It is rare to find a film about religion that manages to be true to its subject. It’s just as rare for such a film to avoid the trap of being sanctimonious. “Of Gods and Men”, or “Des Homes et Des Dieux” in its original French, manages not only to reach that precarious balance, but it does so in a way that leaves the viewers with many things to consider.
Based on a true story, “Of Gods and Men” is about a group of French monks, the protagonists of the film, who live in a monastery in North Africa. There are many beautiful moments in the film that display the friendship between the monks and the native villagers despite the differences in religion; the monks truly have made a home for themselves there and are considered an invaluable part of the community.
However, the monks need to make a difficult choice when foreign workers are killed by a terrorist group. Knowing that they could be an eventual target, the monks must decide whether or not to return to France for their own safety or to stay in the monastery, which could lead to their deaths. A touching moment arises when a village woman remarks that the monks are the branch and the villagers are the birds: Without these holy men, they don’t have any footing. After a vote, the monks all make the decision to stay, for they feel like their work isn’t done. There is something bigger than themselves that they must consider. Though the ending of the movie is not a happy one, the viewer is left with a strange sense of peace.