Of Gods and Men, Xavier Beauvois’ stirring portrait of monks under the threat of death, offers in clear terms a Christian commitment made tangible. Here we have a group of men so focused on their mission to the people of this region that they allow nothing to stand in the way of their fulfilling the task to which God has called them.
For these men of God, the life of faith is rooted in the concrete deeds of everyday life: a quiet moment in prayer and a song of praise, yes, but also more “earthy” tasks as well, such as keeping a garden, finding shoes for those in need, attending a dedication ceremony for a Muslim child in the community, or a gentle kiss on the injured forehead of a child. For a profession so often thought to be disconnected from society, this small group of men seems more grounded than most people today supposedly “living the dream” in a free society full of opportunity and choice.
And maybe that’s it. These men embody true freedom, a freedom that is felt deeply, a freedom that informs every aspect of their lives. These men are free to live lives in pursuit of the good. Released from the selfish pursuits of life ancient and modern, these monks live not for themselves, but for the other. And in doing so, they exude a quality refreshing and rare in our world: contentment. This small group of God’s servants is content with their lot in life. Certainly, much of the drama surrounds outside circumstances that disrupt that contentment, but a great portion of their victory in the film comes in finding it once again.
The final scenes of the film—which I will not give away here—reaffirm this equanimity. As the reality of their contentment in God settles in each of them, their eyes are opened to the beauties all around them—the joys of community, of brotherhood, of service, and of beauty. These men, in the midst of a war-torn country, live freely and peacefully, just as their master did.