There is only one place to watch non-mainstream movies around here, about an hour away in Cleveland, at the Cedar Lee theater. I have ventured there only once in the fifteen years I have been married. I don’t even remember what film I saw, only that I was disappointed and considered it a waste of time and money to have ventured so far.
But on Wednesday of Bright Week I took my two oldest boys to Cleveland to see Of Gods and Men, the trailer of which I had posted here a couple of weeks ago.
The film is based on the true story of a community of French Cistercian monks in North Africa who had been killed (apparently) by Islamist militants ten years or so ago.
I had read only positive reviews of the movie, which always bodes well, and it was no disappointment. Indeed, Of Gods and Men is a welcome addition to my (small) canon of films which approach the subject of faith and prayer directly, and the first whose subject is Roman Catholic faith. (The others are Ostrov (Russian Orthodox), Ushpizin (Hasidic Jewish), The Color of Paradise (Shia Muslim), and Tender Mercies (Texan Baptist)).
Of Gods and Men is an altogether beautiful meditation on faith, vocation, and Christian love.
The monks live amongst the local Muslims, and in a departure from the purely contemplative Trappist tradition with which we are familiar in this country, live a life of prayer as well as service to their neighbors: one of the monks is a physician, who freely treats the villagers, and the monks participate in the life of the village.
The film captures the rhythms of monastic life, the prayer, the chant, the work. The peace of their lives is broken only occasionally, and sometimes brutally, by the intrusion of “the World”.
In time they are trapped between their vocation, the nascent Islamist militancy, the corrupt military government, and their own fears. These are not holy card saints, and they wrestle, some more than others, with their discipleship and a very human hesitation in the face of death.
I won’t give away more, only tell you that it is in every way a very good idea that you make every effort to see this film, even if you have to wait to see it on DVD.
It was certainly worth a trip to Cleveland, even if my teenagers really didn’t get it. Sometimes I wonder if they were crossing their baby fingers when they were baptized.