Home' Nova West : June 2011 Contents 27
FILMS BY MARY O'DONOVAN
© NOVA JUNE 2011
CAB AUDITED FOR INTEGRITY
★★★★★ so good ★★★★ really good ★★★ pretty good ★★ not so good ★ no good
the tension as the film progresses.
The Cistercian monastery had been in
Algeria since colonial days and, although
there were fewer than 10 monks living there
in the 1990s, they were still part of village life.
They dedicated their lives to study, prayer
and manual labor for their survival. Their
mission was not to evangelise but to offer
witness to their Christian faith in a region
where the majority of people were Muslim.
The people of the nearby village help
with the gardening at the monastery and
Brother Luc (Michael Lonsdale) is a doctor
who provides medical aid to the villagers.
The monks also sell their honey and garden
produce at the local market and take part in
some of the Islamic religious celebrations in
The monastery is led by Brother
Christian (Lambert Wilson) who appears
to be the most scholarly of the brothers; he
is certainly the one who writes and thinks
most profoundly on matters of faith and
theology. He has read widely, including the
with nasty great big ugly toads with no
The film is billed as "a documentary
horror film". However, apart from
an attempt at "creepy" during the
introduction, most of the film is either
scientists cataloguing the relentless
travels of these useless creatures, nutty
people with a fascination for them, or
zealots out to put a stop to their march.
Of this collection, the most interesting
are the eccentrics. One guy has created
a sanctuary for the toads in the Northern
Territory where people can't kill them.
Given the fact that cane toads can kill
OF GODS AND MEN ★★★★
Of Gods and Men, written and directed
by Frenchman Xavier Beauvois, is loosely
based on the lives of the Cistercian monks
of Tibhirine in Algeria and their capture by
terrorists in 1996. It is a film with only the
sound of Gregorian chants and the bustle
of natural life for a soundtrack. Dialogue
is sparse but what is said resonates all the
more for the silence and it moves at a
meditative pace that only serves to heighten
CANE TOADS -- THE CONQUEST ★★
Cane toads are no laughing matter, yet
filmmaker Mark Lewis has decided to
take a humorous look at this introduced
pest which could, in all likelihood, destroy
our native fauna and leave Australia awash
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Koran, so his understanding of the villagers'
faith is well informed.
In 1996, the conflict between Jama
Islamiah and the Algerian government is
intense. After a local group of Croation
workers is murdered by terrorists, the
Government sends the army to protect
the monastery. Brother Christian resolutely
opposes the protection.
This decision puts him at odds with
some of the other brothers, who argue
he has violated the rules of community by
not discussing the decision with them, nor
confronting the larger question of whether
their life of witness extends to the ultimate
sacrifice at the hands of terrorists.
Finally, Brother Christian asks each
monk what he would like to do. The group
is divided but the oldest monk, Brother
Amadee (Jacques Herlin), believes "it is too
soon" to reach a conclusion.
At this point, when the villagers, some of
the monks, the local politician and the army
believe it is time for the monks to leave, it
a dog, a crocodile, a kookaburra or any
other native creature, his behaviour might
seem foolish. But as he says, it is not
the toads' fault they have ended up in
Australia, so we shouldn't take it out on
them. He has a point, and as one of the
scientists points out, it is unclear why
anyone thought the cane toad would
achieve what it was introduced to Australia
The other eccentric has a travelling
toad show. He has caught, tanned and
stuffed hundreds of cane toads and
created dioramas with them. This is pretty
creepy but not to the point of "horror ".
seems impossible that by the end of the
film the audience is so convinced of the
rightness of their decision to stay.
The pace of the film reinforces the
complexity of a life of faith and deep spirit-
uality. The slow unveiling of a change of heart
and mind, the slow realisation and accept-
ance of the purpose in a spiritual life of work
and meditation is, at times, overwhelming.
The story itself is compelling, but the way in
which it is told by Beauvois and performed
by the cast is inspired.
Of Gods and Men compares the text
and teachings of the Koran with those of
the Bible and it succeeds in representing
what Islam and Christianity, two of the great
monotheistic religions, have in common,
when found in the hearts and minds of truly
good people. A telling moment is when
Brother Christian, initially so adamant that
the monks should stay, begins to waver in
his resolve. One of the village women says to
him, "We are the birds and you are the branch,
if you go we have nothing to hold on to." ●
Along with these two is a collection of
scientists, politicians, and toad destroyers,
all having their two cents' worth about
the toad, yet none seems to be able to
stop it. To rub salt into the wound of
the environmental destruction wrought
by cane toads, the cinematography in
Cane Toad --The Conquest highlights the
beauty of the country they are traversing,
so that only makes you feel worse.
Cane Toads - The Conquest just does
not quite know what it is about and so
fails to satisfy in all respects. Simply calling
it "a documentary horror film" does not
actually make it one.
PRESENTING THE BEST IN CONTEMPORARY AUSTRALIAN AND WORLD CINEMA.
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