This is a beautiful film, and a great one. It’s filled with gorgeous imagery (such as the one above), but it is also beautifully written and acted. It is not surprisingly a deeply spiritual film, and it certainly helps to have an understanding of Christianity, because the film seemed highly allegorical to me. But even without that, the film can be appreciated. If you only had a passing description of it, it may seem like something that would be a dull film, but acts early in the film put the Trappist monks in jeopardy and provides conflict and high tension throughout the film.
Speaking of allegory, what I noted was:
- the main character being named Christian / Christ. (Interesting the character Luc was a physician, and Saint Luke is the patron saint of physicians.)
- the Last Supper towards the end of the film
- the army being the Romans and the terrorists being the Pharisees
- the moment when Christian is in the garden in anguish reminded me of Christ in Gethsemane
I wasn’t paying attention to that so much at first, but towards the end, I noticed it more. I mention it here because being aware of this earlier may help you pick up things that I missed.
The film ends in an ambiguous way. I didn’t appreciate this until later, when I found there was uncertainty over the fate of the monks as well.
Very highly recommended.
A minor note: Lambert Wilson plays Christian in this film and can be said to represent Christ (to some degree). In the second and third Matrix films, he plays the Merovingian, who can be said to symbolize the devil in that film. Indeed, the actor comes across very differently in each film, and it took me some time looking at him in this film before I made the connection.
For a good review of the film, see ‘Of Gods and Men,’ a True Story of Monks in Algeria by A.O. Scott in the NYTimes.com