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Of Gods and Men(2010)
Under threat by fundamentalist terrorists, a group of Trappist monks stationed with an impoverished Algerian community must decide whether to leave or stay.
For more about Of Gods and Men and the Of Gods and Men Blu-ray release, see Of Gods and Men Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 27, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, Olivier Rabourdin
Director: Xavier Beauvois
» See full cast & crew
Of Gods and Men Blu-ray Review
Heavenly picture quality supports a potent yet modestly-constructed Drama.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 27, 2011
To leave is to die.
Fear and faith. Two wildly different elements, yet so inseparable are they in defining most every man's very essence. What is faith if it is not the ultimate tool in standing up to fear? What is man if not a creature influenced by fears but reassured by his faith? What is the world if not a constant struggle between the fear of the unknown and the faith in the existence of a greater counter to fear? Both fear and faith are invisible humanly attributes manifested through partnerships with external, tangible elements and unseen yet equally potent symbols alike, one challenging the other for a man's very soul, each vying to take him in opposite directions, either to greater personal heights or lower levels of despair. If fear grips the heart, then faith releases it. Faith may be the single greatest tool man may wield in the battle for his very place in and understanding of the world -- and that in which he may later exist -- guiding him through a metaphorical minefield of fear, for even if fear may conquer in the physical, it's man's faith that allows him to understand beyond the limitations placed on him by his corporeal existence and trust that there's a greater good at work, a master plan in which he plays a critical part he may or may not fully, or at all, understand. Of Gods and Men is the tale of nine men who must collectively choose to stand up to fear through their faith or abandon all they believe in the name of physical security. Their decision will either define or destroy all they've forever held dear in faith.
In mid-1990s Algeria, nine Christian Trappist monks exist peacefully alongside their Muslim neighbors. The Christian's lives are defined by their faith; they are men of God who live modestly and provide for their own needs while doing all they can to further relations with and enrich the lives of their neighbors. The group is led by Christian (Lambert Wilson), a man whose faith will be challenged when a wave of violence against Croatian workers is carried out by terrorists who later demand medical supplies and the assistance of the monk's resident physician Luc (Michael Lonsdale) to tend to their wounded. Christian refuses, leading the men to question their continued stay in the increasingly violent Algerian countryside. As they continue to carry out their works and reflect on their faith, the men must collectively choose to remain and continue on with the lives God has laid before them or flee from the evils of the world, even as their faith promises to protect them well beyond their physical existence.
Of Gods and Men is an impeccably-crafted masterpiece of filmmaking that's a showcase for quality storytelling accomplished through minimal effort. The picture's theme of faith versus fear is succinctly conveyed, and it's done so by means of simply existing alongside its characters, the camera acting more as an interested yet wholly detached observer more so than some active, kinetic part of the story. Of Gods and Men is an effortlessly refined example of the subtle and subdued, the picture in no way overly dramatized but instead allowing for the basic elements to take shape with the passage of time and the slowly unfolding plot that's free of even a hint of superfluousness that might take away from the critical elements that shape the film's purpose. Even the characters become more like souls than people; while there may be little distinction between the two, Of Gods and Men foregoes traditional character development in favor of simply focusing on what it is that drives the men to make the choices they make and speak the words they speak, for it's the whys by which they choose rather than the hows by which they live that matters most to the greater story. The film is a work of contemplative cinematic art; it's smartly reserved yet highly capable not as a form of raw entertainment but instead as a means of demonstrating the power of faith in the face of fear. Whether audiences choose to side with the men's choice of faith over fear in no way effects the picture's beautifully simple structure that aims only to allow a story to be told rather than indulge in cinematic contrivance to alter one's perception of it.
Still, one cannot deny the quality of the presentation, even if it decidedly and necessarily takes a backseat to the greater story and themes. That the picture is so visually reserved yet remains so ultimately engrossing is a testament to Director Xavier Beauvois's understanding of the meshing of structure and storytelling within the medium of cinema. He gracefully captures the lives of the monks as they go about their daily routines, living through their faith without resorting to sweeping cinematic generalities or using "tricks of the trade" to in some way deceive the viewer into focusing on other than what matters in the movie. The camera is often stationary, allowing audiences to fully absorb the men's rituals and more fully understand that which shapes their decision to live by faith even as that faith is challenged by the most potentially destructive of external influences: death. Nevertheless, the film is often breathlessly beautiful, a testament to the power of dramatic cinema done this well with this level of command over the medium combined with a tale worthy of the finest in moviemaking. The acting is uniformly excellent, too, even as the characters exist on a level where the unseen actions of their souls take precedence over their more visually obvious movements. This is a complete picture, one that's been painstakingly assembled yet showing no signs at all of effort; the film is a showcase for both an important story and the power of absorbing cinema.
Of Gods and Men Blu-ray, Video Quality
From the first shots forward, it's clear that Of Gods and Men's 1080p Blu-ray transfer will be one of the finest around. The image is pristine from start to finish. It's incredibly crisp and beautifully filmic, accentuated by a perfectly-preserved layer of grain. Clarity is striking and detailing is faultless; the image is sharp from top to bottom and front to back, with even distant objects maintaining perfect form. Closer elements -- facial and clothing textures, leaves on trees, brick and stone façades -- are perfectly rendered. Colors are stable and natural, whether the greens and earthy hues as seen in many exterior shots or the more subdued shades of blue and gray seen inside. Black levels are tremendous, exhibiting no signs of crush and never appearing at all washed out. Flesh tones, too, remain neutral throughout. The transfer is free of any common problems such as banding, edge enhancement, or blocking. In short, this is a perfect transfer from Sony.
Of Gods and Men Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Of Gods and Men features a highly competent French-language DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The presentation is generally reserved but effectively so; natural ambience is finely integrated, whether gently falling rain, distant ringing bells, or the din as heard in the background at an outdoor market. What music there is -- notably a selection from Swan Lake -- is nicely spacious and perfectly crisp. Dialogue is middle-focused and always the center of attention, and various religious chants and songs are nicely reproduced. The track enjoys a few heavier effects, too. A string of gunshots adds to the chaos and horror in one scene. Rumbly heavy machinery injects a potent low into the proceedings early on, as do the heavy thumps of helicopter rotors later in the movie. The track is very well balanced and while it might not be the first choice to demo that high-dollar sound system, listeners will nevertheless be more than satisfied with the track's faithfulness to the source and ability to play on both ends of the spectrum with equal ease.
Of Gods and Men Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The only weak spot in this release is in the absence of a greater supplemental presentation. As it is, Of Gods and Men features a couple of quality pieces that will aid viewers in better understanding the real-life events that inspired the film.
Of Gods and Men Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Of Gods and Men is a testament to both the strengths of human faith and the power of focused and dramatic cinema. This is far from a traditional motion picture in terms of both story and structure, but Director Xavier Beauvois has crafted an enthralling and altogether potent film that should be recognized as the champion of story over style. Few films are as riveting as this, and Beauvois has created a masterpiece with nary any help from the more traditional cinematic elements that serve to entertain rather than absorb. Everything is present in just the right quantities, and that includes the exclusion of any and all superfluous elements that would only interfere with the story's themes. It's sometimes a difficult picture to watch, one that's far more emotionally challenging than most to be sure, but it's nevertheless one of the more rewarding experiences one is likely to have in front of a work of art. Sony's Blu-ray is itself a thing to behold. Pristine 1080p imagery, near faultless lossless sound, and a few extras make this a release that demands to be part of every serious Blu-ray collection. Highly recommended.
Of Gods and Men Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Of Gods and Men Blu-ray (Updated) - May 25, 2011
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment are set to release on Blu-ray Xavier Beauvois' Des hommes et des dieux a.k.a Of Gods and Men (2010). Last year, the film won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Cannes Film Festival and was selected to represent France in the ...
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