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German soldier and Franciscan, Hardy Kruger, counsels French prisoners
"Le Franciscain de Bourges" is a true story about Alfred Stanke, the Franciscan of Bourges. Actor Hardy Kruger, working from a good script, brings the man to life with sensitivity, intelligence and gentleness.
The story shows what a man who is dedicated to God and serving his fellow man can accomplish, even in the worst circumstances. He is in the German service in the Nazi cause in a prison, but his sympathies are with the humane treatment of the French prisoners. The system, however, is open to harsh, cruel and often fatal treatment of the prisoners. He works to give them hope, exonerate some, and ease their pain and injuries. He buys food for the prisoners, nurses their wounds, helps them communicate with loved ones, and helps them defend themselves in front of tribunals. All of this raises their spirits.
The movie is basically dramatic, but has a religious core, not the religion of rituals but that of service. There is one fairly long scene that takes a lot of risks and succeeds. It occurs between Kruger and a young man of 16 who is going to be shot, it appears. When Kruger suggests prayer, he finds that the boy is an atheist. There follows an amazing scene in which every attempt of his to persuade the boy runs smack up against an obdurate but honest disbelief in the existence of God. The movie doesn't take sides in this debate.
This is a different kind of religious story than is usually shown. It doesn't show a bible story. There are no miracles. It does not preach. The hero has no ambition to rise in a church. The movie has no answers to war. It simply shows a man of God who applies the craft of being a minister to his fellow man under extremely difficult conditions.
Hardy Kruger played a soldier too in "The One That Got Away", an excellent tale of an escaped German POW in Canada. And another good one he was in is "Flight of the Phoenix". Kruger is an excellent actor who is able to light up his parts and create a whole human being on the screen. I rate it above average, 7.5, if it were possible.
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