Saturday, May 21, 2011

Des hommes et des dieux / Of Gods and Men

Jumalista ja ihmisistä / Gudar och människor. FR © 2010 Armada Films / Why Not Productions / France 3 Cinéma. P: Pascal Caucheteux, Étienne Comar. D: Xavier Beauvois. SC: Étienne Comar - dialogue adaptation: Xavier Beauvois. DP: Caroline Champetier - post-production numérique: Éclair. PD: Michel Barthélémy. Make-up: Pierre Olivier Persin. S: Loïc Prian. ED: Marie-Julie Maille. Casting: Brigitte Moidon. LOC: the monastery of Toumliline (Morocco). CAST: THE NINE MONKS: Lambert Wilson (Christian), Michael Lonsdale (Luc), Olivier Rabourdin (Christophe), Philippe Laudenbach (Célestin), Jacques Herlin (Amédée), Loïc Pichon (Jean-Pierre), Xavier Maly (Michel), Jean-Marie Frin (Paul), Olivier Perrier (Bruno). AND: Abdelhafid Metalsi (Nouredine), Sabrina Ouazani (Rabbia), Abdellah Moundy (Omar), Farid Larbi (Ali Fayattia), Adel Bencherif (le terroriste). 125 min. A Cinema Mondo release with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Liina Rajala / Joanna Erkkilä. 35 mm print viewed at Kino Engel 1, Helsinki, 21 May 2011

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Aaton Penelope, Zeiss Standard Lenses. Laboratory: Laboratoires Éclair, Paris, France. Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Vision2 500T 5218) (2-perf). Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (master format), Techniscope (source format). Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic). Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

IMDb synopsis: "Under threat by fundamentalist terrorists, a group of Trappist monks stationed with an impoverished Algerian community must decide whether to leave or stay." From the English Wikipedia synopsis: "It centers on the monastery of Tibhirine, where nine Trappist monks lived in harmony with the largely Muslim population of Algeria, until seven of them were kidnapped and assassinated in 1996 during the Algerian Civil War."

A strong religious film, a strong Christian film. Serving God means serving people, helping them even when the social structure has broken down, and there can be no safety from violent terrorists.

A turning-point is when the terrorists invade the monastery and Christian does not give up to a single one of their demands but shows respect to their religion. Another turning-point is when the monks say they are like birds but the villagers say no, they are the birds, and the monks are the branch that gives them some safety. A third turning-point is when the monks contemplate leaving the monastery for safety, but Christian states that they have already given up life when they have taken the oath.

A point of comparison would be John Ford's final film Seven Women (1966), about missionaries in China in 1935 attacked by a Mongolian warlord with his cut-throat gang.

During their last supper the monks listen to the Black Swan theme from Tchaikovsky's The Swan Lake, a theme whose cinematic associations run from Bela Lugosi's Dracula to the current Darren Aronofsky movie.

Based on a true story, this is a film about courage as the strength of the spirit, without hate. It is also about the mutual respect between people of different religions.

Shot on 35 mm film by a talented cinematographer. In the [apparently 2K] digital intermediate no harm is done to the stone walls of the monastery and the close-ups of faces, but in the nature footage the juicy detail is lost.

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