DVD: Panda Bear, Tomboy (Paw Tracks)

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The Independent Culture

"Throughout my career I've met all sorts of different people, including Nazis. And even the Devil," Michael Lonsdale's weary old monk and medic, Brother Luc, explains to his superior, Christian (Lambert Wilson).

"I'm not scared of death, I'm a free man," this stoical figure concludes. Luc is one of eight French Christian monks at a hillside monastery perched in the mountains of Algeria in the 1990s. They have a healthy relationship with the locals, with Luc tending to up to 150 patients a day. Their life is austere, their surroundings beautiful, but their serenity is about to come to a bloody halt; fundamentalist insurgents are in the area, marking out "their" territory. The fearful villagers inform the monks that a schoolgirl has been stabbed for not wearing a hijab, before we witness Croatian construction workers having their throats slit by the terrorists on a building site. The monks' days are numbered unless they leave or accept the military support that's offered to them. They refuse to budge and reject soldiers stationed in their "house of peace". Therefore we must bear witness to their inevitable slaughter. The scene, accompanied by the strains of Swan Lake, where the eight men (all of them fearful) share communion wine during their last supper together is particularly affecting, and Xavier Beauvois's drama, based on a true story, is a devastating examination of faith.