The 2010 Cannes Grand Prix winner ‘Of Gods and Men’ comes to American Region free Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed in the widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Caroline Champetier’s subtle use of light is handled admirably by the transfer, highlighting the beauty of the surrounding countryside. The generally muted colour palette is totally in keeping with the feel of the whole film. Skin tones have a realistic look as opposed to the orangey brown American tan we have become accustomed to in Hollywood blockbusters. We get solid blacks in the night shots and a very pleasing contrast range, reflecting the light of the region. A very fine veil of grain adds to the filmic appeal, only becoming pronounced and ‘noisy’ during some darker interiors. It looks as if some faster stock was used on the interiors which would account for the increase in grain. The image is sharp without appearing clinical and there is no visual evidence of digital tampering. Overall, this is a very nice, subtle transfer befitting the subject matter.
The audio on ‘Of Gods and Men’ comes in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix which is very pleasing to hear. Albeit the film is dialogue led in French (with English subtitles) via the centre channel, it is very clear and intelligible - which allowed me recharge my schoolboy French. The cutting together of scenes makes great use of going from a noisy scene to a quiet one and the surround speakers are used effectively to immerse us in the crowd noise or other ambient effect. The deep bass is used to great effect when going from a quiet interior to an exterior shot of an industrial digger coming towards camera. As the monks chant, the surrounds allow us to enjoy the harmony of their singing in the chapel where the reverb sounds great. The sound mix has the same level of subtlety as the image and has a beauty all of its own.
The Sacrificed Tibehirine: Further Investigation (SD, 18 mins)
This French documentary opens with Father Lassauce who visits the Algerian monastery regularly under police escort and who gives us a guided tour. It concisely covers the events of 1996 and we hear from the relatives of the monks. I only vaguely remembered the news story from the time and this documentary will be of help to those who, like me, wanted to know more.
Merrimack College Augustine Dialogue IX with Author John W. Kiser (SD, 41 mins)
A fairly informative discussion between George Heffernan of the Philosophy Department of Merrimack College, North Andover, Massachusetts and John W. Kiser, author of the book ‘The Monks of Tibehirine: Faith, Love and Terror in Algeria. This provides us with more detail surrounding the real life events depicted in the movie and goes into theological thoughts on Christian and Islamic faith in co-existence. It’s quite dry and John Kiser mumbles quite a bit, but for those who want more background to the story after viewing the film, it’s very useful. Shot on relatively low quality video, but it's the content here that counts.
Trailer (SD, 2 mins)
The trailer sets up the movie by quickly detailing the dilemma faced by the monks of the Algerian monastery. It’s what captured my interest, so it did its job effectively.
The 2010 Cannes Grand Prix winner ‘Of Gods and Men’ comes to American Region free Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The subtlety of both interior and exterior lighting is well preserved in this sharp yet filmic transfer which concentrates on providing realistic skin tones amid a slightly muted colour palette.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround audio delivers crisp, clear French dialogue (English subtitles are available) while the surrounds are impressively used for the atmospheric effects. A short doco and a longer discussion on the subject matter together with a trailer make up the bonus material on the disc.
As a movie, it’s a powerful piece of film making from director Xavier Beauvois based on the true story of a group of French Trappist monks living side by side with their Muslim neighbours in Civil war engulfed Algeria in 1996. As a group of militant extremists murder foreigners, the monks’ very presence places their lives in danger. Do they desert the impoverished villagers of Tibehirine or do they stay – come what may?
Excellent performances all round from a cast lead by Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale in this moving story of faith, fraternity and life. A cerebral, thought provoking film that does not insult the intelligence of the audience.
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