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Of Gods and Men
(Blu-ray)

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For A Momentary Scence of Startling Wartime Violence, Some Disturbing Images and Brief Language) 

Running Time: 123 Minutes

Starring: Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, Olivier Rabourdin, Philippe Laudenbach, Jacques Herlin, Loic Pichon, Xavier Maly, Jean-Marie Frin, Olivier Perrier, Sabrina Duazani, Farid Labbi, Adel Bencherif 

Screenplay by: Xavier Beauvois and Etienne Comar 

Directed by: Xavier Beauvois 

 

 

Studio: Sony

Retail Price: $45.95

Features: The Sacrificed Tibéhirine: Further Investigation, Merrimack College Augustine Dialogue IX with Author John W. Kiser, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 2.35:1 Widescreen 1080p High Definition, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Subtitles, Scene Selections (16 Scenes), Two-Disc Set

Released: July 5th, 2011

 
 


Of Gods and Men is presented in a 1080p high definition transfer, in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The transfer is good overall, but it has its peaks and valleys. The most glaring aspect of it is the constant amount of shimmering. It is there throughout, but it's most distracting during slow pans of exterior shots. The picture quality is a bit too grainy early on, and can look a bit soft here and there, but mostly it's considerably sharp. There is a certain visual poetry to Caroline Champieter's cinematography which this transfer captures, most notably the details in the settings. Fleshtones are good, and color saturation is pretty rich too without bleeding — browns, greens and whites are the stand-outs. The movie is more than watchable, but I wish the picture quality was a little bit better.

 


Of Gods and Men is presented with a French DTS-HD Master Audio mix in 5.1. This is a pretty subdued film, made up of seemingly small moments that lead to a devestating climax. The track matches the movie's nature. There is a warmth to the musical cues in the channels, while dialogue is always crisp and easy to hear. Surround effects are not plentiful, but inconsequential noises — such as the monks doing their chores, crowds in the street and vehicles on the move — do stand out a little. There is one moment where the speakers get a bit of a workout, and that's it. Subwoofer use does not amount to much, either.

English subtitles are included.

 


The Sacrificed Tibéhirine: Further Investigation appears to be a piece produced for French television, around the time Of Gods and Men was released in France. For 18 minutes, the piece speaks of the real events and some of the monks surrounding the 1993 tragedy in Algeria, and places them in context within the film. Co-screenwriter Etienne Comar is shown speaking to family members of the monks, who reveal personal details and mementos concerning their deceased loved ones, along with thoughts, feelings and information they knew (or didn't know) at the time as far as what was happening at the monestery. Clips from the movie, along with real life footage and photographs of the real monks are shown throughout, which do a lot to bridge the connections between history and the cinematic narrative. Interesting, engrossing and very well put together.

Merrimack College Augustine Dialogue IX with Author John W. Kiser is a 41 minute conversation. Kiser wrote a book about the monks of Tibéhirine, though he — nor his book — were involved with Of Gods and Men. The purpose of this is to give a bit more of a detailed history over what happened, as well as additional insights. Kiser also speaks about how he got interested in the subject matter. This talk is preceded by a message noting that the quality is not up to usual Blu-ray standards, but the quality of the talk outweighs the quality of the video — hence its inclusion. I am sure you will agree.

Finally, the film's Theatrical Trailer is included, as well as a DVD copy of the film.


Of Gods and Men
is a quietly powerful film, as unsettling as it can be. This Blu-ray features two great supplements that put the movie in additional context, and also sports a nice presentation. Lovers of foreign cinema who want to take in a heavy movie one evening will find this to be a worthy rental.