Monday, September 27, 2010

NYFF Spotlight: Of Gods and Men

I have the distinct pleasure this year of covering a few of the films that are being shown at the New York Film Festival. Most of these films do not yet have U.S. release dates, and therefore this can be considered a preview review.

Of Gods and Men
Directed by Xavier Beauvois
Remaining NYFF Public Screenings: September 27th at 9:00pm

This year's official Oscar submission from France for Best Foreign Language Film has a good shot right out of the gate, considering the fact that France has earned six nominations in the past ten years in the category. It just so happens that Xavier Beauvois' moving film based on the true story of monks in Algeria in the 1990s is deserving of comparison with such excellent films as “Amelie” and “A Prophet.” It's a film that centers on Brother Christian, a forward-thinking Christian monk who took a special interest in learning about Islam while his monastery provided health care and comfort to the local populace. Brother Christian's desire to understand the people served by his monastery is complicated by the threat of violent extremists seeking to exploit the resources of the monastery while terrorizing the monks and citizens. Beauvois and Etienne Comar do a remarkable job of adapting the story from various actual accounts of events, such as daily journals kept by the monks, and filling in the rest with a mix of extrapolations and outright fiction designed to enhance the effect of the film. Beauvois sees his film, like the work of Brother Christian, as a champion of the potential for religious pluralism and peaceful multicultural coexistence. What's most powerful about “Of Gods and Men” is the brilliant casting of the monks, led by the extremely skilled Lambert Wilson as Brother Christian, in a role that demands much patience and compassion of him, which he handles marvelously. As a team, the monks function wondrously, and their performances are affecting and ultimately heartbreaking. This is a film that deserves much praise for its complex themes and its impressive production values. It's a memorable movie with a lasting impact.


No comments: