Of Gods and Men (film)

Of Gods and Men

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Xavier Beauvois
Produced by Pascal Caucheteux
Etienne Comar
Written by Etienne Comar
Xavier Beauvois
Starring Lambert Wilson
Michael Lonsdale
Cinematography Caroline Champetier
Edited by Marie-Julie Maille
Distributed by Mars Distribution (France)
Release dates
  • 18 May 2010 (2010-05-18) (Cannes)
  • 8 September 2010 (2010-09-08) (France)
Running time
120 minutes
Country France
Language French
Budget $4 million
Box office $42.1 million[1]

Of Gods and Men is a 2010 French drama film directed by Xavier Beauvois, starring Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale. Its original French language title is Des hommes et des dieux, which means "Of Men and of Gods" and refers to a verse from the Bible shown at the beginning of the film. 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.[2]

Largely a tale of a peaceful situation between local Christians and Muslims before becoming a lethal one due to external forces, the screenplay focuses on the preceding chain of events in decay of government, expansion of terrorism, and the monks' confrontation with both the terrorists and the government authorities that led up to their deaths. Principal photography took place at an abandoned monastery in Azrou, Morocco with careful attention to authenticity.

The film premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Grand Prix, the festival's second most prestigious award. It became a critical and commercial success in its domestic market, and won both the Lumières Award and César Award for Best Film.


The film opens with a quotation from the Book of Psalms, Psalm 82:6–7: "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes." The monks' peaceful routine of prayer, medical assistance, and community interaction is soon interrupted by the threat of an Islamic fundamentalist group. When their elected leader, Christian (Lambert Wilson), declines the protection of the corrupt civil authority, the monks divide amongst themselves on the question of whether to stay or flee Algeria. Before a decision is reached, a group of fundamentalists, led by Ali Fayattia, enters the monks' compound in force on Christmas Eve and demands their doctor and his medical supplies. Christian refuses their requests and cites the Quran as proof of the monks' goodwill. With a mixture of surprise and respect, Fayattia leaves the compound and grants it his protection until his capture, torture and death at the hands of government forces. Despite the growing danger, the monks come to consensus on the moral importance of maintaining their committed lives with, and ministry to, the local population, even when faced with violence and death. Ultimately, the terrorists seize most of the monks during a nighttime raid and hold them hostage. As the captive monks trudge a snowy path towards a grim fate, the film concludes with the spiritual testament of prior Christian de Chergé, bravely written in the face of death.[3]


Background and production

In 1996, seven French Trappist monks from the monastery of Tibhirine, Algeria, were kidnapped and found beheaded. The Armed Islamic Group of Algeria claimed full responsibility for the incident. However, according to documents from French secret services, it is possible that the killings were a mistake carried out by the Algerian army during a rescue attempt.[4]

A scholarly book on the events was published in 2002, John W. Kiser's The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria.[5]

The film project was initiated by Etienne Comar in 2006, when the tenth anniversary of the incident made it a topic again in French media. Comar, a film producer by profession and a Catholic, had been fascinated by the monks since the earliest news of the abduction, but felt that their death had overshadowed what he thought was really interesting: why they had decided to stay in Algeria despite the ongoing Algerian Civil War. Comar contacted Xavier Beauvois in 2008 after having written a draft, and together they continued to work on the screenplay. The two researched, met with theologians, and during a break Beauvois chose to live for six days at the Tamié Abbey in Savoie.[6] Some inspiration was taken from writings by two of the Tibhirine monks, Christian de Chergé and Christophe Lebreton. Franco-American monastic consultant Henry Quinson was asked to correct and add historical and liturgical content for further authenticity.[7] The script was later sent to relatives of the deceased monks, most of whom reacted positively to the project.[8]

Actors Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival

The financing coincided with the revelation of the Algerian army's possible involvement in the incident, which once again sparked an interest for the story from media and the public.[6] Production was led by Why Not Productions with Armada Films and France 3 as co-producers. Financial support was granted by the CNC.[4] The budget was €4 million euro.[9]

As preparation for their roles, François Polgar, the former assistant director of the choir of the Paris Opera, former director of Le Chœur de Radio France and director of The Paris Boys Choir, trained for a month the actors who were to play monks in the Cistercian and Gregorian chants.[10] Each actor also spent a week living as a monk at the Tamié Abbey.[7] The actors used different approaches to their individual roles. Lambert Wilson primarily used Christian de Chergé's writings to develop a subjective perception of the monk's personality. Xavier Maly, a non-Catholic, prepared himself by praying every day for a month. Jean-Marie Frin based his interpretation partially on a home video from Paul Favre-Miville's vow.[11] Michael Lonsdale on the other hand preferred to rely on instinct, and did not prepare much at all.[12]

Filming started in early December 2009 in Meknes, Morocco, and ended two months later.[4] The main filming location was the Benedictine monastery of Toumliline, which had stood unused and unattended for more than 40 years. The film team, under production designer Michel Barthélémy, renovated the monastery so it would resemble the location of the actual events.[6][13] Quinson who had assisted with the screenplay was also present on the set as an advisor.[6] Attention was paid to extras' clothing and Arabic intonation so that they would look and sound Algerian and not Moroccan.[14]


The film's cast and crew on the red carpet for the world premiere in Cannes

The film premiered on 18 May 2010 in competition at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival.[15] It was the second time a film directed by Beauvois was selected for the festival; he had previously won the 1995 Jury Prize for Don't Forget You're Going to Die.[16] Of Gods and Men was released in France on 8 September through Mars Distribution. It was launched on 252 screens, which after two weeks had been increased to 424, and further during the third week to 442.[9] Artificial Eye released it in the United Kingdom on 3 December 2010.[17][18] Sony Pictures Classics acquired the distribution rights for the United States, Australia and New Zealand.[19]


Critical response

Of Gods and Men has received widespread critical acclaim. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 93% based on reviews from 112 critics, with an average score of 8.1/10. The site's consensus reads, "Patient and restrained, Of Gods and Men asks deep, profound questions that will linger in the audience's mind long after the movie."[20] Metacritic gave the film a weighted score of 86/100, based on 29 critiques, which it ranks as "universal acclaim".[21] Le Monde's Isabelle Regnier wrote: "We can, we must, even, consider this film as a profession of faith. But it is in the cinema where Beauvois always has placed his own, and where he places it here more than ever. Confident in the talent of his cinematographer, Caroline Champetier, ... he signs a powerful and stripped mise en scène[.] ... Relying on the arid majesty of the Atlas' landscapes (Moroccan for the filming), the milky purity of monks' robes, the rhythm of the ritual, Xavier Beauvois plays with the tracking shots with a breathtaking mastery".[22] Didier Péron of the left-wing newspaper Libération was positive overall, but remarked: "Of Gods and Men would no doubt have lost in grandeur and lyricism ... what it would have gained in political content if it had specifically questioned the place of the monks and the profound role of their unctuous paternalism versus a failing state and among a deprived population."[23]

In the United Kingdom, Tom Dawson of Total Film gave the film four stars out of five, and Tim Robey rated it three out of five in The Daily Telegraph. Both critics praised the performances of Wilson and Lonsdale. Dawson called the film a "masterful drama", and Robey wrote: "It's a grave and thoughtful film, and certainly not a bad one, for all my twinges of scepticism about how deep its insights really go." Robey's main complaint concerned the ending of the film: "There's one serious mistake, in a picture that's almost passive-aggressively careful in most of its scenes: a last supper, while the monks sip wine, look at each other in silent, welling close-ups, and Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake overture crescendoes over the top. Those last three words are operative – Beauvois could hardly milk this emotional catharsis more coercively if he came down the aisles handing out tissues." Dawson on the other hand approved of the scene's manner: "The Last Supper-style sequence, where the monks listen to Swan Lake and share red wine, is particularly affecting."[24][25] Radio critic Mark Kermode gave an extremely positive review of the film, later ranking it as the 2nd best film of 2010.

Box office

362,671 tickets were sold during the first five days of the French theatrical run. This can be compared to the director's last film, The Young Lieutenant, which had 197,783 admissions after the same number of days in 2005.[26] Of Gods and Men went on to top the French box office for four consecutive weeks.[27] After the fifth week it dropped to number three, having been overtaken by Despicable Me and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, which both premiered that week.[28] It had received 3,202,645 admissions in France.[27]

In United Kingdom, Of Gods and men was distributed, the first week, in only 16 movie houses. It was part, from the first weekend, of the 15 best at the box office.[29][30] In United States, the movie was distributed, 25 February, in only 33 theaters. It is part, from the first week, of the 25 best at the box office.[31]


The Cannes Film Festival jury, led by American director Tim Burton, honoured the film with the Grand Prix. The Grand Prix is the festival's second most prestigious award, after the Palme d'Or which was won by Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives in 2010.[16] Of Gods and Men also received the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.[32] In France, it won the César Awards 2011 for Best Film, Lonsdale as Best Supporting Actor and Best Cinematography.[33] In total it was nominated in eleven categories, which was more than any other film that year. The other nominations were for Wilson as Best Actor, Olivier Rabourdin as Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound, Best Editing, Best Costume Design and Best Production Design.[34] It won the 16th Lumière Award for Best Film and Lonsdale received the Best Actor prize.[35] It was also nominated for Best Director and Wilson as Best Actor.[36]

At the 23rd European Film Awards, the film was nominated for Best Film and Best Cinematography.[37] It received the 2010 National Board of Review Award for Best Foreign Language Film.[38] The British Academy of Film and Television Arts nominated it for Best Film Not in the English Language at the 64th BAFTA Awards.[39] It was selected as France's submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards, but it did not make the final shortlist.[40][41]

See also


  1. "Of Gods and Men (2011) – Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  2. "Of Gods and Men Press Kit" (PDF). Sony Classics. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  3. "Review: Of Gods and Men". Blog. Fallible Blogma. March 1, 2011. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 Lemercier, Fabien (11 December 2009). "Beauvois focuses on monks of Tibhirine in Des Hommes et des Dieux". Cineuropa. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
  5. John W. Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria, St. Martin's Press 2002, ISBN 978-0312253172
  6. 1 2 3 4 Schwartz, Arnaud (5 September 2010). "" Des hommes et des dieux ", itinéraire d'un film rare". La Croix (in French). France. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
  7. 1 2 Lorrain, François-Guillaume (27 May 2010). "Lambert Wilson, moine prieur". Le Point (in French). France. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  8. Lemercier, Fabien (20 May 2010). "Interview with Xavier Beauvois". Cineuropa. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  9. 1 2 Lemercier, Fabien (30 September 2010). "Of Gods and Men reigns in theatres". Cineuropa. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  10. Alexandre, Xavier (25 May 2010). "Jean-Marie Frin est un des moines de Tibhirine". Ouest-France (in French). Retrieved 28 May 2010.
  11. Staff writer (3 September 2010). "Les moines de Tibhirine, jusqu'au bout de l'engagement". La Croix (in French). France. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  12. Cereja, Pierre-Louis (5 September 2010). "Michael Lonsdale : " Je joue à l'instinct "". L'Alsace (in French). Retrieved 6 September 2010.
  13. Staff writer (30 November 2009). "Un film sur les moines de Tibéhirine". Le Parisien (in French). France. Retrieved 16 April 2010.
  14. Mebarek, Walid (30 August 2010). "Des hommes et des dieux, sortie le 8 septembre". El Watan (in French). Retrieved 20 August 2010.
  15. "The screenings guide" (PDF). festival-cannes.com. Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  16. 1 2 Chang, Justin (23 May 2010). "'Uncle Boonmee' wins Palme d'Or". Variety. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  17. "Of Gods and Men". Screenrush. Tiger Global. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
  18. Jones, Emma (3 December 2010). "Monk tragedy Of Gods and Men proves surprise hit". BBC. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
  19. Hazelton, John (21 May 2010). "SPC buys Of Gods And Men for US, Australia". Screen Daily. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  20. "Of Gods and Men Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  21. "Of Gods and Men Movie Reviews, Pictures". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  22. Regnier, Isabelle (7 September 2010). "'Des hommes et des dieux' : 'Laissez passer l'homme libre...'". Le Monde (in French). France. Retrieved 8 September 2010. On peut, on doit, même, envisager ce film comme une profession de foi. Mais c'est dans le cinéma que Beauvois a toujours placé la sienne, et qu'il la place ici plus que jamais. Confiant dans le talent de sa chef opératrice, Caroline Champetier, ... il signe une mise en scène puissante et dépouillée[.] ... S'en remettant à la majesté aride des paysages de l'Atlas (marocain pour le tournage), à l'épure laiteuse des robes des moines, à la rythmique du rituel, Xavier Beauvois joue avec les travellings avec une maestria soufflante
  23. Péron, Didier (7 September 2010). "Une envie de martyre". Libération (in French). France. Retrieved 8 September 2010. Des hommes et des dieux aurait sans doute perdu en grandeur et en lyrisme ... ce qu’il aurait gagné en contenu politique s’il avait précisément interrogé la place des moines et le rôle profond de leur paternalisme onctueux face à un Etat défaillant et au milieu d’une population déshéritée.
  24. Robey, Tim (2 December 2010). "Of Gods and Men, review". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 2 December 2010.
  25. Dawson, Tom (2 December 2010). "Of Gods And Men". Total Film. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  26. Corriez, Olivier (13 September 2010). "Box office : Des Hommes et des Dieux guidé vers les sommets". Excessif (in French). TF1. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  27. 1 2 "Des hommes et des dieux". JP's Box-Office (in French). Retrieved 3 December 2010.
  28. "Classement France 06-12 Octobre 2010". JP's Box-Office (in French). Retrieved 13 October 2010.
  29. Uk Box office 3 December 2010, ukfilmcouncil.org.uk
  30. Uk Box Office, 3 dec 2010, screenrush.co.uk
  31. "Box Office Mojo, Of Gods and Men, Weekly Box Office". Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  32. Hopewell, John; Keslassy, Elsa (22 May 2010). "Int'l critics bestow top honors at Cannes". Variety. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  33. Keslassy, Elsa (25 February 2011). "'Of Gods and Men' tops Cesar Awards". Variety. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  34. Tartaglione, Nancy (21 January 2011). "Of Gods and Men leads Cesar nominees". Screen Daily. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
  35. Keslassy, Elsa (14 January 2011). "'Gods,' 'Ghost Writer' top Lumieres". Variety. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
  36. César, Académie (28 February 2011). "36e cérémonie des Césars". Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  37. "Nominations for the 23rd European Film Awards". europeanfilmacademy.org. European Film Academy. 6 November 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2010.
  38. McNary, Dave (2 December 2010). "National Board honors 'The Social Network'". Variety. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
  39. Staff writer (18 January 2011). "'The King's Speech' Tops BAFTA List With 14 Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  40. Keslassy, Elsa (17 September 2010). "France choses 'Gods' for Oscars". Variety. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
  41. "9 Foreign Language Films Continue to Oscar Race". oscars.org. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
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