Thursday, May 2, 2013

Good Story 058: Of Gods and Men

Julie and Scott talk about Of Gods and Men, directed by Xavier Beauvois. What a film it is!

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  1. Really such a wonderful movie on every level. Almost meditative and one of the few films that actually gives some idea of monastic life. Only "Into the great silence" does it more so. The way the monks interacted as the film advanced and the way the liturgy was integral certainly did make it seem more like a documentary then a film.

    One of the interesting aspects of the actual story is how the vow of stability plaid a part in regards to Trappists. They really do expect to live out their lives at one location.

    I just love this film so much.

    I have also read the book it was based on and this is one of the rare cases when I loved the movie more. Although I quite enjoyed the book also, you just don't get the same feel of monastic life.

    I think you both would enjoy the book as it gives so much more background and it is rather amazing all the info the author was able to get. Especially interesting was the story of the Abbot Christian who was quite an interesting man and how he became abbot was of interest in itself. He was someone as the movie was able to show to some extent who was deeply interested in working with Muslims and knew quite a bit about the Koran. The back stories of all the monks is of interest and the book really gives a good bit of information regarding them.

    The book was also able to go much more in detail about the political situation and what actually happened is still a mystery with multiple possibilities.

    The author also went to some effort to give a balanced account of the people in Algeria especially regarding Islam. Especially in regards to the life of the villagers and how much they liked the Monks and there are some stories regarding the attempts of people to protect the Monks.

    1. I haven't seen Into Great Silence and have always been a bit afraid of it, because I know it is rather like this movie but without the "action" (so to speak). In that way especially, I felt this movie was practically perfect. It showed that monastic life but with a little more urgency.

      I have had the book on my to-read list for a while, as it turns out. I think probably because I book stalked you. :-)

      I wish they would have emphasized a bit more the vow of stability. It would have added a needed clarification and depth to the monks' struggle with their decisions.

  2. Whoa, I can't believe I haven't seen this yet.

    On a bit of another subject, I noticed that you guys have watched Tokyo Godfathers directed by Satoshi Kon (his series Paranoia Agent is quite the trip) and was wondering if you were aware of the manga author Naoki Urasawa? I'm not suggesting this for your show as it way too much to ask, but I really feel that if you're looking for a good story his works are well worth checking out.

    Naoki Urasawa has written a manga called "Monster" (which is currently under a deal to be a HBO series produced by Guillermo Del Toro... fingers crossed!) which is possibly my favorite manga or anime to come out of Japan. It's not short, (there are 18 volumes in manga form and 74 episodes in anime form) but it is quite the labyrinth of twists and turns that is worth reading or watching through. It is part detective thriller, part psychological drama, and partly about the battle between good and evil.

    To sum up the story, it takes place in 1986 and is about an excellent doctor named Kenzo Tenma who lives in Düsseldorf and through a series of events almost has his career ruined after saving a young boy on the operating table over a well known politician. Before his life is utterly destroyed by the blacklisting he has received from the higher-ups at the hospital and he hits rock bottom, he whispers words he shouldn't: "It would be better if they were all dead." And sure enough his wish is granted.

    Long story short, nine years later he is now a successful and well respected doctor and a certain someone returns to remind him of what happened to GIVE him that successful career.

    What happens after this involves failed Nazi experiments, desensitized police officers who have lost all subjectivity, a man with an unknown monster in him, and the villain who has shed his soul and humanity to be become something close to pure and objective evil. I'm a fan of Japanese manga and anime and this is by far my favorite work in either genre.

    He also wrote a manga called 20th Century Boys which was made into a trilogy of movies in Japan that is distinctly science fiction. This one is pretty hard to explain considering the plot expands into the past, the present, and the future and is probably more complex than Monster is in how much is going on. The story essentially starts with the rise of a cult around a psychic named "Friend" and a group of childhood friends who recognize his symbol and reunite to find out who this "Friend" is. It kind of reminds me of early Stephen King like The Stand only with much more of a sci-fi bent.

    Sorry for the long post, but I do love me a good story!

    1. I have never been much of a manga reader, though your description is alluring. Must. fight. desire. to. buy. many. manga.

      Not sure if I'm strong enough to fight this ... 20th Century Boys sounds really intriguing.

    2. The 20th Century Boys live action films actually are available on this side of the pond to watch though I'm not sure how readily available they are. They're fairly good adaptions of a rather long story and probably the easiest way to sample his work though I do feel the source material (as always) is better.

      I'm not really sure how he does it, but his stories always have a lot going on both beneath and on the surface where almost every character manages to get a lot of focus whether minor or major. Despite it all, he never takes the focus off of good against evil which probably helps to ground his work in many Truths on top of the exciting stories.

      I apologize for throwing this out there like that, but I do like to share his work whenever and wherever I can. In my opinion he's the best storyteller in Japan right now. :)

    3. Ok, I've got to try one of these. Thank you for the tip!

  3. You're welcome! It's the least I could do after learning of Samuel Shellabarger.

    1. Ok, now I am very, very happy. Anyone who also loves Shellabarger is a fast friend of mine. :-)