Xavier Beauvois’ Of Gods And Men, which won the Grand Prix prize at Cannes this year, is based on the true story of a community of monks in northern Africa, caught in the midst of a dangerous conflict between the country’s government and radical Islamists. It is a mature, compassionate tale and one of the most impressive films I have seen in a long time.
Beauvois’ stable camera and patient editing echoes the serenity of the monastery itself: the first twenty minutes consists simply of images, eloquently inviting us into the world of the drama, introducing us to the daily lives of each of the monks in turn. One of them looks like Kevin Spacey.
It’s a treat to watch cinema that feels so unhurried and contemplative yet never comes close to trying the audience’s patience. As doubts and tensions are gradually introduced the film’s power grows – until, by the end, I was utterly transfixed.
The cast is uniformly faultless, offering the kind of non-showy, natural acting that makes you forget you’re watching acting at all. And there’s a mesmeric quality to the way Beauvois punctuates his tense set pieces and scenes of considered debate with the soothing chanting of the monks, allowing the audience space to think and feel.
Serious, relevant and moving, this film had me sitting in my seat, lost in its spell, all through the credits until the cinema lights came back on. See it if you can.
Further thoughts on Of Gods And Men here