Like having sex with Cate Blanchett or killing a man with my bare hands, believing in God is something I’ve always wanted to do but probably never will. And so it is with a perverse kind of envy and rubbernecking disbelief that I have given my love to films about faith, for although I am not a believer, I know what it is to long for the ineffable (see: Cate Blanchett) and suffer because of it. Even proud sinners need a good cry in stained glass-tinted light. So thank God, I guess, for Bergman and Bresson and Dreyer and now Xavier Beauvois’ Of Gods and Men, a deeply serious study of devotion and doubt as experienced by a brotherhood of French monks whose quiet lives of prayer and community service (and a whole lot of puttering in the garden) are threatened by the Algerian Civil War. Beauvois evinces a deep and abiding reverence for the deliberate rhythms of ritual—the film is, at times, as slow as a Communion line at Lourdes—and although I don’t think I’ll be buying any of the Lord’s bullpucky anytime soon, Of Gods and Men builds to an affirmation of faith so stunningly transcendent that I emerged from the theater with some understanding of how grace might feel, and I liked it. PG-13.
87 SEE IT: Of Gods and Men opens Friday at Cinema 21.