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8.9.10

Of Men and Gods

This sounds like the next French film we really want to see in release in the United States, Des hommes et des dieux, the movie directed by Xavier Beauvois that won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It tells the true story of a group of French monks, established in a community in Algeria, who faced with the increasing intolerance of the populace decided not to abandon their mission there and were assassinated in May 1996. Reviews have appeared in all the major French dailies and weeklies, almost universally praising the film's nuanced and beautiful look at this part of recent history. Here is a snippet of a review ("Des hommes et des dieux", de la grâce et des larmes, September 7) by François-Guillaume Lorrain for Le Point (my translation):

The eight monks decide unanimously to stay. Their death will be a new birth revealing to them the ultimate meaning of their relationship with God. They are then ready for a last supper, a meal of powerful emotional force, during which they listen to Swan Lake, drink a glass of red wine, with the camera passing over their bare faces, aged, wrinkled, moving from joy to tears. An overwhelming scene, the climax of a final quarter-hour that will mark their souls. Throughout one is on clear footing, open-hearted, with these simple men.
Many of the Catholic dioceses of France are using screenings and discussions of the film to promote Catholic-Muslim dialogue in France, where it is badly needed. The film opens in French theaters today.

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