HOSPITABLE VISION: XAVIER BEAUVOIS’S DES HOMMES ET DES DIEUX AND THE TIBHIRINE ARCHIVE

HOSPITABLE VISION: XAVIER BEAUVOIS’S DES HOMMES ET DES DIEUX AND THE TIBHIRINE ARCHIVE Abstract In 1996, during the Algerian Civil War, seven French Trappist monks were abducted from Tibhirine and assassinated in circumstances that remain uncertain to this day. Xavier Beauvois’s acclaimed 2010 film Des hommes et des dieux rekindled discussion of the monks’ lives and legacy, just as it fuelled debates over Franco-Algerian relations and radical Islam. Against the critical consensus, I argue that one need not adopt the hermeneutical lens of traditional Catholicism or French republicanism to read the film and the Tibhirine archive upon which it draws. Informed by postmodern ethics – in particular Emmanuel Levinas on the face and Jacques Derrida on aporetic hospitality – this article invites another reading of these under-studied documents, asking whether and how Des hommes et des dieux – and film more generally – can be understood as hospitable. In the spring of 1996, seven French Trappist monks were abducted from Tibhirine during the civil war that tore Algeria apart for over a decade. Held hostage for some two months, the monks were assassinated in uncertain circumstances that troubled citizens on both sides of the post-colonial divide.1 In France, the filmmaker Xavier Beauvois’s surprise success, the critically acclaimed Des hommes et des dieux (2010), rekindled discussion of the lives and legacy of the monks of Tibhirine, just as it fuelled debates over Franco-Algerian relations and radical Islam. Despite its retrospective nature, the film does not depict the murder, mentioned explicitly only in the closing titles. Instead, the sober film dwells on the monks’ daily work – communal prayer and manual labour – in and around the monastery, as well as their relationship with the surrounding community. Aspiring to realism,2 Beauvois concentrates in particular on the men’s struggles and doubts as they weigh up whether to flee the menace of death – and what the decision to stay in Algeria would mean. Beauvois and his team drew from the actual literary voices of Tibhirine to inform their visual representation of the events in Des hommes et des dieux. The community included mystics and scholars, poets and writers of letters, sermons, journals and essays, as well as others hailing from humbler intellectual backgrounds. Becoming available on the publication of the monastery archives, these first-hand accounts reflect upon the increasingly tense situation facing the men’s community, village and adoptive nation. The growing literature on Tibhirine is markedly split. Journalistic coverage of the events aside, the predominantly French publications on the monks’ writings often reveal their authors’ or editors’ religious perspective. Consider such titles as Sept vies pour Dieu et l’Algérie, published by a former editor-in-chief of the Catholic daily La Croix,3 or the three volumes in Nouvelle Cité’s ‘Prier 15 jours’ series, featuring selections from the community’s most prolific writers.4 Such publications demonstrate the extent to which Tibhirine resonates with a spiritually-minded audience and rightly place the men’s writings within a profoundly religious worldview. From a scholarly standpoint, though, the result borders on the hagiographical. In its own way, the reaction of French filmgoers and the secular press to Des hommes et des dieux has also been overwhelmingly laudatory. Recipient of the Festival de Cannes’s Grand Prix, the Prix de l’Éducation Nationale and the Prix du jury œcuménique, as well as the César for best film, the movie became an unlikely box-office hit. Le Monde des Religions underscored its ‘véritable leçon d’humanité’.5 Echoed by many reviewers, this implicit situation of the film within a French humanistic tradition has been explicitly encouraged by the director himself, who when asked to summarize the film cited the Republic’s motto, ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’.6 French film critics have hailed it as ‘un miracle planétaire’, ‘magnifiquement réussi’, ‘traversé avec grâce’, an ‘œuvre magistrale’, ‘excellent’, and ‘un film classique’, ‘une illumination’.7 In contrast, a rare dissenting voice from Libération concluded that the film ‘aurait sans doute perdu en grandeur et en lyrisme […] ce qu’il aurait gagné en contenu politique s’il avait précisément interrogé la place des moines et le rôle profond de leur paternalisme onctueux face à un Etat défaillant et au milieu d’une population déshéritée.’8 This charge is exceptional; other reservations even in the leftist French press generally concern aesthetic, rather than political, choices. On the Anglo-American side, however, little scholarship exists on the brothers’ writings, and film critics have been quick to point out the production’s ‘troublingly Franco-centric’ bias and ‘apolitical’ failure to consider the monastic order’s implication in France’s destructive colonial legacy.9 Such alignment of the monks with France is, of course, understandable: with the exception of one surviving monk (Amédée, born Jean Noto in a pied-noir family), the men were not Algerian-born, even if Prior Christian de Chergé did seek Algerian citizenship.10 Undeniably, it is difficult to disassociate the cross from the sword and plough that together made up the triad of the colonial project – and this despite the monks’ non-missionary role in Algeria and recent scholarship demonstrating how their community worked to ‘decolonize Christianity’ during and after the Algerian War of Independence.11 Reading Tibhirine otherwise This article takes these critical tendencies seriously, while inviting a third way of reading Des hommes et des dieux and the Tibhirine archive which it mines. Against the critical consensus, I would like to suggest that these under-studied documents need not remain closed unless a viewer/reader adopts the hermeneutical lens of traditional Catholicism or French republicanism. Instead, this article places these documents in dialogue with what is often called the postmodern ethics of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida. Of course, reading representations of a Christian monastic community alongside two Jewish philosophers, one of whom ‘passe à juste titre pour athée’, is not an obvious move.12 Moreover, much has been made of the philosophers’ relative silence about cinema and their suspicions about the seventh art (Levinas) or totalizing visions (both).13 Levinasian and Derridean thought have nonetheless opened up new directions in film criticism,14 and Des hommes et des dieux and the Tibhirine writings inflect conceptions of ethics indebted to the two. Of particular interest is the way Levinas’s ethics as first philosophy ‘présent[e] la subjectivité comme accueillant Autrui, comme hospitalité’, prioritizing the other to whom the self is asymmetrically responsible.15 This original hospitable opening even makes the self a hostage, a forceful metaphor concretized by the monks, some of whom were, as we shall see, readers of the philosopher.16 A great interlocutor of Levinas, Derrida nonetheless demonstrates how the latter’s figure of the third party, ‘le tiers’, destabilizes the self/other relation with a plurality that introduces justice and ‘signe un premier parjure’:17 ‘Je ne peux répondre à l’appel, à la demande, à l’obligation, ni même à l’amour d’un autre sans lui sacrifier l’autre autre, les autres autres.’18 Through this double bind, Derrida analyses hospitality and related aporias such as responsibility, gift giving and forgiveness. Inspired by Derrida’s late work, the humanities and social sciences are rethinking hospitality, an ancient philosophical and theological concept, to address contemporary debates ranging from immigration to feminism.19 In what follows, I show how the monks’ responses to the Algerian crisis represented in Beauvois’s film and their writings can be understood as working through these aporias. Ultimately, the encounters that these works invite in the face of conflict allow us to ask to what extent Des hommes et des dieux – and film more generally – can be understood as hospitable. In Donner la mort in particular, Derrida considers infinite responsibility, what Hent de Vries argues may be the philosopher’s ‘single most wide-ranging insight’.20 Following Kierkegaard, Derrida focuses on the archetypal Abraham as caught between an absolute singular being’s call (the divine command to sacrifice his beloved only son Isaac) and a community’s universal ethical principal (the injunction not to murder). Abraham’s call and response contradict ‘ce qui nous lie à nos proches et aux nôtres (cela peut être la famille mais aussi la communauté concrète des amis ou de la nation)’, as Derrida glosses.21 The monks’ situation itself reveals similarly conflicting calls. Their eventual decision to stay in Tibhirine in the face of near-certain death is inconceivable without first addressing this situation: ‘notre problème est d’être justement situés, c’est-à-dire reliés,’ the community’s medic, Luc Dochier, writes in his ‘testament spirituel’.22 In a post-colonial, war-torn context, this ‘situation’ is entangled in complex and ultimately incommensurable personal, political, cultural and religious demands. Des hommes et des dieux’s dialogue brings these competing responsibilities to the fore as it tracks the evolution of the monks’ communal and personal struggles to discern how best to respond to the various calls or demands urging them to stay or to leave. At the same time, the film’s editing accentuates their various allegiances, as its rhythm alternates between scenes of work, prayer and life lived out privately, in monastic community, in the larger community and in dialogue with political forces. In their negotiation of multiple identities, the monks of Tibhirine attempted to live out the difficult paradox of responsibility. Like Abraham, they renounced their primary social loyalties to their nations, their families and their very selves. They did not heed the demands of governments (French or Algerian), the urgings of their superior or even their own instincts of self-preservation.23 Refusing the personally and politically responsible act, they responded instead to what they perceived as a singular call to live in solidarity with a terrorized Algerian people, precisely ‘au milieu d’une population déshéritée’.24 The film hints at such responsibility to the countless ‘other others’ with a map framed centrally just behind Prior Christian. Labelled ‘Carte pour un monde solidaire’, it features prominently, yet subtly, in the background of the film’s many scenes of communal meetings. In this context, this solidarity does not map out a theoretical universalism that in practice serves to exclude; it therefore does not stand to be accused of the same failings of, say, the French republican motto. Rather, the radically inclusive solidarity charted by the group challenges the very notion of borders necessarily evoked by the map. Such a position must appear irresponsible and unjustifiable before human reason and the law, and indeed one noted critique of Beauvois’s film deemed the monks’ decision ‘incompréhensible’ and ‘insensée’.25 Yet, such is the aporia of absolute responsibility, which responds to something other than logic and accounting: ‘elle refuse l’auto-présentation devant la violence qui consiste à demander des comptes et des justifications.’26 Hospitality, received and rendered The responsibilities of the monks thus appear double and conflicted: general and singular, secular and sacred, personal and communal, ethical and political. They inform and are guided by a similarly aporetic hospitality. As with responsibility, Derrida’s later work reflects on absolute unconditional hospitality as an impossibility that contradicts the law(s) of hospitality. Hosting entails owning and mastering one’s place and establishing borders that exclude, lest the hosted take the host hostage.27 The monks embodied conditional, or practical, acts of hospitality in their daily lives, sharing their meagre resources and land (30 acres, the other 770 acquired under colonial rule having been returned to the state), while working and learning alongside locals as associates in an agricultural cooperative.28 Yet, the notion of ownership remains problematic in a post-colonial setting, making the paradox particularly resonant: ‘l’hôte qui reçoit (host), celui qui accueille l’hôte invité ou reçu (guest), l’hôte accueillant qui se croit propriétaire des lieux, c’est en vérité un hôte reçu dans sa propre maison […] qui au fond ne lui appartient pas.’29 Indeed, Des hommes et des dieux and the Tibhirine writings meditate at length upon the monks’ paradoxical position as outsiders at home, as guests and hosts. This liminal status contributed to their precariousness and privilege. On the one hand, it caused problems with residency papers and marked the men as foreign targets for Islamist rebel forces.30 On the other, it afforded them (despite their poverty) the chance to escape, a luxury of which local villagers could only dream. Early in the film, Des hommes et des dieux evokes the monks’ outsider status as guests ‘“dans la maison de l’islam”’ when spectators faintly detect the Muslim call to prayer in the background while the camera focuses on Brother Luc preparing for the day.31 Subsequent examples are more forceful. For instance, an early, long (20-second) static shot shows the community praying in their dark, still chapel before cutting to a nearby construction site in broad daylight, where a shaky camera captures the visual and auditory chaos of Islamists’ abrupt arrival to slit the throats of Croatian workers. When Christian and Jean-Pierre then meet with the local wali, the sympathetic prefect deplores the deteriorating situation and its victims. Jean-Pierre responds, ‘Nous sommes aussi tristes que vous,’ to which the wali retorts sharply, ‘Qu’est-ce que vous en savez? Moi, c’est mon pays ici.’ Still, as the monks consider escaping the escalating violence, the film stresses the roots they have planted in Tibhirine, a town named after ‘the gardens’, in the Berber language, that historically grew up around Notre-Dame-de-l’Atlas monastery.32 With clear iconography, the film evokes dynamic rootedness, a visual evocation of the paradoxical monastic ‘stabilité du pèlerin’.33 After the community’s initial vote to leave or stay, a sequence showing Christian walking alone in nature accentuates both the vertical and the horizontal, two perspectives the monks sought to marry. The sequence opens with a camera pan adopting his point of view gazing up at the trees’ canopy. When the camera cuts to follow the Prior walking, we see him stop to pat and gaze admiringly up at a solid old tree. The Prior’s entrance into the frame positions neither him as outsider nor the landscape as exoticized. If landscape is associated with ‘[t]he European colonial project […] of spatial mastery’,34 there is here on the contrary no mastery, spatial or otherwise, as emphasized by the incipits of the three stanzas of the sequence’s hymn: ‘Nous ne savons pas,’ ‘Nous ne voyons pas,’ ‘Nous ne savons pas.’ Instead, Christian appears a (small, vulnerable) part of the environment, an intimacy underscored at the end of the sequence by a camera shot mirroring his view of a flock of birds in flight. Indeed, soon after, Brother Célestin compares the group members themselves to birds on a branch, not knowing whether they will fly off. A local woman corrects him, however, inverting the metaphor: ‘la branche, c’est vous.’ In a rare scholarly article on Des hommes et des dieux, David Nowell-Smith isolates this last example as ‘little less than an apologia for continued French presence in its former colonies’.35 That ‘presence’ is indeed controversial, for reasons I acknowledge. Such an assessment of the dialogue’s ideology, however, presupposes its fictionality and fails to account for the complex reality of Muslim–Christian relations and the sense of a ‘consentement mutuel’ lived out at that time and in that place.36 In the film’s visualization of this actual exchange documented in Christophe Lebreton’s writings, locals affirm the stability and protection that the monastery provides within the community – and the friendships between its inhabitants and townspeople.37 Of course, we access such representations via the writings of the monks themselves, lacking direct access to Tibhirine’s silent Muslim majority. The filmic representation seems doubly removed, as it was shot in Morocco and, to the chagrin of the Algerian paper El Watan’s reviewer, never utters the name of Tibhirine.38 Yet, I am not convinced that such mediation is necessarily damning for the Tibhirine writings or this film that largely mirrors their perspective. The anonymous mass’s silence – or its silencing by war and terror – gives the monks’ decision to stay ‘avec les autres’39 more meaning as an act of solidarity which casts light on those victims of a violence that is covered up or ignored. The inverted metaphor of the branch, itself a symbol of peace, moreover figures the complex doubling of hospitality at play here. The post-colonial French hôtes (guests – and originally uninvited ones) find themselves welcomed into the home and nation of their Algerian hôtes (hosts). What is more, they are even recast as hôtes (hosts) by the latter. Such a surprising reconfiguration operates on at least two levels: it signals the ‘troubling’ proximity between ‘hostis as host and hostis as enemy, between hospitality and hostility’, and the necessary ‘strange crossing’ or inversion of host and guest that hospitality entails.40 In so doing, it also implies a friendship that can overcome, at least locally and fragilely, past hostilities’ determination of the present.41 In this way, the film and writings position the monks as hosts in both Latin and French senses of the term, receiving and rendering hospitality. Their writings reveal them to be keenly aware of their situation as guests in a culture that values hospitality highly and from which, as de Chergé acknowledges, they have ‘lessons’ to learn.42 An early representation of this received hospitality is the celebration of the circumcision of a local boy, Jamal, to which the boy’s uncle, Noureddine, a co-worker in the monastery gardens, invites the brothers. As in the aforementioned branch scene, and as both Levinas and Derrida stress, friendship is here again bound up in hospitality as it is practised daily.43 Shortly after this invitation, in one of the film’s many two shots, we see the monastery’s gardener, Christophe, gazing out at the countryside and called back to the task at hand by Noureddine: ‘Tu dors, mon frère?’ While ‘mon frère’ could simply refer to Christophe’s monastic title, the term’s ambiguity – coupled with the informal tu and the context of shared labour – gestures to the fraternal relationship between the men, as apparently was the filmmakers’ intention.44 Subsequently, we see monks at the party intermixed with their neighbours, clapping along with them to music and participating in prayers chanted in Arabic within their host’s home. Hospitality is also central to the Benedictine Rule, which impels its followers literally to welcome visitors at their gate and in their guesthouse, culturally to study the local language, customs and texts, and liturgically to share rituals and prayers.45 Welcomed by neighbours in prayer groups, homes and celebrations, the monks of Tibhirine in turn saw their monastery, and their very selves, as a ‘“maison de prière” pour ce peuple qui constitue [leur] prochain le plus proche’.46 De Chergé’s allusion here to Isaiah 56.6–7 is no mere symbolic or rhetorical gesture. Indeed, the monks offered the space adjacent to their dispensary for use as a mosque when villagers lacked resources to complete the construction of one.47 For these subjects whom Beauvois once described as ‘curious about the beauty of others’,48 welcoming difference expanded into the intellectual and spiritual realms. Starting in 1979, an ecumenical group, ‘le Ribât-es-Salâm, le “Lien de la paix”’, brought together monks and local Christians, friends of the monastery and Sufi Muslims.49 Shaped by the Second Vatican Council, Christian de Chergé held Islam, Arabic and Algerian culture in great esteem and regularly cited the Qur’an and reflected on Muslim–Christian relations, writing that for him, ‘L’Algérie et l’islam, […] c’est un corps et une âme.’50 In Des hommes et des dieux, a close-up pan of books strewn across Christian’s desk hints at formative intellectual influences and the way in which he welcomed the very thought and language of the other into his own thinking: among texts by saints Paul, Jerome, Benedict and Francis, we find the Muslim holy book. A medium shot then reveals the Prior writing. When he pauses to consult his Qur’an and place it back on his desk, the camera shifts slightly but swiftly to keep the entire book in the foreground of the frame, as if the text, or its relationship to the writer, were the scene’s true subject. Towards absolute hospitality: welcoming the other as wholly Other Yet, Des hommes et des dieux most forcefully interrogates hospitality – and a Derridean-like aporetic hope in im/possible unconditional hospitality – in two critical scenes depicting the monks’ relation to local Islamist fighters, their ‘frères de la montagne’.51 In the first, occurring about one third of the way into the film, Lambert Wilson in the role of Christian de Chergé dialogues with armed insurgents who storm the monastery at Christmas 1993, mere weeks after a GIA ultimatum to foreigners expired. In a tense scene faithful to textual accounts, Christian addresses their leader, Ali Fayattia.52 Filmed in shot/countershot and a face-to-face medium long two shot, the confrontation visually implies a standoff. The monks’ ‘welcome’ of the militants initially evokes conditional hospitality: conditions are indeed posed, boundaries enforced. Due to the presence of arms, Christian directs his interlocutor toward the monastery’s gate,53 which will figure prominently between the men in the face-to-face two shots, as if to signal the centrality of ‘thresholds (even seuils de tolérance sometimes)’ in hospitality.54 Insisting that theirs is ‘une maison de paix’, the Prior rejects their leader’s demands: he explains that the monks’ medications belong to villagers in need and that Luc is too old and ill to travel to their wounded, whom he nonetheless implies are welcome at the clinic. The exchange captures hospitality’s inherent tension as ‘a virtue that depends upon retaining a semblance of both sovereignty and autonomy, not their negation’.55 In an unanticipated twist, Christian cites the Qur’an to explain to his ‘guest’ why the monks live humbly ‘proche de [leurs] voisins’, ‘[leurs] frères musulmans’. Riskier still, after the armed men move to disappear into the darkness, Christian calls them back, explaining that it is the night when the monks celebrate ‘la naissance du Prince de la Paix’, or ‘Sidna Aïssa’ (‘Our Lord Jesus Christ’) as Christian clarifies in Arabic, to which his interlocutor responds in French, ‘Jésus’. Hospitality infuses even language here, or rather, ‘l’essence du langage est amitié et hospitalité,’ as Levinas insists.56 Facing and addressing his (seeming) adversary, the Prior stresses peace, and with a stunning linguistic inversion, each man attempts to speak the language of the other (without appropriating that other). As the face-to-face encounter culminates, Ali apologizes and extends his hand, which a surprised Christian accepts. Confrontation has given way to dialogue in shared language which defuses violence and fosters respect. ‘Marked’ by this meeting, Christian touches the hand that has shaken Ali’s while watching his interlocutor leave. The night scene illuminates the faith held by de Chergé, a reader of Levinas, that encounters with the vulnerable face of the other hold the power to ‘disarm’ both one’s enemy and oneself.57 For the philosopher, the face is inherently vulnerable, ‘sans défense’, ‘une pauvreté essentielle’; its ‘first word’ is the command, ‘Tu ne tueras point.’58 Less than two months before de Chergé’s abduction, Levinas’s passing affords an opportunity to reflect on this marking event: Expérience vécue qu’en se présentant les mains nues au meurtrier surarmé, il est possible de le DÉSARMER… non seulement en lui donnant de voir de près le visage d’un frère en humanité qu’on voulait menacer de mort, mais aussi en lui laissant sa meilleure chance de révéler le sien: ‘Approcher de son prochain, c’est devenir gardien de son frère!’59 This final citation from La Croix’s obituary paraphrases Levinas’s ‘Dieu et la philosophie’, which continues, ‘[Ê]tre gardien de son frère, c’est être son otage.’60 The dynamic points to the community’s understanding of the self’s radical responsibility before the other, as when Lebreton writes at Easter 1995, ‘Moi et toi, ce face-à-face, […] c’est une investiture qui m’oblige: impossible de me dérober à mon prochain (lire… E. Lévinas!).’61 These glosses, and the film scene’s composition and resolution, thus push our reading of the event from a conditional towards a more aporetic understanding of hospitality. To be welcomed, ‘[t]he other, like the Messiah, must arrive whenever he or she wants,’ writes Derrida.62 In Des hommes et des dieux, the militants’ ‘visit’ (or ‘visitation’, Levinas would say, foregrounding the face’s ‘transcendence’) significantly occurs on the Nativity, when Christians worldwide welcome the birth of the Messiah into the world and the human story.63 This coincidence, considered alongside the Benedictine Rule’s injunction that ‘all guests who arrive be received like Christ’, recasts these nocturnal guests’ identity.64 With indentation evoking footsteps, Lebreton thus opens the journal that he began in 1993 amidst growing violence and maintained until his death:   C’est toi l’ami     c’est toi qui frappes       et me demandes   abri65 Similarly, in another critical scene midway through the film, Brother Luc, played by Michael Lonsdale, silently cares for an anonymous wounded moudjahid who arrives at the clinic. Such welcome was truly extended at Notre-Dame-de-l’Atlas. Like his aforementioned reading of Levinasian responsibility before the face of the other, de Chergé writes in April 1995 of the Islamist fighters who sought treatment at the monastery: ‘nous nous sentons […] appelés à exercer un charisme de guérison entre tous, en nous efforçant d’accueillir chacun plus loin que la violence dont il serait complice.’66 In close-up, the camera films Luc’s care for the suffering man from the point of view of a bedside observer. This choice implicitly encourages the empathy of the spectator, who follows the scene from the perspective of the fighter who helped his limping comrade into the clinic. Then, after a cut and before Luc approaches to clean the wound and speak, a striking camera angle from the foot of the bed foreshortens a still, supine body draped in a sheet, provocatively and intentionally framing the Islamist’s body in a tableau evocative of Andrea Mantegna’s Lamentation of Christ.67 These three filmic and textual instances imagine the alterity of the visitor/other as the trace of the wholly Other. This understanding is clearly indebted to the Judeo-Christian creation of human beings in the image of God, and to the Christian belief in the incarnation of God visiting humankind in the figure of Christ. But as the above passages from the Tibhirine archives intimate, it also shares affinities with Levinas’s ‘infinition of hospitality as absolute hospitality’, that is, ‘a welcoming of the other as (the) totally Other, as the other in whose trace, transcendence, and dimension of height we find the sole access to – indeed, the very desire for and fear of – God’.68 True welcome must therefore welcome the stranger, or as Derrida insists reading Levinas’s De Dieu qui vient à l’idée, ‘Qui aime l’étranger? Qui d’autre aimer?’69 Hence in Des hommes et des dieux’s representation of the monks’ final vote whether to stay or leave, a close-up shot shows Olivier Rabourdin in the role of Christophe, the youngest and most troubled of the group, as he smiles knowingly and responds only, ‘Laissons Dieu dresser la table, ici, pour tous, amis et ennemis,’ prescient words from Lebreton’s 1995 Holy Thursday homily.70 Gatherings at tables and sharing of food and drink are, of course, integral components of hospitality, particularly in the Maghrebi and Arab worlds. Yet, the imagery takes on additional significance, revealing how the group’s notion of hospitality is bound up in the Eucharistic host, at once offered and received, broken and integral. The hospitable gift: life, forgiveness, death By consciously welcoming others, even (or especially) strangers, the monks of Tibhirine walked the aporia of hospitality, instantiating concrete acts of welcome that nonetheless aspired to – and were animated by – unconditional hospitality.71 This hospitality extended to giving what they held most dear (their bodies, lives, monastic community). Yet in a certain sense, they remained masters of their fate: ‘Il nous reste une liberté d’otages: pas celle de s’échapper, mais la liberté de qui va plus loin, brisant l’enfermement des violences.’72 This same tension also governs aporetic notions of the gift and forgiveness – or the gift of forgiveness – as acts of hospitality explored in the textual and visual representations of Tibhirine. As with hospitality, a true gift cannot be reduced to or bound by economies of debt and repayment. Instead, it must be given freely, as Derrida elaborates in particular in Donner le temps,73 just as, conversely, De l’hospitalité articulates a radical hospitality ‘gracieusement offerte au-delà de la dette et de l’économie’.74 By the same logic, the philosopher dismisses much of what passes for forgiveness as amnesty, reconciliation or excuse of understandable transgressions. Aporetic and excessive, genuine forgiveness breaks free of calculation and self-interest. With a nod to Vladimir Jankélévitch, Derrida accentuates the paradox: ‘le pardon pardonne seulement l’impardonnable.’75 It must reside somewhere outside the law, an institution that disrupts the necessary face-to-face encounter between the wrongdoer and the wronged party. Given its impossibility, Derrida locates such unconditional forgiveness in madness or the unconscious, beyond or beneath rationality.76 Reflecting on the likely consequences of the community’s decision to stay in Algeria, de Chergé seemingly concurs: Lentement, chacun apprend à intégrer la mort dans ce don, et avec elle toutes les autres conditions de ce ministère du vivre ensemble qui est exigence de gratuité totale. À certains jours, tout cela paraît peu raisonnable. Aussi peu raisonnable que de se faire moine…77 Just how free and unconditional is this ‘mad’ gift of a life consciously given? In practical terms, the monks could be understood as bound by a prior gift: spiritually, that of Christ’s sacrifice; or quite literally, that of the Algerian policeman who saved Christian de Chergé’s life years earlier and would pay for it with his own. De Chergé, however, understood real love – Christ’s or the man’s – as freely given.78 In kind, the monks viewed their attempt to live in solidarity with their neighbours as free of any desire to repay a debt or invite reciprocity: ‘Ne pas attendre [la réciprocité] pour continuer de s’ouvrir; ça serait contraire à la gratuité de l’amour.’79 Notably, this stance refuses even to claim any spiritual consolation, aspire to an eternal reward or embrace martyrdom. Just days before his kidnapping, for instance, de Chergé reiterated his refusal of martyrdom, which would make one of his Algerian ‘brothers’ a murderer: ‘Je les aime assez, tous les Algériens, pour ne pas vouloir qu’un seul d’entre eux soit le Caïn de son frère.’80 From rebirth spared on the Nativity of 1993 to their own Calvary just before Easter of 1996, the monks self-consciously journeyed on a biblical and liturgical trajectory – one that the film’s temporal compression makes all the more apparent. Yet, their lived liturgy strikes one as in some sense freer than its christic model, because devoid of any inherent redemptive value beyond its ethical witness. In their writings, as in the above-mentioned scene in which Christophe embraces the decision to stay, the members of the Tibhirine community did not ask for their cup to be spared them. Instead, they accepted that it be poured out liberally. And so in his last poem, dated 1 March 1996, Christophe Lebreton writes, underscoring the final invitation,    ma vie nul ne la prend   mon  Père   vous  la verse   ami     ne la boiras-tu pas?81 While the film underscores Christophe’s anguished struggle to come to this eventual invitation, Luc’s forceful resolution from the start to stay rests precisely on his definition of freedom. Previously kidnapped during the Algerian War,82 Luc explains that he does not fear the terrorists, the army or even death: ‘Je suis un homme libre.’ When his face-to-face meeting with Christian concludes and the men move to leave the Prior’s office, Luc smiles slyly and requests, ‘Ben, laissez passer l’homme libre.’ Beyond the monks’ freely offered lives and deaths, and the ethical values to which they give shape, the aporetic hospitable gift of Tibhirine incorporates forgiveness, as emphasized by Des hommes et des dieux’s understated end. ‘[G]iving is always already forgiving,’ as Derrida’s exegete John Caputo has written, ‘an impossible that impassions’.83 As one static shot of the monks held captive cuts to others of the snowy, quiet, empty monastery and its cemetery, Wilson’s voice-over reads excerpts of de Chergé’s ‘testament spirituel’. Penned on 1 December 1993, the date of the expiration of the GIA’s ultimatum targeting foreigners in Algeria, the letter anticipates its community’s fate. Projecting into the future, the letter imagines a potential ‘mémoire du présent’, as if it ‘inscrivait ou révélait la différence dans la présence même du présent’.84 In turn projected onto images suggesting death, the spectral, disembodied voice-over grapples in a uniquely cinematic way with presence and representation as it illuminates what Robert Smith has called the ‘multiple haunting […] at play in the experience of the screen’.85 Entitled ‘Quand un A-DIEU s’envisage…’, de Chergé’s letter reimagines its author’s death as a life not taken, but freely given, ‘DONNEE’ in capital letters. Notably, here again, the film and the text on which it draws assert that these lives are no more or less precious than any of the thousands of victims of the war ‘laissées dans l’indifférence de l’anonymat’.86 Anticipating the inevitable, de Chergé proffers forgiveness for his as yet unmet executioner and asks for pardon, admitting to being ‘complicit’ with evil, even that same evil ‘qui [le] frapperait aveuglément’.87 This avowal can be read ontologically, theologically or historically, as a reference to inevitable original and personal sin, or more specifically as his own indirect responsibility, as a white French man from a military family, in the Algerian situation. In an even more stunning move, he concludes his note with a thank you addressed to his ravisher and assassin as a ‘friend’: ‘Dans ce MERCI où tout est dit, désormais, de ma vie, je vous inclus […] toi aussi, l’ami de la dernière minute […]. Oui, pour toi aussi je le veux, ce MERCI, et cet “A-DIEU” en-visagé de toi.’88 The Derridean punctuation of the adieu/à-Dieu marks a double move towards and away from an original greeting that is also a parting which entrusts de Chergé’s interlocutor to a deferred peace. Similarly, in an ultimate hospitable invitation, the Levinasian emphasis on the face in the en-visagé looks forward to a face-to-face encounter at, and beyond, the moment of death. De Chergé’s vision of his final moment thus brings us to that ultimate aporia, death. ‘Ma mort est-elle possible?’ Derrida asks, taking up that most intimate and universal of occurrences which remains least appropriable to the human mind, that ‘frontière infranchissable’ for which I can never fully account.89 Yet, by their writings, the voices of Tibhirine imply the possibility of testifying to the aporia. ‘Fidèles à l’étymologie du mot martyr, “témoin” en grec, les moines deviennent les spectateurs de leur propre mort à venir,’ writes Isabelle Zribi.90 At the same time, the epistolary and filmic inscriptions of the à venir gesture towards what Yvonne Sherwood and Kevin Hart stress is the ‘faith […] required by acts of writing that open out into a giving to be read that is always, also, “a leaving to be desired”’.91 Hospitable vision? This giving and opening out point to the film’s and the text’s reception, to a spectator/reader as interlocutor. In that spirit of dialogue and encounter, Beauvois’s film and the Tibhirine writings reflect with lucidity and humanity on the menace facing the monks’ lives, their community and Algeria as a whole. While in no way denying or minimizing the specifically Catholic heritage of Tibhirine, placing these documents in dialogue with Levinasian and Derridean thought draws out other ethical and political dimensions to these works. At the same time, while the writings and the film tend not to frame the conflict in explicitly political terms, their post-colonial situation inevitably raises these concerns. Instead of dismissing them as examples of a ‘benign post-colonialism’, I would suggest that we read Des hommes et des dieux and the writings of the Tibhirine community as testifying to an hospitable desire to ‘accueillir la différence’, in de Chergé’s words and in the spirit of Levinas and Derrida.92 In this particular context, the event of Tibhirine can be read as a testimony to the terrorizing of a population caught in the grip of civil war and as a defence of the right to difference, which the ideology of ‘one nation, one language, one religion’ would seek to flatten. Both Des hommes et des dieux and the Tibhirine writings dare to re-imagine spaces of political, religious and linguistic friction as potential sites for radical encounter. By taking seriously the aporetic possibility of the impossible – responsibility, hospitality, gift giving and forgiveness – these stories interrogate and challenge our often limited individual and societal understandings of these concepts. However, beyond the ethical and political implications of Des hommes et des dieux, Beauvois’s film raises an interesting related question for film studies more generally. Nowell-Smith has contended that ‘Beauvois has managed to make a film about post-colonial Algeria in which it is French expatriates who are the victims; the 100,000-plus casualties of the civil war are, for the film’s purposes, incidental to the monks’ own suffering.’93 As evidence, the critic zooms in on a scene in which Jean-Pierre and Christophe drive past an army roadblock and witness a corpse lying on the roadside. A 180-degree camera pan signals that we are viewing the situation from the young monk’s perspective: ‘Christophe’s anguish as he looks at the terrorist’s corpse is exemplary of the problem. The experience of victimhood is transferred from the dead terrorist to the monk witnessing the dead body.’94 The questions raised here about the ethics and politics of Des hommes et des dieux’s vision merit further attention. In light of this discussion of Levinasian and Derridean ethics, we might ask whether the film itself – and film more generally – can be conceived of as hospitable. That is to say, to what extent does the film respond to, make room for and welcome the other? If hospitality opens ‘the space of thinking’95 – and seeing, we might add – Beauvois’s film does attempt to articulate a hospitable vision. As evidence, I could examine the film’s organization of time, chant and silence to welcome the spectator into the monastic world.96 After all, this way of being is itself foreign to most spectators. Given the importance of the post-colonial setting, however, I will instead consider in this concluding section the film’s use of focalization and its depiction of local populations. The monks are clearly the film’s main subject – a focus that influences narrative and visual choices, such as the privileging of Christophe’s perspective in the aforementioned roadside scene. Yet Des hommes et des dieux also makes space for other viewpoints, including those of local civilians, Islamist fighters and members of the army. The Croatian massacre scene offers one notable case, since it is shot primarily from the point of view of an Algerian worker on the site, with cuts back to his face revealing him to be clearly terrorized. I have also noted the emphasis on the Islamist militant viewpoint when Luc cares for a wounded fighter watched over by his comrade. Soon thereafter, the camera adopts the other view in the conflict, when Christian is called in by the army to identify Fayattia’s battered corpse: we witness Christian’s reaction to the body’s unveiling (a bowed head, silent prayer) from the officer’s vantage point, then cut to his face to register his incomprehension and disgust. A scene provoked by this exchange offers one final sustained example of the film’s shifting focalization. When the army storms the monastery, presumably to search for militants suspected of being harboured by the monks, the unsteady handheld camera presents the experience of those in the monastery grounds. It is unclear whether this focalization belongs to the monks, the local associates working with them or the village women and children gathered at the clinic; indeed, it seems plausible that all are featured. At the scene’s conclusion, a shot/countershot and pan of a line of people facing the officers then highlight military, civilian and monastic perspectives. This line of people literally and symbolically standing up to the armed forces depicts the local community as strong, a portrayal that also speaks to the film’s desire for hospitable inclusivity. The film’s non-monastic characters are clearly affected by the events invading their community, but they are far from a passive group. Throughout the film, we meet a variety of colourful characters engaged in various activities: shopping at the market, hanging up washing, celebrating rites of passage, having tea, discussing current events and debating interpretations of Islam. At Jamal’s circumcision party, a static shot of the boy yawning while the imam (played by an actual local imam97) chants gives way to a slow pan of men praying, and then cuts to women talking, holding children and laughing together. This sequence encapsulates a wide range of everyday moments – tender and banal, solemn and joyous, intimate and communal. To my mind, however, the scenes focusing on women characters open the most striking windows onto the local populations, particularly in a film so focused on men (the monks, the militants, the army).98 Many of these scenes include Yasmine, a young cooperative worker who figures among those opposing the army raid on the monastery. In a moving, improvised exchange between Brother Luc and her,99 the two use the informal tu while they discuss how one knows when one is truly in love. The medium close-up shot frames the two conversing side by side on a bench. Then, a cut to a long shot frames the silent pair while showing the infirmary’s sign on the wall next to them, as if to stress that the ‘care’ Luc dispenses is not purely medical. Not long after, another scene featuring Yasmine inverses the techniques: after a long shot of her and Christophe silently sowing a field side by side, a cut to a medium close-up shot shows them shoulder to shoulder, smiling and catching their breath after their shared labour. Neither of these scenes privileges the monk; the two characters seem equals, with Yasmine sometimes slightly in the foreground. Another more comical moment depicting strong women arrives when Christophe and Jean-Pierre’s car breaks down on the return from the wilaya. The filmmakers did not plan this breakdown. In what Beauvois calls an unanticipated ‘“moment de grâce”’, a group of local women passing by stop and fix the car. The director chose to juxtapose this scene and the visit with the wali to show ‘“le peuple, accueillant et souriant, le pays qui aime les moines et que les moines aiment”’.100 These hospitable openings notwithstanding, the limits of the film remain what they are. In addition to its narrative and visual focus, we could note that Xavier Beauvois works as a French director in the French auteur tradition, producing and circulating his film within French cinematic and cultural systems.101 This positioning suggests, moreover, the film’s anticipated audience. Our position and our perspective necessarily limit us. Perhaps, then, a hospitable artistic vision – like hospitality itself – eludes us as an impossibility. Mark Westmoreland, commenting on Derrida, writes: ‘In our finitude, we grasp hospitality in terms of its limitations. Hospitality is never fully open; there is always some violence.’102 Yet, still we must strive on, and do. As Caputo glosses Derrida’s ‘There Is No One Narcissism’, ‘One begins where one is and does all that one can, keeping our narcissism as open-ended and hospitable as possible; the rest is beyond us.’103 The commentator’s ‘beyond us’ gestures to a faith in, and a desire for, the impossible, which the monks of Tibhirine lived out. Recognizing the impossible, Derrida writes, ‘[N]ous le pensons pourtant, nous le nommons, nous le désirons. Nous en avons l’intention.’104 In their meditation on responsibility, hospitality, gift giving and forgiveness, and the encounters with alterity that these aporias can invite, Des hommes et des dieux and the Tibhirine writings brought to light by the film illuminate the very possibility of the impossible. Notes 1 To date, three theories explain the deaths: the official Algerian indictment of the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), which claimed responsibility in a May 1996 communiqué; an Algerian Secret Service counter-terror operation to discredit militants; and an Algerian army blunder and cover-up. See ‘Moines de Tibéhirine: la thèse d’une décapitation post mortem est privilégiée’, Le Monde, 2 July 2015, <http://www.lemonde.fr> [All web sources accessed 15 January 2017]. 2 Xavier Beauvois, ‘Préface’, in Henry Quinson, Secret des hommes, secret des dieux: l’aventure humaine et spirituelle du film ‘Des hommes et des dieux’ (Paris: Presses de la Renaissance, 2011), pp. 11–13 (p. 11). 3 Sept vies pour Dieu et l’Algérie, ed. by Bruno Chenu (Paris: Bayard, 1996). 4 Christian Salenson, Prier 15 jours avec Christian de Chergé: prieur des moines de Tibhirine (Montrouge: Nouvelle Cité, 2006); Henry Quinson, Prier 15 jours avec Christophe Lebreton: moine, poète, martyr à Tibhirine (Bruyères-le-Châtel: Nouvelle Cité, 2007); François Buet, Prier 15 jours avec frère Luc: moine et médecin à Tibhirine (Bruyères-le-Châtel: Nouvelle Cité, 2014). For clarity, I will refer to the filmic characters by their first names (e.g., Christian, Christophe, Luc) and the historical authors by their last names (de Chergé, Lebreton, Dochier). 5 Frédéric Lenoir, ‘Une leçon d’humanité’, Le Monde des Religions, 20 October 2010, <http://lemondedesreligions.fr/>. 6 Xavier Beauvois, ‘Entretien’, interview by Christian Fevret, Des hommes et des dieux: dossier de presse, Mars Distribution, 8 September 2010, <http://marsdistribution.com>. 7 Muriel Frat, ‘Des hommes et des dieux: un miracle planétaire’, Le Figaro, 23 May 2013, <http://lefigaro.fr>; François-Guillaume Lorrain, ‘Des hommes et des dieux, des moines et une Palme évidente’, Le Point, 19 May 2010, <http://lepoint.fr>; ‘Des hommes et des dieux est un chef-d’œuvre’, Le Parisien, 8 September 2010, <http://leparisien.fr>; Sophie Benamon, ‘Des hommes et des dieux, magistral’, L’Express, 7 September 2010, <http://lexpress.fr>; Isabelle Regnier, ‘Des hommes et des dieux: “laissez passer l’homme libre…”’, Le Monde, 7 September 2010, <http://lemonde.fr>; Dominique Widemann, ‘Dieu dit: “vous mourrez comme des hommes”’, L’Humanité, 19 May 2010, <http://humanite.fr>. 8 Didier Péron, ‘Une envie de martyre’, Libération, 7 September 2010, <http://liberation.fr>. 9 David Nowell-Smith, ‘Of Gods and Humanitarians’, Film Quarterly, 64.3 (2011), 59–61 (p. 59); Steven Erlanger, ‘As 2 Movies Open, French Wounds from Algeria Ache as if New’, The New York Times, 4 January 2011, <http://nytimes.com>. 10 De Chergé never received an official response to his application. See John Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002), p. 49. 11 Darcie Fontaine, Decolonizing Christianity: Religion and the End of Empire in France and Algeria (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016). 12 Jacques Derrida, ‘Circonfession: cinquante-neuf périodes et périphrases’, in Geoffrey Bennington and Jacques Derrida, Jacques Derrida (Paris: Seuil, 1991), pp. 7–291 (p. 146). 13 Levinas’s reservations about cinema extend to visual, iconic representation and art more generally. See Emmanuel Levinas, ‘La Réalité et son ombre’, Les Temps Modernes, 38 (November 1948), 771–89, and ‘Interdit de la représentation et “droits de l’homme”’, in L’Interdit de la représentation: colloque de Montpellier, 1981, ed. by Adélie Rassial and Jean-Jacques Rassial (Paris: Seuil, 1984), pp. 107–13. Concerning Derrida on the visual, see Jacques Derrida, Mémoires d’aveugle: l’autoportrait et autres ruines (Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1990), and ‘Lettres sur un aveugle’, in Jacques Derrida and Safaa Fathy, Tourner les mots: au bord d’un film (Paris: Galilée, 2000), pp. 71–126, as well as Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 498–523. 14 Notable recent film scholarship on Levinas includes Sarah Cooper, Selfless Cinema? Ethics and French Documentary (Oxford: Legenda, 2006); a special issue of Film-Philosophy, 11.2 (2007), ed. by Sarah Cooper; Lisa Downing and Libby Saxton, Film and Ethics: Foreclosed Encounters (London: Routledge, 2010); and Sam B. Girgus, Levinas and the Cinema of Redemption: Time, Ethics, and the Feminine (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010). On Derrida, see: Downing and Saxton, Film and Ethics; Peter Brunette and David Wills, Screen/Play: Derrida and Film Theory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989); Anthony Easthope, ‘Derrida and British Film Theory’, in Applying: To Derrida, ed. by John Brannigan, Ruth Robbins and Julian Wolfreys (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1996), pp. 184-94; Robert Smith, ‘Deconstruction and Film’, in Deconstructions: A User’s Guide, ed. by Nicholas Royle (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000), pp. 119–36; and Crystal Downing, Salvation from Cinema: The Medium is the Message (New York: Routledge, 2016). 15 Emmanuel Levinas, Totalité et infini: essai sur l’extériorité (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1961), p. xv. 16 Levinas works out these ideas in his seminal Totalité et infini and Autrement qu’être, ou, au delà de l’essence (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1974). 17 Levinas, Totalité et infini, p. 188; Jacques Derrida, Adieu à Emmanuel Lévinas (Paris: Galilée, 1997), p. 67. 18 Jacques Derrida, Donner la mort, in L’Éthique du don: Jacques Derrida et la pensée du don, colloque de Royaumont, décembre 1990, ed. by Jean-Michel Rabaté and Michael Wetzel (Paris: Métailié-Transition, 1992), pp. 11–108 (p. 68). 19 Salient examples include Mireille Rosello, Postcolonial Hospitality: The Immigrant as Guest (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001); Judith Still, Derrida and Hospitality: Theory and Practice (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010); and The Conditions of Hospitality: Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics on the Threshold of the Possible, ed. by Thomas Claviez (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013). 20 Hent de Vries, ‘Derrida and Ethics: Hospitable Thought’, in Jacques Derrida and the Humanities: A Critical Reader, ed. by Tom Cohen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 172–92 (p. 173). 21 Derrida, Donner la mort, pp. 60–61. 22 Luc Dochier, ‘Testament spirituel de frère Luc, 8 mars 1994’, in Christophe Henning and Thomas Georgeon, Frère Luc, la biographie: moine, médecin et martyr à Tibhirine (Montrouge: Bayard, 2011), pp. 207–08 (p. 207). 23 Christian de Chergé, Dieu pour tout jour: chapitres de Père Christian de Chergé à la communauté de Tibhirine (1985–1996), 2nd edn (Montjoyer: Bellefontaine, 2006), p. 532. For de Chergé, the will of the Algerian people was the only valid condition of their stay: ‘“Si, un jour, les Algériens estiment que nous sommes de trop, nous respecterons leur désir de nous voir partir.”’ This letter is reprinted in Henry Quinson, Secret des hommes, pp. 155–56 (p. 156). 24 Péron, ‘Une envie de martyre’. 25 Isabelle Zribi, ‘Mourir comme un dieu’, Cahiers du Cinéma, 659 (2010), 16–18 (p. 17). 26 Derrida, Donner la mort, p. 63. 27 See, for instance, Jacques Derrida, ‘Hostipitality’, trans. by Barry Stocker and Forbes Morlock, Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, 5.3 (2000), 3–18, and Jacques Derrida, De l’hospitalité: Anne Dufourmantelle invite Jacques Derrida à répondre (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1997). 28 Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, p. 81. 29 Derrida, Adieu, p. 79. 30 Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, p. 138. 31 Christophe [Lebreton], Journal, Tibhirine 1993–1996: le souffle du don (Montrouge: Bayard, 2012), p. 59. 32 Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, p. 55. 33 Lebreton, Journal, p. 58. See also de Chergé, Dieu pour tout jour, for example pp. 201, 393. 34 Guy Austin, ‘Spaces of the Dispossessed in Algerian Cinema’, Modern & Contemporary France, 19.2 (2011), 195–208 (p. 197). 35 Nowell-Smith, ‘Of Gods and Humanitarians’, p. 61. 36 De Chergé, Dieu pour tout jour, p. 536. 37 Lebreton, Journal, p. 57. See also p. 53. 38 Walid Mebarek, ‘Des hommes et des dieux, sortie le 8 septembre’, El Watan, 30 August 2010, <http:/elwatan.com/>. 39 In the words of Brother Luc in the film’s final vote scene. 40 Derrida, ‘Hostipitality’, pp. 15, 13. 41 The Tibhirine writings’ and film’s (post-colonial) other as host and friend calls to mind Hélène Cixous’s ‘utopic’ memory of the ‘brotherhood’ between her father and the Algerian Arab hitchhikers he welcomed into his Citroën. See Still, Derrida and Hospitality, pp. 168–71 (p. 171). 42 Christian de Chergé, ‘Conférence du frère Christian au chapitre général 1993’, in Sept vies, pp. 79–97 (p. 93). 43 On this subject, see de Vries, ‘Derrida and Ethics’, p. 179, and Still, Derrida and Hospitality, p. 93. 44 Quinson, Secret des hommes, p. 91. 45 Christian de Chergé, L’Invincible espérance, ed. by Bruno Chenu (Paris: Bayard, 1997), p. 211. 46 Ibid., p. 50. 47 Christian de Chergé, ‘Questionnaire en préparation du synode 1994 sur la vie consacrée, 1er janvier 1993’, in Sept vies, pp. 67–78 (p. 70); Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, pp. 71–72. 48 Xavier Beauvois, ‘“Beyond Religion, the Film is about Men”’, interview by Fabien Lemercier, Cineuropa, 20 May 2010, <http://www.cineuropa.org>. 49 Bruno Chenu, ‘Présentation’, in L’Invincible espérance, pp. 5–16 (p. 13); see also Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, p. 52 and chapter 5. 50 Christian de Chergé, ‘Testament spirituel du frère Christian’, in Sept vies, pp. 210–12 (p. 211). 51 As with this fraternal, euphemistic name for local militants, the monks extended hospitality linguistically to the military, whose members they called their ‘frères de la plaine’. See Christian de Chergé, ‘Lettre circulaire de la communauté, 13 novembre 1994’, in Sept vies, pp. 141–45 (pp. 142–43), and ‘Lettre circulaire de la communauté, 11 avril 1995’, in Sept vies, pp. 150–56 (p. 153). 52 De Chergé, L’Invincible espérance, pp. 309–10; Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, pp. 145–49. 53 Elsewhere, too, this understanding of responsibility as fraternally directed towards all neighbours does not imply a lack of resistance to violence. (See, for example, Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, pp. 138–39, 144, 164, and Lebreton, Journal, p. 59.) As the monks’ fatal end approaches, one compelling filmic example frames them coming together in the chapel in response to an army helicopter hovering menacingly above the monastery. To the increasingly deafening military drone, they respond with their unified chant, ‘Ô Père des lumières’, the lyrics of which stress light’s victory over ‘les ténèbres’. While fictional, this scene hints at one of the theories behind the monks’ deaths and calls to mind Dochier’s letter dated January 1993: ‘Les “Laudes” du matin de Noël ont été accompagnées par le bruit des armes automatiques.’ See [Luc Dochier], ‘Extraits de lettres de frère Luc’, Chemins de dialogue, 27 (2006), 41–65 (p. 50). 54 Still, Derrida and Hospitality, p. 4. 55 Mustafa Dikeç, Nigel Clark and Clive Barnett, ‘Extending Hospitality: Giving Space, Taking Time’, in Extending Hospitality: Giving Space, Taking Time, ed. by Mustafa Dikeç, Nigel Clark and Clive Barnett (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), pp. 1–14 (p. 9). 56 Levinas, Totalité et infini, p. 282. 57 Christian de Chergé, L’Autre que nous attendons: homélies de Père Christian de Chergé (1970–1996), 2nd edn (Montjoyer: Bellefontaine, 2006), p. 486. Cf. de Chergé, ‘Lettre circulaire de la communauté, 25 avril 1995’, p. 170; de Chergé, L’Invincible espérance, p. 314; and Lebreton, Journal, p. 229. 58 Emmanuel Levinas, Éthique et infini: dialogues avec Philippe Nemo (Paris: Fayard, 1982), pp. 90, 93. 59 De Chergé, L’Autre que nous attendons, p. 486. 60 Emmanuel Levinas, ‘Dieu et la philosophie’, in De Dieu qui vient à l’idée (Paris: Vrin, 1982), pp. 93–127 (p. 118). 61 Christophe Lebreton, ‘Ô Dieu, c’est toi notre espérance sur le visage de tous les vivants! Pâques 1995’, in Sept vies, pp. 157–65 (p. 162). 62 Jacques Derrida, ‘Hospitality, Justice and Responsibility: A Dialogue with Jacques Derrida’, in Questioning Ethics: Contemporary Debates in Philosophy, ed. by Richard Kearney and Mark Dooley (London: Routledge, 1999), pp. 65–83 (p. 70). 63 De Chergé, L’Invincible Espérance, p. 314; Emmanuel Levinas, Collected Philosophical Papers, trans. by Alphonso Lingis (Dordrecht: Nijhoff, 1987), p. 106. 64 ‘Chapter 53: On the Reception of Guests’, Rule of Benedict, The Order of Saint Benedict, <http://www.osb.org/rb/>. 65 Lebreton, Journal, p. 29; cf. Dochier, ‘Extraits de lettres’, p. 64. 66 De Chergé, ‘Lettre circulaire de la communauté, 25 avril 1995’, p. 170. 67 Beauvois, ‘Des hommes et des dieux: entretien avec le réalisateur’. 68 De Vries, ‘Derrida and Ethics’, p. 178. 69 Derrida, Adieu, p. 182. 70 Christophe [Lebreton], Aime jusqu’au bout du feu: cent poèmes de vérité et de vie (Annecy: Monte-Cristo, 1997), p. 174. See also p. 113. 71 I am adopting the walking metaphor here following Derrida himself: ‘For me, however, the aporia is not simply paralysis, but the aporia or the non-way is the condition of walking: if there was no aporia we wouldn’t walk, we wouldn’t find our way; path-breaking implies aporia.’ See Derrida, ‘Hospitality, Justice and Responsibility’, p. 73. 72 Lebreton, Journal, p. 75. 73 Jacques Derrida, Donner le temps: 1. La fausse monnaie (Paris: Galilée, 1991), p. 24. 74 Derrida, De l’hospitalité, p. 77. 75 Jacques Derrida, ‘Le Siècle et le Pardon: entretien avec Michel Wieviorka’, in ‘Foi et savoir’, suivi de ‘Le Siècle et le pardon’ (Paris: Seuil, 2000), pp. 101–33 (p. 108). 76 Ibid., pp. 118, 123. 77 De Chergé, ‘Lettre circulaire de la communauté, 25 avril 1995’, p. 171. 78 Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, pp. 6–10; de Chergé, L’Invincible Espérance, pp. 229–30; cf. Dochier, ‘Extraits de lettres’, p. 60. 79 De Chergé, ‘Conférence du frère Christian au chapitre général 1993’, p. 90. 80 De Chergé, L’Invincible Espérance, p. 313. 81 Lebreton, Aime jusqu’au bout du feu, p. 175. 82 Chenu, Sept vies, p. 7. 83 John D. Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without Religion (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), p. 226. 84 Jacques Derrida, Mémoires: pour Paul de Man (Paris: Galilée, 1988), p. 72. 85 Smith, ‘Deconstruction and Film’, p. 123. 86 De Chergé, ‘Testament spirituel’, p. 210. This phrase figures in the excerpts included in the film. 87 Ibid., p. 210. 88 Ibid., p. 212. 89 Jacques Derrida, Apories: mourir – s’attendre aux ‘limites de la vérité’ (Paris: Galilée, 1996), pp. 48, 44. 90 Zribi, ‘Mourir comme un dieu’, p. 17. 91 Yvonne Sherwood and Kevin Hart, ‘Other Testaments’, in Derrida and Religion: Other Testaments, ed. by Yvonne Sherwood and Kevin Hart (New York: Routledge, 2005), pp. 3–26 (p. 10). 92 Jonathan Romney, ‘Memento mori’, Sight & Sound, 21.1 (2011), 50–53 (p. 53); de Chergé, L’Autre que nous attendons, p. 480. 93 Nowell-Smith, ‘Of Gods and Humanitarians’, p. 61. 94 Ibid., p. 59. 95 Anne Dufourmantelle, ‘Hospitality – Under Compassion and Violence’, in The Conditions of Hospitality, ed. by Claviez, pp. 13–23 (p. 13). 96 In a way not unlike, but much more accessible than, Philip Gröning’s 2005 art house documentary, Die große Stille. See Into Great Silence, dir. by Philip Gröning (Zeitgeist, 2007). On Des hommes et des dieux as ‘religious’ cinema, see Wendy M. Wright, ‘Of Gods and Men (2010)’, Journal of Religion & Film, 15.2 (2012), <http://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/jrf/>. 97 Quinson, Secret des hommes, p. 172. 98 There is more to say about motherhood and the Marian statue featured in several scenes, as relating to the monks’ spirituality and ethics, but this lies beyond the scope of the present article. 99 Quinson, Secret des hommes, p. 220. 100 Ibid., p. 108. 101 On this subject, see Alice Burgin, Andrew McGregor and Colin Nettelbeck, ‘Not Dead Yet: Three Takes on Auteurism in Contemporary French and Francophone Cinema’, French Cultural Studies, 25.3–4 (2014), 396–407. 102 Mark W. Westmoreland, ‘Interruptions: Derrida and Hospitality’, KRITIKE, 2.1 (2008), 1–10 (p. 3). 103 Caputo, The Prayers and Tears, p. 226. See Jacques Derrida, ‘“Il n’y a pas le narcissisme” (autobiophotographies)’, in Points de suspension: entretiens, ed. by Elisabeth Weber (Paris: Galilée, 1992), pp. 209–28. 104 Derrida, Donner le temps, p. 45. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press for the Court of the University of St Andrews. All rights reserved. The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland: No. SC013532. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Forum for Modern Language Studies Oxford University Press

HOSPITABLE VISION: XAVIER BEAUVOIS’S DES HOMMES ET DES DIEUX AND THE TIBHIRINE ARCHIVE

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press for the Court of the University of St Andrews. All rights reserved. The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland: No. SC013532.
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0015-8518
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1471-6860
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10.1093/fmls/cqx073
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Abstract

Abstract In 1996, during the Algerian Civil War, seven French Trappist monks were abducted from Tibhirine and assassinated in circumstances that remain uncertain to this day. Xavier Beauvois’s acclaimed 2010 film Des hommes et des dieux rekindled discussion of the monks’ lives and legacy, just as it fuelled debates over Franco-Algerian relations and radical Islam. Against the critical consensus, I argue that one need not adopt the hermeneutical lens of traditional Catholicism or French republicanism to read the film and the Tibhirine archive upon which it draws. Informed by postmodern ethics – in particular Emmanuel Levinas on the face and Jacques Derrida on aporetic hospitality – this article invites another reading of these under-studied documents, asking whether and how Des hommes et des dieux – and film more generally – can be understood as hospitable. In the spring of 1996, seven French Trappist monks were abducted from Tibhirine during the civil war that tore Algeria apart for over a decade. Held hostage for some two months, the monks were assassinated in uncertain circumstances that troubled citizens on both sides of the post-colonial divide.1 In France, the filmmaker Xavier Beauvois’s surprise success, the critically acclaimed Des hommes et des dieux (2010), rekindled discussion of the lives and legacy of the monks of Tibhirine, just as it fuelled debates over Franco-Algerian relations and radical Islam. Despite its retrospective nature, the film does not depict the murder, mentioned explicitly only in the closing titles. Instead, the sober film dwells on the monks’ daily work – communal prayer and manual labour – in and around the monastery, as well as their relationship with the surrounding community. Aspiring to realism,2 Beauvois concentrates in particular on the men’s struggles and doubts as they weigh up whether to flee the menace of death – and what the decision to stay in Algeria would mean. Beauvois and his team drew from the actual literary voices of Tibhirine to inform their visual representation of the events in Des hommes et des dieux. The community included mystics and scholars, poets and writers of letters, sermons, journals and essays, as well as others hailing from humbler intellectual backgrounds. Becoming available on the publication of the monastery archives, these first-hand accounts reflect upon the increasingly tense situation facing the men’s community, village and adoptive nation. The growing literature on Tibhirine is markedly split. Journalistic coverage of the events aside, the predominantly French publications on the monks’ writings often reveal their authors’ or editors’ religious perspective. Consider such titles as Sept vies pour Dieu et l’Algérie, published by a former editor-in-chief of the Catholic daily La Croix,3 or the three volumes in Nouvelle Cité’s ‘Prier 15 jours’ series, featuring selections from the community’s most prolific writers.4 Such publications demonstrate the extent to which Tibhirine resonates with a spiritually-minded audience and rightly place the men’s writings within a profoundly religious worldview. From a scholarly standpoint, though, the result borders on the hagiographical. In its own way, the reaction of French filmgoers and the secular press to Des hommes et des dieux has also been overwhelmingly laudatory. Recipient of the Festival de Cannes’s Grand Prix, the Prix de l’Éducation Nationale and the Prix du jury œcuménique, as well as the César for best film, the movie became an unlikely box-office hit. Le Monde des Religions underscored its ‘véritable leçon d’humanité’.5 Echoed by many reviewers, this implicit situation of the film within a French humanistic tradition has been explicitly encouraged by the director himself, who when asked to summarize the film cited the Republic’s motto, ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’.6 French film critics have hailed it as ‘un miracle planétaire’, ‘magnifiquement réussi’, ‘traversé avec grâce’, an ‘œuvre magistrale’, ‘excellent’, and ‘un film classique’, ‘une illumination’.7 In contrast, a rare dissenting voice from Libération concluded that the film ‘aurait sans doute perdu en grandeur et en lyrisme […] ce qu’il aurait gagné en contenu politique s’il avait précisément interrogé la place des moines et le rôle profond de leur paternalisme onctueux face à un Etat défaillant et au milieu d’une population déshéritée.’8 This charge is exceptional; other reservations even in the leftist French press generally concern aesthetic, rather than political, choices. On the Anglo-American side, however, little scholarship exists on the brothers’ writings, and film critics have been quick to point out the production’s ‘troublingly Franco-centric’ bias and ‘apolitical’ failure to consider the monastic order’s implication in France’s destructive colonial legacy.9 Such alignment of the monks with France is, of course, understandable: with the exception of one surviving monk (Amédée, born Jean Noto in a pied-noir family), the men were not Algerian-born, even if Prior Christian de Chergé did seek Algerian citizenship.10 Undeniably, it is difficult to disassociate the cross from the sword and plough that together made up the triad of the colonial project – and this despite the monks’ non-missionary role in Algeria and recent scholarship demonstrating how their community worked to ‘decolonize Christianity’ during and after the Algerian War of Independence.11 Reading Tibhirine otherwise This article takes these critical tendencies seriously, while inviting a third way of reading Des hommes et des dieux and the Tibhirine archive which it mines. Against the critical consensus, I would like to suggest that these under-studied documents need not remain closed unless a viewer/reader adopts the hermeneutical lens of traditional Catholicism or French republicanism. Instead, this article places these documents in dialogue with what is often called the postmodern ethics of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida. Of course, reading representations of a Christian monastic community alongside two Jewish philosophers, one of whom ‘passe à juste titre pour athée’, is not an obvious move.12 Moreover, much has been made of the philosophers’ relative silence about cinema and their suspicions about the seventh art (Levinas) or totalizing visions (both).13 Levinasian and Derridean thought have nonetheless opened up new directions in film criticism,14 and Des hommes et des dieux and the Tibhirine writings inflect conceptions of ethics indebted to the two. Of particular interest is the way Levinas’s ethics as first philosophy ‘présent[e] la subjectivité comme accueillant Autrui, comme hospitalité’, prioritizing the other to whom the self is asymmetrically responsible.15 This original hospitable opening even makes the self a hostage, a forceful metaphor concretized by the monks, some of whom were, as we shall see, readers of the philosopher.16 A great interlocutor of Levinas, Derrida nonetheless demonstrates how the latter’s figure of the third party, ‘le tiers’, destabilizes the self/other relation with a plurality that introduces justice and ‘signe un premier parjure’:17 ‘Je ne peux répondre à l’appel, à la demande, à l’obligation, ni même à l’amour d’un autre sans lui sacrifier l’autre autre, les autres autres.’18 Through this double bind, Derrida analyses hospitality and related aporias such as responsibility, gift giving and forgiveness. Inspired by Derrida’s late work, the humanities and social sciences are rethinking hospitality, an ancient philosophical and theological concept, to address contemporary debates ranging from immigration to feminism.19 In what follows, I show how the monks’ responses to the Algerian crisis represented in Beauvois’s film and their writings can be understood as working through these aporias. Ultimately, the encounters that these works invite in the face of conflict allow us to ask to what extent Des hommes et des dieux – and film more generally – can be understood as hospitable. In Donner la mort in particular, Derrida considers infinite responsibility, what Hent de Vries argues may be the philosopher’s ‘single most wide-ranging insight’.20 Following Kierkegaard, Derrida focuses on the archetypal Abraham as caught between an absolute singular being’s call (the divine command to sacrifice his beloved only son Isaac) and a community’s universal ethical principal (the injunction not to murder). Abraham’s call and response contradict ‘ce qui nous lie à nos proches et aux nôtres (cela peut être la famille mais aussi la communauté concrète des amis ou de la nation)’, as Derrida glosses.21 The monks’ situation itself reveals similarly conflicting calls. Their eventual decision to stay in Tibhirine in the face of near-certain death is inconceivable without first addressing this situation: ‘notre problème est d’être justement situés, c’est-à-dire reliés,’ the community’s medic, Luc Dochier, writes in his ‘testament spirituel’.22 In a post-colonial, war-torn context, this ‘situation’ is entangled in complex and ultimately incommensurable personal, political, cultural and religious demands. Des hommes et des dieux’s dialogue brings these competing responsibilities to the fore as it tracks the evolution of the monks’ communal and personal struggles to discern how best to respond to the various calls or demands urging them to stay or to leave. At the same time, the film’s editing accentuates their various allegiances, as its rhythm alternates between scenes of work, prayer and life lived out privately, in monastic community, in the larger community and in dialogue with political forces. In their negotiation of multiple identities, the monks of Tibhirine attempted to live out the difficult paradox of responsibility. Like Abraham, they renounced their primary social loyalties to their nations, their families and their very selves. They did not heed the demands of governments (French or Algerian), the urgings of their superior or even their own instincts of self-preservation.23 Refusing the personally and politically responsible act, they responded instead to what they perceived as a singular call to live in solidarity with a terrorized Algerian people, precisely ‘au milieu d’une population déshéritée’.24 The film hints at such responsibility to the countless ‘other others’ with a map framed centrally just behind Prior Christian. Labelled ‘Carte pour un monde solidaire’, it features prominently, yet subtly, in the background of the film’s many scenes of communal meetings. In this context, this solidarity does not map out a theoretical universalism that in practice serves to exclude; it therefore does not stand to be accused of the same failings of, say, the French republican motto. Rather, the radically inclusive solidarity charted by the group challenges the very notion of borders necessarily evoked by the map. Such a position must appear irresponsible and unjustifiable before human reason and the law, and indeed one noted critique of Beauvois’s film deemed the monks’ decision ‘incompréhensible’ and ‘insensée’.25 Yet, such is the aporia of absolute responsibility, which responds to something other than logic and accounting: ‘elle refuse l’auto-présentation devant la violence qui consiste à demander des comptes et des justifications.’26 Hospitality, received and rendered The responsibilities of the monks thus appear double and conflicted: general and singular, secular and sacred, personal and communal, ethical and political. They inform and are guided by a similarly aporetic hospitality. As with responsibility, Derrida’s later work reflects on absolute unconditional hospitality as an impossibility that contradicts the law(s) of hospitality. Hosting entails owning and mastering one’s place and establishing borders that exclude, lest the hosted take the host hostage.27 The monks embodied conditional, or practical, acts of hospitality in their daily lives, sharing their meagre resources and land (30 acres, the other 770 acquired under colonial rule having been returned to the state), while working and learning alongside locals as associates in an agricultural cooperative.28 Yet, the notion of ownership remains problematic in a post-colonial setting, making the paradox particularly resonant: ‘l’hôte qui reçoit (host), celui qui accueille l’hôte invité ou reçu (guest), l’hôte accueillant qui se croit propriétaire des lieux, c’est en vérité un hôte reçu dans sa propre maison […] qui au fond ne lui appartient pas.’29 Indeed, Des hommes et des dieux and the Tibhirine writings meditate at length upon the monks’ paradoxical position as outsiders at home, as guests and hosts. This liminal status contributed to their precariousness and privilege. On the one hand, it caused problems with residency papers and marked the men as foreign targets for Islamist rebel forces.30 On the other, it afforded them (despite their poverty) the chance to escape, a luxury of which local villagers could only dream. Early in the film, Des hommes et des dieux evokes the monks’ outsider status as guests ‘“dans la maison de l’islam”’ when spectators faintly detect the Muslim call to prayer in the background while the camera focuses on Brother Luc preparing for the day.31 Subsequent examples are more forceful. For instance, an early, long (20-second) static shot shows the community praying in their dark, still chapel before cutting to a nearby construction site in broad daylight, where a shaky camera captures the visual and auditory chaos of Islamists’ abrupt arrival to slit the throats of Croatian workers. When Christian and Jean-Pierre then meet with the local wali, the sympathetic prefect deplores the deteriorating situation and its victims. Jean-Pierre responds, ‘Nous sommes aussi tristes que vous,’ to which the wali retorts sharply, ‘Qu’est-ce que vous en savez? Moi, c’est mon pays ici.’ Still, as the monks consider escaping the escalating violence, the film stresses the roots they have planted in Tibhirine, a town named after ‘the gardens’, in the Berber language, that historically grew up around Notre-Dame-de-l’Atlas monastery.32 With clear iconography, the film evokes dynamic rootedness, a visual evocation of the paradoxical monastic ‘stabilité du pèlerin’.33 After the community’s initial vote to leave or stay, a sequence showing Christian walking alone in nature accentuates both the vertical and the horizontal, two perspectives the monks sought to marry. The sequence opens with a camera pan adopting his point of view gazing up at the trees’ canopy. When the camera cuts to follow the Prior walking, we see him stop to pat and gaze admiringly up at a solid old tree. The Prior’s entrance into the frame positions neither him as outsider nor the landscape as exoticized. If landscape is associated with ‘[t]he European colonial project […] of spatial mastery’,34 there is here on the contrary no mastery, spatial or otherwise, as emphasized by the incipits of the three stanzas of the sequence’s hymn: ‘Nous ne savons pas,’ ‘Nous ne voyons pas,’ ‘Nous ne savons pas.’ Instead, Christian appears a (small, vulnerable) part of the environment, an intimacy underscored at the end of the sequence by a camera shot mirroring his view of a flock of birds in flight. Indeed, soon after, Brother Célestin compares the group members themselves to birds on a branch, not knowing whether they will fly off. A local woman corrects him, however, inverting the metaphor: ‘la branche, c’est vous.’ In a rare scholarly article on Des hommes et des dieux, David Nowell-Smith isolates this last example as ‘little less than an apologia for continued French presence in its former colonies’.35 That ‘presence’ is indeed controversial, for reasons I acknowledge. Such an assessment of the dialogue’s ideology, however, presupposes its fictionality and fails to account for the complex reality of Muslim–Christian relations and the sense of a ‘consentement mutuel’ lived out at that time and in that place.36 In the film’s visualization of this actual exchange documented in Christophe Lebreton’s writings, locals affirm the stability and protection that the monastery provides within the community – and the friendships between its inhabitants and townspeople.37 Of course, we access such representations via the writings of the monks themselves, lacking direct access to Tibhirine’s silent Muslim majority. The filmic representation seems doubly removed, as it was shot in Morocco and, to the chagrin of the Algerian paper El Watan’s reviewer, never utters the name of Tibhirine.38 Yet, I am not convinced that such mediation is necessarily damning for the Tibhirine writings or this film that largely mirrors their perspective. The anonymous mass’s silence – or its silencing by war and terror – gives the monks’ decision to stay ‘avec les autres’39 more meaning as an act of solidarity which casts light on those victims of a violence that is covered up or ignored. The inverted metaphor of the branch, itself a symbol of peace, moreover figures the complex doubling of hospitality at play here. The post-colonial French hôtes (guests – and originally uninvited ones) find themselves welcomed into the home and nation of their Algerian hôtes (hosts). What is more, they are even recast as hôtes (hosts) by the latter. Such a surprising reconfiguration operates on at least two levels: it signals the ‘troubling’ proximity between ‘hostis as host and hostis as enemy, between hospitality and hostility’, and the necessary ‘strange crossing’ or inversion of host and guest that hospitality entails.40 In so doing, it also implies a friendship that can overcome, at least locally and fragilely, past hostilities’ determination of the present.41 In this way, the film and writings position the monks as hosts in both Latin and French senses of the term, receiving and rendering hospitality. Their writings reveal them to be keenly aware of their situation as guests in a culture that values hospitality highly and from which, as de Chergé acknowledges, they have ‘lessons’ to learn.42 An early representation of this received hospitality is the celebration of the circumcision of a local boy, Jamal, to which the boy’s uncle, Noureddine, a co-worker in the monastery gardens, invites the brothers. As in the aforementioned branch scene, and as both Levinas and Derrida stress, friendship is here again bound up in hospitality as it is practised daily.43 Shortly after this invitation, in one of the film’s many two shots, we see the monastery’s gardener, Christophe, gazing out at the countryside and called back to the task at hand by Noureddine: ‘Tu dors, mon frère?’ While ‘mon frère’ could simply refer to Christophe’s monastic title, the term’s ambiguity – coupled with the informal tu and the context of shared labour – gestures to the fraternal relationship between the men, as apparently was the filmmakers’ intention.44 Subsequently, we see monks at the party intermixed with their neighbours, clapping along with them to music and participating in prayers chanted in Arabic within their host’s home. Hospitality is also central to the Benedictine Rule, which impels its followers literally to welcome visitors at their gate and in their guesthouse, culturally to study the local language, customs and texts, and liturgically to share rituals and prayers.45 Welcomed by neighbours in prayer groups, homes and celebrations, the monks of Tibhirine in turn saw their monastery, and their very selves, as a ‘“maison de prière” pour ce peuple qui constitue [leur] prochain le plus proche’.46 De Chergé’s allusion here to Isaiah 56.6–7 is no mere symbolic or rhetorical gesture. Indeed, the monks offered the space adjacent to their dispensary for use as a mosque when villagers lacked resources to complete the construction of one.47 For these subjects whom Beauvois once described as ‘curious about the beauty of others’,48 welcoming difference expanded into the intellectual and spiritual realms. Starting in 1979, an ecumenical group, ‘le Ribât-es-Salâm, le “Lien de la paix”’, brought together monks and local Christians, friends of the monastery and Sufi Muslims.49 Shaped by the Second Vatican Council, Christian de Chergé held Islam, Arabic and Algerian culture in great esteem and regularly cited the Qur’an and reflected on Muslim–Christian relations, writing that for him, ‘L’Algérie et l’islam, […] c’est un corps et une âme.’50 In Des hommes et des dieux, a close-up pan of books strewn across Christian’s desk hints at formative intellectual influences and the way in which he welcomed the very thought and language of the other into his own thinking: among texts by saints Paul, Jerome, Benedict and Francis, we find the Muslim holy book. A medium shot then reveals the Prior writing. When he pauses to consult his Qur’an and place it back on his desk, the camera shifts slightly but swiftly to keep the entire book in the foreground of the frame, as if the text, or its relationship to the writer, were the scene’s true subject. Towards absolute hospitality: welcoming the other as wholly Other Yet, Des hommes et des dieux most forcefully interrogates hospitality – and a Derridean-like aporetic hope in im/possible unconditional hospitality – in two critical scenes depicting the monks’ relation to local Islamist fighters, their ‘frères de la montagne’.51 In the first, occurring about one third of the way into the film, Lambert Wilson in the role of Christian de Chergé dialogues with armed insurgents who storm the monastery at Christmas 1993, mere weeks after a GIA ultimatum to foreigners expired. In a tense scene faithful to textual accounts, Christian addresses their leader, Ali Fayattia.52 Filmed in shot/countershot and a face-to-face medium long two shot, the confrontation visually implies a standoff. The monks’ ‘welcome’ of the militants initially evokes conditional hospitality: conditions are indeed posed, boundaries enforced. Due to the presence of arms, Christian directs his interlocutor toward the monastery’s gate,53 which will figure prominently between the men in the face-to-face two shots, as if to signal the centrality of ‘thresholds (even seuils de tolérance sometimes)’ in hospitality.54 Insisting that theirs is ‘une maison de paix’, the Prior rejects their leader’s demands: he explains that the monks’ medications belong to villagers in need and that Luc is too old and ill to travel to their wounded, whom he nonetheless implies are welcome at the clinic. The exchange captures hospitality’s inherent tension as ‘a virtue that depends upon retaining a semblance of both sovereignty and autonomy, not their negation’.55 In an unanticipated twist, Christian cites the Qur’an to explain to his ‘guest’ why the monks live humbly ‘proche de [leurs] voisins’, ‘[leurs] frères musulmans’. Riskier still, after the armed men move to disappear into the darkness, Christian calls them back, explaining that it is the night when the monks celebrate ‘la naissance du Prince de la Paix’, or ‘Sidna Aïssa’ (‘Our Lord Jesus Christ’) as Christian clarifies in Arabic, to which his interlocutor responds in French, ‘Jésus’. Hospitality infuses even language here, or rather, ‘l’essence du langage est amitié et hospitalité,’ as Levinas insists.56 Facing and addressing his (seeming) adversary, the Prior stresses peace, and with a stunning linguistic inversion, each man attempts to speak the language of the other (without appropriating that other). As the face-to-face encounter culminates, Ali apologizes and extends his hand, which a surprised Christian accepts. Confrontation has given way to dialogue in shared language which defuses violence and fosters respect. ‘Marked’ by this meeting, Christian touches the hand that has shaken Ali’s while watching his interlocutor leave. The night scene illuminates the faith held by de Chergé, a reader of Levinas, that encounters with the vulnerable face of the other hold the power to ‘disarm’ both one’s enemy and oneself.57 For the philosopher, the face is inherently vulnerable, ‘sans défense’, ‘une pauvreté essentielle’; its ‘first word’ is the command, ‘Tu ne tueras point.’58 Less than two months before de Chergé’s abduction, Levinas’s passing affords an opportunity to reflect on this marking event: Expérience vécue qu’en se présentant les mains nues au meurtrier surarmé, il est possible de le DÉSARMER… non seulement en lui donnant de voir de près le visage d’un frère en humanité qu’on voulait menacer de mort, mais aussi en lui laissant sa meilleure chance de révéler le sien: ‘Approcher de son prochain, c’est devenir gardien de son frère!’59 This final citation from La Croix’s obituary paraphrases Levinas’s ‘Dieu et la philosophie’, which continues, ‘[Ê]tre gardien de son frère, c’est être son otage.’60 The dynamic points to the community’s understanding of the self’s radical responsibility before the other, as when Lebreton writes at Easter 1995, ‘Moi et toi, ce face-à-face, […] c’est une investiture qui m’oblige: impossible de me dérober à mon prochain (lire… E. Lévinas!).’61 These glosses, and the film scene’s composition and resolution, thus push our reading of the event from a conditional towards a more aporetic understanding of hospitality. To be welcomed, ‘[t]he other, like the Messiah, must arrive whenever he or she wants,’ writes Derrida.62 In Des hommes et des dieux, the militants’ ‘visit’ (or ‘visitation’, Levinas would say, foregrounding the face’s ‘transcendence’) significantly occurs on the Nativity, when Christians worldwide welcome the birth of the Messiah into the world and the human story.63 This coincidence, considered alongside the Benedictine Rule’s injunction that ‘all guests who arrive be received like Christ’, recasts these nocturnal guests’ identity.64 With indentation evoking footsteps, Lebreton thus opens the journal that he began in 1993 amidst growing violence and maintained until his death:   C’est toi l’ami     c’est toi qui frappes       et me demandes   abri65 Similarly, in another critical scene midway through the film, Brother Luc, played by Michael Lonsdale, silently cares for an anonymous wounded moudjahid who arrives at the clinic. Such welcome was truly extended at Notre-Dame-de-l’Atlas. Like his aforementioned reading of Levinasian responsibility before the face of the other, de Chergé writes in April 1995 of the Islamist fighters who sought treatment at the monastery: ‘nous nous sentons […] appelés à exercer un charisme de guérison entre tous, en nous efforçant d’accueillir chacun plus loin que la violence dont il serait complice.’66 In close-up, the camera films Luc’s care for the suffering man from the point of view of a bedside observer. This choice implicitly encourages the empathy of the spectator, who follows the scene from the perspective of the fighter who helped his limping comrade into the clinic. Then, after a cut and before Luc approaches to clean the wound and speak, a striking camera angle from the foot of the bed foreshortens a still, supine body draped in a sheet, provocatively and intentionally framing the Islamist’s body in a tableau evocative of Andrea Mantegna’s Lamentation of Christ.67 These three filmic and textual instances imagine the alterity of the visitor/other as the trace of the wholly Other. This understanding is clearly indebted to the Judeo-Christian creation of human beings in the image of God, and to the Christian belief in the incarnation of God visiting humankind in the figure of Christ. But as the above passages from the Tibhirine archives intimate, it also shares affinities with Levinas’s ‘infinition of hospitality as absolute hospitality’, that is, ‘a welcoming of the other as (the) totally Other, as the other in whose trace, transcendence, and dimension of height we find the sole access to – indeed, the very desire for and fear of – God’.68 True welcome must therefore welcome the stranger, or as Derrida insists reading Levinas’s De Dieu qui vient à l’idée, ‘Qui aime l’étranger? Qui d’autre aimer?’69 Hence in Des hommes et des dieux’s representation of the monks’ final vote whether to stay or leave, a close-up shot shows Olivier Rabourdin in the role of Christophe, the youngest and most troubled of the group, as he smiles knowingly and responds only, ‘Laissons Dieu dresser la table, ici, pour tous, amis et ennemis,’ prescient words from Lebreton’s 1995 Holy Thursday homily.70 Gatherings at tables and sharing of food and drink are, of course, integral components of hospitality, particularly in the Maghrebi and Arab worlds. Yet, the imagery takes on additional significance, revealing how the group’s notion of hospitality is bound up in the Eucharistic host, at once offered and received, broken and integral. The hospitable gift: life, forgiveness, death By consciously welcoming others, even (or especially) strangers, the monks of Tibhirine walked the aporia of hospitality, instantiating concrete acts of welcome that nonetheless aspired to – and were animated by – unconditional hospitality.71 This hospitality extended to giving what they held most dear (their bodies, lives, monastic community). Yet in a certain sense, they remained masters of their fate: ‘Il nous reste une liberté d’otages: pas celle de s’échapper, mais la liberté de qui va plus loin, brisant l’enfermement des violences.’72 This same tension also governs aporetic notions of the gift and forgiveness – or the gift of forgiveness – as acts of hospitality explored in the textual and visual representations of Tibhirine. As with hospitality, a true gift cannot be reduced to or bound by economies of debt and repayment. Instead, it must be given freely, as Derrida elaborates in particular in Donner le temps,73 just as, conversely, De l’hospitalité articulates a radical hospitality ‘gracieusement offerte au-delà de la dette et de l’économie’.74 By the same logic, the philosopher dismisses much of what passes for forgiveness as amnesty, reconciliation or excuse of understandable transgressions. Aporetic and excessive, genuine forgiveness breaks free of calculation and self-interest. With a nod to Vladimir Jankélévitch, Derrida accentuates the paradox: ‘le pardon pardonne seulement l’impardonnable.’75 It must reside somewhere outside the law, an institution that disrupts the necessary face-to-face encounter between the wrongdoer and the wronged party. Given its impossibility, Derrida locates such unconditional forgiveness in madness or the unconscious, beyond or beneath rationality.76 Reflecting on the likely consequences of the community’s decision to stay in Algeria, de Chergé seemingly concurs: Lentement, chacun apprend à intégrer la mort dans ce don, et avec elle toutes les autres conditions de ce ministère du vivre ensemble qui est exigence de gratuité totale. À certains jours, tout cela paraît peu raisonnable. Aussi peu raisonnable que de se faire moine…77 Just how free and unconditional is this ‘mad’ gift of a life consciously given? In practical terms, the monks could be understood as bound by a prior gift: spiritually, that of Christ’s sacrifice; or quite literally, that of the Algerian policeman who saved Christian de Chergé’s life years earlier and would pay for it with his own. De Chergé, however, understood real love – Christ’s or the man’s – as freely given.78 In kind, the monks viewed their attempt to live in solidarity with their neighbours as free of any desire to repay a debt or invite reciprocity: ‘Ne pas attendre [la réciprocité] pour continuer de s’ouvrir; ça serait contraire à la gratuité de l’amour.’79 Notably, this stance refuses even to claim any spiritual consolation, aspire to an eternal reward or embrace martyrdom. Just days before his kidnapping, for instance, de Chergé reiterated his refusal of martyrdom, which would make one of his Algerian ‘brothers’ a murderer: ‘Je les aime assez, tous les Algériens, pour ne pas vouloir qu’un seul d’entre eux soit le Caïn de son frère.’80 From rebirth spared on the Nativity of 1993 to their own Calvary just before Easter of 1996, the monks self-consciously journeyed on a biblical and liturgical trajectory – one that the film’s temporal compression makes all the more apparent. Yet, their lived liturgy strikes one as in some sense freer than its christic model, because devoid of any inherent redemptive value beyond its ethical witness. In their writings, as in the above-mentioned scene in which Christophe embraces the decision to stay, the members of the Tibhirine community did not ask for their cup to be spared them. Instead, they accepted that it be poured out liberally. And so in his last poem, dated 1 March 1996, Christophe Lebreton writes, underscoring the final invitation,    ma vie nul ne la prend   mon  Père   vous  la verse   ami     ne la boiras-tu pas?81 While the film underscores Christophe’s anguished struggle to come to this eventual invitation, Luc’s forceful resolution from the start to stay rests precisely on his definition of freedom. Previously kidnapped during the Algerian War,82 Luc explains that he does not fear the terrorists, the army or even death: ‘Je suis un homme libre.’ When his face-to-face meeting with Christian concludes and the men move to leave the Prior’s office, Luc smiles slyly and requests, ‘Ben, laissez passer l’homme libre.’ Beyond the monks’ freely offered lives and deaths, and the ethical values to which they give shape, the aporetic hospitable gift of Tibhirine incorporates forgiveness, as emphasized by Des hommes et des dieux’s understated end. ‘[G]iving is always already forgiving,’ as Derrida’s exegete John Caputo has written, ‘an impossible that impassions’.83 As one static shot of the monks held captive cuts to others of the snowy, quiet, empty monastery and its cemetery, Wilson’s voice-over reads excerpts of de Chergé’s ‘testament spirituel’. Penned on 1 December 1993, the date of the expiration of the GIA’s ultimatum targeting foreigners in Algeria, the letter anticipates its community’s fate. Projecting into the future, the letter imagines a potential ‘mémoire du présent’, as if it ‘inscrivait ou révélait la différence dans la présence même du présent’.84 In turn projected onto images suggesting death, the spectral, disembodied voice-over grapples in a uniquely cinematic way with presence and representation as it illuminates what Robert Smith has called the ‘multiple haunting […] at play in the experience of the screen’.85 Entitled ‘Quand un A-DIEU s’envisage…’, de Chergé’s letter reimagines its author’s death as a life not taken, but freely given, ‘DONNEE’ in capital letters. Notably, here again, the film and the text on which it draws assert that these lives are no more or less precious than any of the thousands of victims of the war ‘laissées dans l’indifférence de l’anonymat’.86 Anticipating the inevitable, de Chergé proffers forgiveness for his as yet unmet executioner and asks for pardon, admitting to being ‘complicit’ with evil, even that same evil ‘qui [le] frapperait aveuglément’.87 This avowal can be read ontologically, theologically or historically, as a reference to inevitable original and personal sin, or more specifically as his own indirect responsibility, as a white French man from a military family, in the Algerian situation. In an even more stunning move, he concludes his note with a thank you addressed to his ravisher and assassin as a ‘friend’: ‘Dans ce MERCI où tout est dit, désormais, de ma vie, je vous inclus […] toi aussi, l’ami de la dernière minute […]. Oui, pour toi aussi je le veux, ce MERCI, et cet “A-DIEU” en-visagé de toi.’88 The Derridean punctuation of the adieu/à-Dieu marks a double move towards and away from an original greeting that is also a parting which entrusts de Chergé’s interlocutor to a deferred peace. Similarly, in an ultimate hospitable invitation, the Levinasian emphasis on the face in the en-visagé looks forward to a face-to-face encounter at, and beyond, the moment of death. De Chergé’s vision of his final moment thus brings us to that ultimate aporia, death. ‘Ma mort est-elle possible?’ Derrida asks, taking up that most intimate and universal of occurrences which remains least appropriable to the human mind, that ‘frontière infranchissable’ for which I can never fully account.89 Yet, by their writings, the voices of Tibhirine imply the possibility of testifying to the aporia. ‘Fidèles à l’étymologie du mot martyr, “témoin” en grec, les moines deviennent les spectateurs de leur propre mort à venir,’ writes Isabelle Zribi.90 At the same time, the epistolary and filmic inscriptions of the à venir gesture towards what Yvonne Sherwood and Kevin Hart stress is the ‘faith […] required by acts of writing that open out into a giving to be read that is always, also, “a leaving to be desired”’.91 Hospitable vision? This giving and opening out point to the film’s and the text’s reception, to a spectator/reader as interlocutor. In that spirit of dialogue and encounter, Beauvois’s film and the Tibhirine writings reflect with lucidity and humanity on the menace facing the monks’ lives, their community and Algeria as a whole. While in no way denying or minimizing the specifically Catholic heritage of Tibhirine, placing these documents in dialogue with Levinasian and Derridean thought draws out other ethical and political dimensions to these works. At the same time, while the writings and the film tend not to frame the conflict in explicitly political terms, their post-colonial situation inevitably raises these concerns. Instead of dismissing them as examples of a ‘benign post-colonialism’, I would suggest that we read Des hommes et des dieux and the writings of the Tibhirine community as testifying to an hospitable desire to ‘accueillir la différence’, in de Chergé’s words and in the spirit of Levinas and Derrida.92 In this particular context, the event of Tibhirine can be read as a testimony to the terrorizing of a population caught in the grip of civil war and as a defence of the right to difference, which the ideology of ‘one nation, one language, one religion’ would seek to flatten. Both Des hommes et des dieux and the Tibhirine writings dare to re-imagine spaces of political, religious and linguistic friction as potential sites for radical encounter. By taking seriously the aporetic possibility of the impossible – responsibility, hospitality, gift giving and forgiveness – these stories interrogate and challenge our often limited individual and societal understandings of these concepts. However, beyond the ethical and political implications of Des hommes et des dieux, Beauvois’s film raises an interesting related question for film studies more generally. Nowell-Smith has contended that ‘Beauvois has managed to make a film about post-colonial Algeria in which it is French expatriates who are the victims; the 100,000-plus casualties of the civil war are, for the film’s purposes, incidental to the monks’ own suffering.’93 As evidence, the critic zooms in on a scene in which Jean-Pierre and Christophe drive past an army roadblock and witness a corpse lying on the roadside. A 180-degree camera pan signals that we are viewing the situation from the young monk’s perspective: ‘Christophe’s anguish as he looks at the terrorist’s corpse is exemplary of the problem. The experience of victimhood is transferred from the dead terrorist to the monk witnessing the dead body.’94 The questions raised here about the ethics and politics of Des hommes et des dieux’s vision merit further attention. In light of this discussion of Levinasian and Derridean ethics, we might ask whether the film itself – and film more generally – can be conceived of as hospitable. That is to say, to what extent does the film respond to, make room for and welcome the other? If hospitality opens ‘the space of thinking’95 – and seeing, we might add – Beauvois’s film does attempt to articulate a hospitable vision. As evidence, I could examine the film’s organization of time, chant and silence to welcome the spectator into the monastic world.96 After all, this way of being is itself foreign to most spectators. Given the importance of the post-colonial setting, however, I will instead consider in this concluding section the film’s use of focalization and its depiction of local populations. The monks are clearly the film’s main subject – a focus that influences narrative and visual choices, such as the privileging of Christophe’s perspective in the aforementioned roadside scene. Yet Des hommes et des dieux also makes space for other viewpoints, including those of local civilians, Islamist fighters and members of the army. The Croatian massacre scene offers one notable case, since it is shot primarily from the point of view of an Algerian worker on the site, with cuts back to his face revealing him to be clearly terrorized. I have also noted the emphasis on the Islamist militant viewpoint when Luc cares for a wounded fighter watched over by his comrade. Soon thereafter, the camera adopts the other view in the conflict, when Christian is called in by the army to identify Fayattia’s battered corpse: we witness Christian’s reaction to the body’s unveiling (a bowed head, silent prayer) from the officer’s vantage point, then cut to his face to register his incomprehension and disgust. A scene provoked by this exchange offers one final sustained example of the film’s shifting focalization. When the army storms the monastery, presumably to search for militants suspected of being harboured by the monks, the unsteady handheld camera presents the experience of those in the monastery grounds. It is unclear whether this focalization belongs to the monks, the local associates working with them or the village women and children gathered at the clinic; indeed, it seems plausible that all are featured. At the scene’s conclusion, a shot/countershot and pan of a line of people facing the officers then highlight military, civilian and monastic perspectives. This line of people literally and symbolically standing up to the armed forces depicts the local community as strong, a portrayal that also speaks to the film’s desire for hospitable inclusivity. The film’s non-monastic characters are clearly affected by the events invading their community, but they are far from a passive group. Throughout the film, we meet a variety of colourful characters engaged in various activities: shopping at the market, hanging up washing, celebrating rites of passage, having tea, discussing current events and debating interpretations of Islam. At Jamal’s circumcision party, a static shot of the boy yawning while the imam (played by an actual local imam97) chants gives way to a slow pan of men praying, and then cuts to women talking, holding children and laughing together. This sequence encapsulates a wide range of everyday moments – tender and banal, solemn and joyous, intimate and communal. To my mind, however, the scenes focusing on women characters open the most striking windows onto the local populations, particularly in a film so focused on men (the monks, the militants, the army).98 Many of these scenes include Yasmine, a young cooperative worker who figures among those opposing the army raid on the monastery. In a moving, improvised exchange between Brother Luc and her,99 the two use the informal tu while they discuss how one knows when one is truly in love. The medium close-up shot frames the two conversing side by side on a bench. Then, a cut to a long shot frames the silent pair while showing the infirmary’s sign on the wall next to them, as if to stress that the ‘care’ Luc dispenses is not purely medical. Not long after, another scene featuring Yasmine inverses the techniques: after a long shot of her and Christophe silently sowing a field side by side, a cut to a medium close-up shot shows them shoulder to shoulder, smiling and catching their breath after their shared labour. Neither of these scenes privileges the monk; the two characters seem equals, with Yasmine sometimes slightly in the foreground. Another more comical moment depicting strong women arrives when Christophe and Jean-Pierre’s car breaks down on the return from the wilaya. The filmmakers did not plan this breakdown. In what Beauvois calls an unanticipated ‘“moment de grâce”’, a group of local women passing by stop and fix the car. The director chose to juxtapose this scene and the visit with the wali to show ‘“le peuple, accueillant et souriant, le pays qui aime les moines et que les moines aiment”’.100 These hospitable openings notwithstanding, the limits of the film remain what they are. In addition to its narrative and visual focus, we could note that Xavier Beauvois works as a French director in the French auteur tradition, producing and circulating his film within French cinematic and cultural systems.101 This positioning suggests, moreover, the film’s anticipated audience. Our position and our perspective necessarily limit us. Perhaps, then, a hospitable artistic vision – like hospitality itself – eludes us as an impossibility. Mark Westmoreland, commenting on Derrida, writes: ‘In our finitude, we grasp hospitality in terms of its limitations. Hospitality is never fully open; there is always some violence.’102 Yet, still we must strive on, and do. As Caputo glosses Derrida’s ‘There Is No One Narcissism’, ‘One begins where one is and does all that one can, keeping our narcissism as open-ended and hospitable as possible; the rest is beyond us.’103 The commentator’s ‘beyond us’ gestures to a faith in, and a desire for, the impossible, which the monks of Tibhirine lived out. Recognizing the impossible, Derrida writes, ‘[N]ous le pensons pourtant, nous le nommons, nous le désirons. Nous en avons l’intention.’104 In their meditation on responsibility, hospitality, gift giving and forgiveness, and the encounters with alterity that these aporias can invite, Des hommes et des dieux and the Tibhirine writings brought to light by the film illuminate the very possibility of the impossible. Notes 1 To date, three theories explain the deaths: the official Algerian indictment of the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), which claimed responsibility in a May 1996 communiqué; an Algerian Secret Service counter-terror operation to discredit militants; and an Algerian army blunder and cover-up. See ‘Moines de Tibéhirine: la thèse d’une décapitation post mortem est privilégiée’, Le Monde, 2 July 2015, <http://www.lemonde.fr> [All web sources accessed 15 January 2017]. 2 Xavier Beauvois, ‘Préface’, in Henry Quinson, Secret des hommes, secret des dieux: l’aventure humaine et spirituelle du film ‘Des hommes et des dieux’ (Paris: Presses de la Renaissance, 2011), pp. 11–13 (p. 11). 3 Sept vies pour Dieu et l’Algérie, ed. by Bruno Chenu (Paris: Bayard, 1996). 4 Christian Salenson, Prier 15 jours avec Christian de Chergé: prieur des moines de Tibhirine (Montrouge: Nouvelle Cité, 2006); Henry Quinson, Prier 15 jours avec Christophe Lebreton: moine, poète, martyr à Tibhirine (Bruyères-le-Châtel: Nouvelle Cité, 2007); François Buet, Prier 15 jours avec frère Luc: moine et médecin à Tibhirine (Bruyères-le-Châtel: Nouvelle Cité, 2014). For clarity, I will refer to the filmic characters by their first names (e.g., Christian, Christophe, Luc) and the historical authors by their last names (de Chergé, Lebreton, Dochier). 5 Frédéric Lenoir, ‘Une leçon d’humanité’, Le Monde des Religions, 20 October 2010, <http://lemondedesreligions.fr/>. 6 Xavier Beauvois, ‘Entretien’, interview by Christian Fevret, Des hommes et des dieux: dossier de presse, Mars Distribution, 8 September 2010, <http://marsdistribution.com>. 7 Muriel Frat, ‘Des hommes et des dieux: un miracle planétaire’, Le Figaro, 23 May 2013, <http://lefigaro.fr>; François-Guillaume Lorrain, ‘Des hommes et des dieux, des moines et une Palme évidente’, Le Point, 19 May 2010, <http://lepoint.fr>; ‘Des hommes et des dieux est un chef-d’œuvre’, Le Parisien, 8 September 2010, <http://leparisien.fr>; Sophie Benamon, ‘Des hommes et des dieux, magistral’, L’Express, 7 September 2010, <http://lexpress.fr>; Isabelle Regnier, ‘Des hommes et des dieux: “laissez passer l’homme libre…”’, Le Monde, 7 September 2010, <http://lemonde.fr>; Dominique Widemann, ‘Dieu dit: “vous mourrez comme des hommes”’, L’Humanité, 19 May 2010, <http://humanite.fr>. 8 Didier Péron, ‘Une envie de martyre’, Libération, 7 September 2010, <http://liberation.fr>. 9 David Nowell-Smith, ‘Of Gods and Humanitarians’, Film Quarterly, 64.3 (2011), 59–61 (p. 59); Steven Erlanger, ‘As 2 Movies Open, French Wounds from Algeria Ache as if New’, The New York Times, 4 January 2011, <http://nytimes.com>. 10 De Chergé never received an official response to his application. See John Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002), p. 49. 11 Darcie Fontaine, Decolonizing Christianity: Religion and the End of Empire in France and Algeria (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016). 12 Jacques Derrida, ‘Circonfession: cinquante-neuf périodes et périphrases’, in Geoffrey Bennington and Jacques Derrida, Jacques Derrida (Paris: Seuil, 1991), pp. 7–291 (p. 146). 13 Levinas’s reservations about cinema extend to visual, iconic representation and art more generally. See Emmanuel Levinas, ‘La Réalité et son ombre’, Les Temps Modernes, 38 (November 1948), 771–89, and ‘Interdit de la représentation et “droits de l’homme”’, in L’Interdit de la représentation: colloque de Montpellier, 1981, ed. by Adélie Rassial and Jean-Jacques Rassial (Paris: Seuil, 1984), pp. 107–13. Concerning Derrida on the visual, see Jacques Derrida, Mémoires d’aveugle: l’autoportrait et autres ruines (Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1990), and ‘Lettres sur un aveugle’, in Jacques Derrida and Safaa Fathy, Tourner les mots: au bord d’un film (Paris: Galilée, 2000), pp. 71–126, as well as Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 498–523. 14 Notable recent film scholarship on Levinas includes Sarah Cooper, Selfless Cinema? Ethics and French Documentary (Oxford: Legenda, 2006); a special issue of Film-Philosophy, 11.2 (2007), ed. by Sarah Cooper; Lisa Downing and Libby Saxton, Film and Ethics: Foreclosed Encounters (London: Routledge, 2010); and Sam B. Girgus, Levinas and the Cinema of Redemption: Time, Ethics, and the Feminine (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010). On Derrida, see: Downing and Saxton, Film and Ethics; Peter Brunette and David Wills, Screen/Play: Derrida and Film Theory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989); Anthony Easthope, ‘Derrida and British Film Theory’, in Applying: To Derrida, ed. by John Brannigan, Ruth Robbins and Julian Wolfreys (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1996), pp. 184-94; Robert Smith, ‘Deconstruction and Film’, in Deconstructions: A User’s Guide, ed. by Nicholas Royle (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000), pp. 119–36; and Crystal Downing, Salvation from Cinema: The Medium is the Message (New York: Routledge, 2016). 15 Emmanuel Levinas, Totalité et infini: essai sur l’extériorité (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1961), p. xv. 16 Levinas works out these ideas in his seminal Totalité et infini and Autrement qu’être, ou, au delà de l’essence (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1974). 17 Levinas, Totalité et infini, p. 188; Jacques Derrida, Adieu à Emmanuel Lévinas (Paris: Galilée, 1997), p. 67. 18 Jacques Derrida, Donner la mort, in L’Éthique du don: Jacques Derrida et la pensée du don, colloque de Royaumont, décembre 1990, ed. by Jean-Michel Rabaté and Michael Wetzel (Paris: Métailié-Transition, 1992), pp. 11–108 (p. 68). 19 Salient examples include Mireille Rosello, Postcolonial Hospitality: The Immigrant as Guest (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001); Judith Still, Derrida and Hospitality: Theory and Practice (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010); and The Conditions of Hospitality: Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics on the Threshold of the Possible, ed. by Thomas Claviez (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013). 20 Hent de Vries, ‘Derrida and Ethics: Hospitable Thought’, in Jacques Derrida and the Humanities: A Critical Reader, ed. by Tom Cohen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 172–92 (p. 173). 21 Derrida, Donner la mort, pp. 60–61. 22 Luc Dochier, ‘Testament spirituel de frère Luc, 8 mars 1994’, in Christophe Henning and Thomas Georgeon, Frère Luc, la biographie: moine, médecin et martyr à Tibhirine (Montrouge: Bayard, 2011), pp. 207–08 (p. 207). 23 Christian de Chergé, Dieu pour tout jour: chapitres de Père Christian de Chergé à la communauté de Tibhirine (1985–1996), 2nd edn (Montjoyer: Bellefontaine, 2006), p. 532. For de Chergé, the will of the Algerian people was the only valid condition of their stay: ‘“Si, un jour, les Algériens estiment que nous sommes de trop, nous respecterons leur désir de nous voir partir.”’ This letter is reprinted in Henry Quinson, Secret des hommes, pp. 155–56 (p. 156). 24 Péron, ‘Une envie de martyre’. 25 Isabelle Zribi, ‘Mourir comme un dieu’, Cahiers du Cinéma, 659 (2010), 16–18 (p. 17). 26 Derrida, Donner la mort, p. 63. 27 See, for instance, Jacques Derrida, ‘Hostipitality’, trans. by Barry Stocker and Forbes Morlock, Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, 5.3 (2000), 3–18, and Jacques Derrida, De l’hospitalité: Anne Dufourmantelle invite Jacques Derrida à répondre (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1997). 28 Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, p. 81. 29 Derrida, Adieu, p. 79. 30 Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, p. 138. 31 Christophe [Lebreton], Journal, Tibhirine 1993–1996: le souffle du don (Montrouge: Bayard, 2012), p. 59. 32 Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, p. 55. 33 Lebreton, Journal, p. 58. See also de Chergé, Dieu pour tout jour, for example pp. 201, 393. 34 Guy Austin, ‘Spaces of the Dispossessed in Algerian Cinema’, Modern & Contemporary France, 19.2 (2011), 195–208 (p. 197). 35 Nowell-Smith, ‘Of Gods and Humanitarians’, p. 61. 36 De Chergé, Dieu pour tout jour, p. 536. 37 Lebreton, Journal, p. 57. See also p. 53. 38 Walid Mebarek, ‘Des hommes et des dieux, sortie le 8 septembre’, El Watan, 30 August 2010, <http:/elwatan.com/>. 39 In the words of Brother Luc in the film’s final vote scene. 40 Derrida, ‘Hostipitality’, pp. 15, 13. 41 The Tibhirine writings’ and film’s (post-colonial) other as host and friend calls to mind Hélène Cixous’s ‘utopic’ memory of the ‘brotherhood’ between her father and the Algerian Arab hitchhikers he welcomed into his Citroën. See Still, Derrida and Hospitality, pp. 168–71 (p. 171). 42 Christian de Chergé, ‘Conférence du frère Christian au chapitre général 1993’, in Sept vies, pp. 79–97 (p. 93). 43 On this subject, see de Vries, ‘Derrida and Ethics’, p. 179, and Still, Derrida and Hospitality, p. 93. 44 Quinson, Secret des hommes, p. 91. 45 Christian de Chergé, L’Invincible espérance, ed. by Bruno Chenu (Paris: Bayard, 1997), p. 211. 46 Ibid., p. 50. 47 Christian de Chergé, ‘Questionnaire en préparation du synode 1994 sur la vie consacrée, 1er janvier 1993’, in Sept vies, pp. 67–78 (p. 70); Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, pp. 71–72. 48 Xavier Beauvois, ‘“Beyond Religion, the Film is about Men”’, interview by Fabien Lemercier, Cineuropa, 20 May 2010, <http://www.cineuropa.org>. 49 Bruno Chenu, ‘Présentation’, in L’Invincible espérance, pp. 5–16 (p. 13); see also Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, p. 52 and chapter 5. 50 Christian de Chergé, ‘Testament spirituel du frère Christian’, in Sept vies, pp. 210–12 (p. 211). 51 As with this fraternal, euphemistic name for local militants, the monks extended hospitality linguistically to the military, whose members they called their ‘frères de la plaine’. See Christian de Chergé, ‘Lettre circulaire de la communauté, 13 novembre 1994’, in Sept vies, pp. 141–45 (pp. 142–43), and ‘Lettre circulaire de la communauté, 11 avril 1995’, in Sept vies, pp. 150–56 (p. 153). 52 De Chergé, L’Invincible espérance, pp. 309–10; Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, pp. 145–49. 53 Elsewhere, too, this understanding of responsibility as fraternally directed towards all neighbours does not imply a lack of resistance to violence. (See, for example, Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, pp. 138–39, 144, 164, and Lebreton, Journal, p. 59.) As the monks’ fatal end approaches, one compelling filmic example frames them coming together in the chapel in response to an army helicopter hovering menacingly above the monastery. To the increasingly deafening military drone, they respond with their unified chant, ‘Ô Père des lumières’, the lyrics of which stress light’s victory over ‘les ténèbres’. While fictional, this scene hints at one of the theories behind the monks’ deaths and calls to mind Dochier’s letter dated January 1993: ‘Les “Laudes” du matin de Noël ont été accompagnées par le bruit des armes automatiques.’ See [Luc Dochier], ‘Extraits de lettres de frère Luc’, Chemins de dialogue, 27 (2006), 41–65 (p. 50). 54 Still, Derrida and Hospitality, p. 4. 55 Mustafa Dikeç, Nigel Clark and Clive Barnett, ‘Extending Hospitality: Giving Space, Taking Time’, in Extending Hospitality: Giving Space, Taking Time, ed. by Mustafa Dikeç, Nigel Clark and Clive Barnett (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), pp. 1–14 (p. 9). 56 Levinas, Totalité et infini, p. 282. 57 Christian de Chergé, L’Autre que nous attendons: homélies de Père Christian de Chergé (1970–1996), 2nd edn (Montjoyer: Bellefontaine, 2006), p. 486. Cf. de Chergé, ‘Lettre circulaire de la communauté, 25 avril 1995’, p. 170; de Chergé, L’Invincible espérance, p. 314; and Lebreton, Journal, p. 229. 58 Emmanuel Levinas, Éthique et infini: dialogues avec Philippe Nemo (Paris: Fayard, 1982), pp. 90, 93. 59 De Chergé, L’Autre que nous attendons, p. 486. 60 Emmanuel Levinas, ‘Dieu et la philosophie’, in De Dieu qui vient à l’idée (Paris: Vrin, 1982), pp. 93–127 (p. 118). 61 Christophe Lebreton, ‘Ô Dieu, c’est toi notre espérance sur le visage de tous les vivants! Pâques 1995’, in Sept vies, pp. 157–65 (p. 162). 62 Jacques Derrida, ‘Hospitality, Justice and Responsibility: A Dialogue with Jacques Derrida’, in Questioning Ethics: Contemporary Debates in Philosophy, ed. by Richard Kearney and Mark Dooley (London: Routledge, 1999), pp. 65–83 (p. 70). 63 De Chergé, L’Invincible Espérance, p. 314; Emmanuel Levinas, Collected Philosophical Papers, trans. by Alphonso Lingis (Dordrecht: Nijhoff, 1987), p. 106. 64 ‘Chapter 53: On the Reception of Guests’, Rule of Benedict, The Order of Saint Benedict, <http://www.osb.org/rb/>. 65 Lebreton, Journal, p. 29; cf. Dochier, ‘Extraits de lettres’, p. 64. 66 De Chergé, ‘Lettre circulaire de la communauté, 25 avril 1995’, p. 170. 67 Beauvois, ‘Des hommes et des dieux: entretien avec le réalisateur’. 68 De Vries, ‘Derrida and Ethics’, p. 178. 69 Derrida, Adieu, p. 182. 70 Christophe [Lebreton], Aime jusqu’au bout du feu: cent poèmes de vérité et de vie (Annecy: Monte-Cristo, 1997), p. 174. See also p. 113. 71 I am adopting the walking metaphor here following Derrida himself: ‘For me, however, the aporia is not simply paralysis, but the aporia or the non-way is the condition of walking: if there was no aporia we wouldn’t walk, we wouldn’t find our way; path-breaking implies aporia.’ See Derrida, ‘Hospitality, Justice and Responsibility’, p. 73. 72 Lebreton, Journal, p. 75. 73 Jacques Derrida, Donner le temps: 1. La fausse monnaie (Paris: Galilée, 1991), p. 24. 74 Derrida, De l’hospitalité, p. 77. 75 Jacques Derrida, ‘Le Siècle et le Pardon: entretien avec Michel Wieviorka’, in ‘Foi et savoir’, suivi de ‘Le Siècle et le pardon’ (Paris: Seuil, 2000), pp. 101–33 (p. 108). 76 Ibid., pp. 118, 123. 77 De Chergé, ‘Lettre circulaire de la communauté, 25 avril 1995’, p. 171. 78 Kiser, The Monks of Tibhirine, pp. 6–10; de Chergé, L’Invincible Espérance, pp. 229–30; cf. Dochier, ‘Extraits de lettres’, p. 60. 79 De Chergé, ‘Conférence du frère Christian au chapitre général 1993’, p. 90. 80 De Chergé, L’Invincible Espérance, p. 313. 81 Lebreton, Aime jusqu’au bout du feu, p. 175. 82 Chenu, Sept vies, p. 7. 83 John D. Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion without Religion (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), p. 226. 84 Jacques Derrida, Mémoires: pour Paul de Man (Paris: Galilée, 1988), p. 72. 85 Smith, ‘Deconstruction and Film’, p. 123. 86 De Chergé, ‘Testament spirituel’, p. 210. This phrase figures in the excerpts included in the film. 87 Ibid., p. 210. 88 Ibid., p. 212. 89 Jacques Derrida, Apories: mourir – s’attendre aux ‘limites de la vérité’ (Paris: Galilée, 1996), pp. 48, 44. 90 Zribi, ‘Mourir comme un dieu’, p. 17. 91 Yvonne Sherwood and Kevin Hart, ‘Other Testaments’, in Derrida and Religion: Other Testaments, ed. by Yvonne Sherwood and Kevin Hart (New York: Routledge, 2005), pp. 3–26 (p. 10). 92 Jonathan Romney, ‘Memento mori’, Sight & Sound, 21.1 (2011), 50–53 (p. 53); de Chergé, L’Autre que nous attendons, p. 480. 93 Nowell-Smith, ‘Of Gods and Humanitarians’, p. 61. 94 Ibid., p. 59. 95 Anne Dufourmantelle, ‘Hospitality – Under Compassion and Violence’, in The Conditions of Hospitality, ed. by Claviez, pp. 13–23 (p. 13). 96 In a way not unlike, but much more accessible than, Philip Gröning’s 2005 art house documentary, Die große Stille. See Into Great Silence, dir. by Philip Gröning (Zeitgeist, 2007). On Des hommes et des dieux as ‘religious’ cinema, see Wendy M. Wright, ‘Of Gods and Men (2010)’, Journal of Religion & Film, 15.2 (2012), <http://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/jrf/>. 97 Quinson, Secret des hommes, p. 172. 98 There is more to say about motherhood and the Marian statue featured in several scenes, as relating to the monks’ spirituality and ethics, but this lies beyond the scope of the present article. 99 Quinson, Secret des hommes, p. 220. 100 Ibid., p. 108. 101 On this subject, see Alice Burgin, Andrew McGregor and Colin Nettelbeck, ‘Not Dead Yet: Three Takes on Auteurism in Contemporary French and Francophone Cinema’, French Cultural Studies, 25.3–4 (2014), 396–407. 102 Mark W. Westmoreland, ‘Interruptions: Derrida and Hospitality’, KRITIKE, 2.1 (2008), 1–10 (p. 3). 103 Caputo, The Prayers and Tears, p. 226. See Jacques Derrida, ‘“Il n’y a pas le narcissisme” (autobiophotographies)’, in Points de suspension: entretiens, ed. by Elisabeth Weber (Paris: Galilée, 1992), pp. 209–28. 104 Derrida, Donner le temps, p. 45. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press for the Court of the University of St Andrews. All rights reserved. The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland: No. SC013532.

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