more if there’d been, like, a monk car chase or something. Or anything. Because – have I mentioned this? – it’s really slow.