A hauntingly beautiful story of French monks in remote Algeria during a time of civil war, but what impressed me most was the respect it gave and intelligence it ascribed to its viewers. Quotidian events were presented on a par with liturgical, and when crisis came, it was realistic, not overwrought. Whether the monks were saints or oddities depended on your view of religion coming in; the movie depicted them as very human: the leader Christian’s willfulness appeared heroic at first, then offensive to his brethren on closer inspection. The rebels were ruthless, but the government they fought was consistently called corrupt. This story was not about bad guys versus good guys. It was about men caught in a situation beyond their control, struggling for an answer, struggling to help, struggling to survive.
The film itself failed to specify a date or place when it began, giving it a universality that dissipated when a postscript spelled out the fates of the individual monks, for me an unnecessary anticlimax.