Father James Martin, SJ: “Of Gods and Men”

Father James Martin, SJ, culture editor of America magazine, shares his thoughts about the movie “Of Gods and Men,” the story of a community of Trappist monks in Algeria who have close relationships with their Muslim neighbors but who must decide whether to stay or leave when they are threatened by Islamic militants. The movie is based on the book “The Monks of Tibhirine” by John Kiser. Edited by Emma Mankey Hidem.


  • Kevin P. McManus

    Beautiful! Thank you Jim Martin

  • Rev. Dr. Helen Betenbaugh

    Without a doubt one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen. It haunted me for days, and that haunting began anew immediately upon viewing this interview with film clips. The survival of two members of the monastery is inconconceivable to me. The obvious parallel with survivor’s guilt from war or accident or weather-related “acts of God” was palpable. The choice of Tschaikowsky’s “Swan’s Lake” during the meal near the end was heartbreaking, as was the bittersweet mood shift so clearly visible in the monks’ countenances. This film raises powerful questions about faith, commitment, dedication, steadfastness, vocation, community, service, discernment, and about faithfulness to vows when that faithfulness would lead to certain martyrdom.
    And, ultimately, to questions about the value of martyrdom itself. A question in retrospect: would their story ever have been told, ever known to us, if their decision had been to leave, to decide against martyrdom? The certain answer is “no,” and their powerful and profound witness would have vanished in that decision.

  • Sister Maria Ligaya N. Valencia, RVM

    Thank you for sharing this. I hope to see the movie.
    How can I get one?

  • Eva Arnott

    I happened to see this wonderful movie in the same week that I downloaded (for free) on my Kindle a novel by Robert Hugh Benson called “Come Rack! Come Rope” about another group of martyrs, including St. Edmund Campion, who followed their consciences in the hostile environment of sixteenth century England. It’s worth reading.

  • William Grant

    Excellent. Beautifully stated. Inspiring as was the film

  • Bob Harper

    All of us carry in our hearts complex struggles that confound, discourage and prevent us from being fully human and in love. This film shows us a way above the helplessness back to ourselves, back to our home. This review by James Martin S.J. does an extraordinary job capturing the essence of this wonderful film.

  • Gail Grim

    Thanks for the review. I hope will come to Charlotte soon. don’t get to many movies but I won’t miss this one.

  • Dr Michael M Sheridan

    Desperately trying to find copy/dvd of this….help?

  • Marion Kingsbury

    A powerful film which I have seen twice and plan to buy the DVD when available to share with my parish.
    Thank you Fr. Martin for your review which reinforces my thoughts and reflections on this.
    I I have obtained the book, the Monks of Tibhirine which gives a rich background to the situation in Algeria at the time, where Christian was coming from with his deep love for Islam, who were each of these brothers.

  • Lois Velasco

    Where can I get a copy of the film? Lois Velasco 2001 Sussex Lane, Colorado Springs, CO 80909 719-591-1513 Of Gods and Men Thank you lv

  • Adelaide Loges

    Would someone please explain the scene where wine is served and everyone listens to Swan Lake? Without this scene the movie was perfect to me. What am I missing?

  • Judith Miller

    I think the intent was to depict this as a ‘last supper’ scene. But for me, watching the struggle on the faces, it was each monk in his own Garden of Gethsemane (for me, the real crux of the action…the individual human decision)

  • mary jamison

    @adelaide – it took me a while, but to me the supper scene is about the response of the Holy Spirit to the monks’ decision. I see that in the dawning joy they experience, and in the tears.

  • tony marinelli

    I just got back from watching the film. I was totally blown away by it. I have never seen a film which brought grace on to the screen as powerfully. It was an Easter gift. The depth of the insight into the life of faith, community and Christian spirituality outstripped anything else I have ever seen. I was looking for some background on the events when I came across Fr. Martin’s review. For me, the “last supper” scene was beautiful but also very different than the rest of the film. Momentarily, we left the realism of the film, to enter into a much more symbolic “prayer”. The supper combined with the music spoke powerfully to me of dying and rising. Their was a mystical quality to the faces of the men who were enveloped both in joy and sadness. As Paul wrote: “Our lives are hidden now with Christ in God”. In the film, these men’s souls came out of hiding, but it was their immense humanity that mirrored the face of Christ. .

  • Elizabeth Boswell

    My husband and I saw the film last night and I remain stunned by the true depiction of what real monastic life is about – community, prayer, growth, ministry, humanity. My take on the Swan Lake scene was also a symbolic “Last Supper” but with the emphasis on the human pleasures of wine that might have relaxed each monk’s darker side that they struggle with. The music is from the scene, I believe, when the “white swan” is in conflict with her ‘black swan.” This scene reminds us over and over that the journey toward God has constant discernment and struggle. In the end, they were transformed by the community of faith.

  • AJ

    As both a devout Catholic and a ballerina, the use of Swan Lake as music for the last scene in this movie was extremely moving (as far as I can understand from the clip here- I hope to see the complete film soon). The music is actually from the scene in the ballet where the white swan, Odette, has realized that she will never be free from her entrapment (as a swan during the day and a human at night) because the prince Siegfried has mistakenly pledged his love to Odile, the black swan (who is actually the disguised daughter of the sorcerer who initially placed the curse on Odette). In her sorrow, she dives into the lake, quickly followed by Siegfried, where they are united in heaven. In this scene, love triumphs over evil, no matter the cost. The use of this music is an absolutely beautiful depiction of the monk’s struggle and eventual decision to allow God’s love to triumph over the evils of this world.

  • Miriam Pollard

    The two monks who were not captured were sleeping in another part of the monastery and did not wake at the incursion.

  • Kathleen Walsh-Moleski

    Just finished the film and then read this insightful review. The movie made one cry and, more importantly, think. Will find the book relating the true story upon which it is based. Having frequently lived in Muslim countries I appreciated the movie’s portrayal of that religion, when uncorrupted, as one of love.

  • Pat Bennett

    Just saw this beautiful moving. don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie better depict the fear, prayer, struggle, and love that is a part of such a story. The casting and the directing were exquisitely done. As mentioned above….”love triumphs over evil, no matter the cost.”

  • Joan Carabin

    Tonight I saw Of Gods and Men the second time. Although there have been other powerful spiritual films, this one seems to be an instrument of grace like no other before it. I want to say God is speaking to us here in ways we cannot ignore easily. The filmmakers and the actors show us the depths their art can unfold for all who have eyes to see it and ears to hear it.

  • Yolanda Tan

    I’m not into DVDs/CDs, but this excellent film blew me away. Funny, when I bought the film from Amazon (read about it from the Sunday Catholic Weekly “Glad Tidings), a few months ago, I thought my old tv was not compatible with the DVD. I was finally able to make it work, and kept thinking about the entire plot for a few days while recommending it to others. Am now almost halfway reading the book “The Monks of Thibirine.” Will surely share both DVD and book to our Missionaries of the Sacred Fathers and seminarians back home. My love to you Fr. James, by the way, for your excellent comments. Same goes to Fr. Robert Baron.

  • Dave Murray

    As I watched this film again today I became aware that it is essentially the Christmas story, the embodiment of why Jesus/God came to earth, of what his commitment to do that meant for Jesus, the complete story from birth to death of the passion of Christ, and of what it means for us to confront evil, that is how shall we respond to it, how shall we live our lives. Not only does it reflect the question, “Who do you say I am?”, but also, “Could you not stay awake with me one hour?”, and “Aren’t you one of his disciples?” This is not only a story of the monks of Tibhirine, this is our story.

  • Nancy Walton-House

    After reading about this film, listening to Fr. Jim speak about it and watching the film clip, I finally saw the film tonight. What an inspirational and challenging story about these holy men. I know I will be reflecting on the story and influenced by it for a long time to come. I will see it again and share it with others also. These men were contemplatives in action and service. Their example calls me to a similar path.