I admit, I am by no stretch of the imagination a religious person. Quite the opposite, to be honest. That doesn't mean I do not respect other people's beliefs, as long as I'm paid the same respect. It's easy to see that faith can create extraordinary things, such as at cathedrals and churches for example. Faith can make human being go beyond the reasonable.
'Of Gods and Men' is the story of a monastery in the Algerian countryside during the Algerian civil war in the mid 90s, where the monks got brutally murdered. It is a true story. It's a shame the movie, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes festival, along with quite a few other accolades, is not better known outside of France. And it's a shame the event, as well as the historical context are also barely known (outside of France at least).
Yes, you may not have heard about it, but there was a civil war in Algeria in the mid 90s. It's been talked about very little around the world, even in France, in fact the events at Tibhirine have been talked about much more than the civil war. An estimated 150,000 people died during the civil war, so why should have a movie about the death of 7 monks?
In a sad way, the events of Tibhirine perfectly embody the events of the Algerian civil war. Brutally murdering monks who were bringing, amongst other things, medical and moral support to the local community, makes no sense at all. Going against the welfare of their own people is not the right way to lead a revolution, yet this is exactly what happened in Algeria.
And as we don't know much about what happened outside of the big Algerian cities during the revolution, there is still a shroud of secrecy and uncertainty around the murders of the monks. The bodies have never been found, only the heads have been interred (so just enough to identify them). There are still doubts over who committed the crime. The movie clearly accuses the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, and they claimed responsibility, but the lack of official enquiry does not help in proving this, and there is still suggestion it might have been a mistake by the Algerian Army.
The acting is understated, as you would expect, the subjects being monks. Lambert Wilson, of Matrix fame, in playing brother Christian, shows his range of emotions. The directing style also reflects the subject at heart. Quiet, no unnecessary dialog, a lot of reflective scenes, and in contrast, very noisy, fast shots when the terrorists/rebels appear. It's not all pious reverence, some of the scenes are borderline blasphemous (their last supper is, well, reminiscent...)
Ultimately, this movie questioned my relationship with religion. As the monks had to decide whether they should leave while they still could, or, fully knowing the dangers they were facing, stay within the community they've been living in for so long. As an atheist I would say that men took that decision, because they were good men. A more religious person than me would say that their religion made them good men, who had to stay. The movie shows the best, and the worst of what faith, organised religion can be and do. But more than anything else, it is, to me, a human movie, the choice of a group of human beings, driven by faith, sure, but mostly driven by their desire to do what's right. And for this, this is an inspiring, if sad movie.