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"Amen" is an engrossing film about the holocaust that was getting under
way in Europe during WW II and the responses, as I see it, of four men:
two SS officers and two members of the Catholic clergy, a priest and
the Pope himself, Pius XII. The SS officer who is a chemist has been
working on water purification for the German Army and the SS co-opts
his knowledge to implement their "final solution". The other SS officer
is an amoral cynic whose evil is made even worse by the fact that he
carries out his heinous "work" without believing in much of the Nazi
ideology. The SS chemist is truly shocked by how his knowledge is being
applied in the death camps, and his moral earnestness is often
contrasted with the cynicism and "survivor mentality" of his SS
colleague. (The SS chemist is truly revolted when he gets his first
look at how Zyklon B is used through a peephole into a "shower room".
One may well ask what's a fellow of normal moral sensitivity doing in
the SS, but he's a legitimate historical character who has left behind
much documentation.) The SS chemist, although a non-Catholic, believes
in the moral influence of the Catholic church and so informs a Catholic
priest, and much of the latter part of the film depicts the priest
trying to influence the Pope, when he can get an audience, to speak out
publicly and uncompromisingly to the world about the ongoing Nazi
genocide of European Jews.
Why the Catholic church? The film essentially begins with Nazi doctors selecting German "mental defectives" for extermination, and how this euthanasia "program" was halted by the angry response of the German churches, most critically the Catholic church. They spoke loudly and clearly from their pulpits and the program was halted but not until over 70,000 helpless human beings were killed. The juxtaposition of this incident with the seeming failure of Pius XII, after numerous appeals by the priest, to speak out unambiguously about the Nazi genocide is the focal point of the film. The pope does make a much-anticipated Christmas Eve speech but its content is so watered-down and ambiguous that we're not sure that he's beseeching both sides to refrain from barbaric acts. There's no question that the director has taken a critical, perhaps hostile, view of Pius XII and the Vatican in his film of their response to the holocaust. The terror implied in the succession of freight trains headed for the extermination camps is contrasted with the pomp and finery of the "papal court", the refined and "diplomatic" discussions on the Jews' fate, and the seeming resulting indifference. A Catholic film-goer who believes papal doctrinal infallibility somehow conveys moral incorruptibility will be deeply offended by the film's depiction of Pius XII, but a Catholic film-goer who believes a papacy may be occupied by fallible humans like the rest of us would find this film, as I did, absorbing.
What could Pius XII have done? I have read up on him after viewing this film and have discovered that he allowed Catholic monasteries and churches to shelter Jews throughout the war. He was a pragmatic man and a diplomat, and thought speaking out might jeopardize the lives of the Jews that he was sheltering. It seems to me, however, that given his awareness of such a monstrous crime as the holocaust, an uncompromising accusation of Nazi barbarism from the diplomatic and pragmatic Pius XII would have provided as much "moral clarity" as the German bishops did in their rebuke of the Nazi euthanasia program. Stalin once denigrated the influence of the Pope by asking "how many divisions does the Pope have?", but we'll never know whether his moral influence, if conveyed clearly and with fervor, would have galvanized the Allies, and the Soviets, (also complicit in their indifference and inaction) into, say, bombing the rail transport system so crucial to the viability of the "final solution". Even if the practical effects would be minimal, who foremost but the "Vicar of Christ on Earth" should provide moral clarity to the world?
There are not too many political thrillers without pathos or
exaggerated characters; it is not often convincing if/when an ordinary
person becomes a superhero within a short period of time. Amen. is a
different kind of story - to a large extent based on real events -
depicting a tragic fate of those trying to reveal unseen and
unbelievable... It was not believed then and also nowadays there are
cases when officials or international organizations are unwilling or
unable to respond - at least quickly when needed. On the other hand, it
is always a question of personal responsibility and involvement as well
as strategy in dealing with issues not public. And Costa-Cavras is
skilled enough to approach these matters in a convincing and smooth
The cast is also good, with Ulrich Tukur and Mathieu Kassovitz leading the way; the others have rather supporting roles. The film is definitely for you if you are interested in WWII events without black-and-white approach.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Amen. examines the links between the Vatican and Nazi Germany that
stars Ulrich Tukur,Mathieu Kassovitz,Ion Caramitru and Marcel Iureş.It
is a German, Romanian and French film written and directed by
Kurt Gerstein is a German chemist whose work on various government health projects led to him being added to the scientific staff of the Nazi SS. While working on disinfection and water purification programs to stem the tide of typhoid among German troops, Gerstein creates a toxic cleanser called Zyclon B. Gerstein soon learns that the SS has found a different use for Zyclon B -- in gas form, it is being used to exterminate Jews and other political undesirables en masse. Gerstein, a man of strong Christian faith, is horrified by this revelation, and he is determined to tell the world in hope of stopping the genocide; however, in Germany, Sweden, and the United States, Gerstein's story falls on deaf ears. One man who does believe Gerstein is Riccardo Fontana, a Jesuit with ties to the Vatican and close contact with Pope Pius XII. Fontana urges the Pope to speak out against the ongoing massacre, but the Pope declines, believing Russia is a greater menace to the Catholic Church than the Nazis. In time, desperate to spread the word of the holocaust, Gerstein and Fontana find themselves joining ranks with Roman Jews being rounded up by Nazi forces in occupied Italy.
Amen. is is clearly guided by Shoah's example, asking us to reflect on the Holocaust and what made it possible rather than simply recoil from it.Costa-Gavras walks a fine line between portraying the soulless social allowances and ignorance that allowed the Holocaust to happen, and exploiting them for dramatic punch.Though he brings nothing new to the table about the Holocaust, he puts another nail down in the argument that the world could have acted but didn't because of indifference.But nevertheless,it has fine performances especially coming from Ulrich Tukur.
Its was a good fictional story based on a real one about an SS officer Kurt Gerstein who witness the holocaust extermination and tried to warn the rest of the word through the Vatican about the Nazi crimes against the Jews and other minorities, his reports have been used by the Alies to prove the rumors about concentration camps. Many others in their reviews trying to tell that this movie is purely fictional and bad cause they thing that it says bad things about the catholic faith. In truth the movie only claims that the head of the catholic church did nothing and in the end even helped some Nazis to escape Europe but thats actually a historical fact and its not fiction, it does not means that catholics faith or catholics are bad many have saved Jews by hiding them and even the second protagonist is a catholic priest how tries to inform the pope and save the Jews.
Bold historical drama from political maestro Costa-Gavras deals
unapologetically with State and Church reactions during the Nazi
occupation in Europe.
Centered around one priest and one SS Lieutenant, Amen is filled with history's dark underside during WW2 and is touted as a summation of this important director's career. Strangely though, the overall impact feels far less gripping then it ought.
Some of the English dialog does not feel very natural, while some of the lines themselves feel numbingly obvious. The plot line is interesting enough despite a lumbering predictability, but looses focus near it's conclusion.
Even though Amen's stilted nature robs the film of being a potentially powerful classic, it's classy production values ensure an involving experience.
Great film. All the details of Catholic life and ritual are accurately portrayed. Indeed, I would say in this aspect, this is the best ever film that I have seen. While less of an expert on the military side, my view is that the same accuracy was also upheld. I didn't see any US vehicles being used by the Germans. Many of the dilemmas faced at the time thoughtfully handled, unlike in the original play which caused such a scandal for its "economy with the truth" and direct and unfair assault on the person and office of the Pope. It is a pity however that the film does not stick more firmly to real historical narrative. In this subject, above all others it is so necessary. Myths are formed about this period both on the left and right of politics and it is so important that a film is not an occasion for them to take hold.
Amen. This is somehow what the roman-cahtolic church said, when they were
informed about the Holocaust - the killed people were Jews and because of
that not in the pope`s business. Ironically, the two people who knew about
that and tried to change the churchs attitude towards the Hitler-Regime
("awful, but better than the Comunists!") were a catholic priest
but representing the priests that fought against Hitler and died), what is
not that surprising, and a Top-SS-Officer, Kurt Gerstein to be exact (NOT
invented as the whole plot is NOT invented - shocking but true!), the man
who delivered the Cyclon-B, which IS surprising. So, the man who worked on
top of this terror-machine was humanist, and fought against the regime
Unfortunately, the roman-catholic church didn`t even react when the SS-Man
himsels showed up at the Vatikan to inform the pope.
The Vatikan turned out to be on the wrong side ... the most embarassing
of german history went on ... mass-murdering with the Amen of the Vatikan.
This film is one of the most important in dealing with guilt an history - not only for Germany - as one can see, for far more actors than we all thought. Amen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This can be the companion movie of « Schindler's List » as it offers
the same tragedy but viewed this time from the point of view of the
Thus, it really exposes the whole story as the genocide has started indeed with the « improductives ». As the movie told, their killing was accurately stopped because the German churches oppose this euthanasia. So the movie asks the same question i have asked myself : why those same churches didn't react the same way when the « technology » was used for the Shoah ? Was it because it was this time more hidden, not in Germany but in the East ? Was it because the victims were not Christians but Jews ? In all cases, the movie shows heavy doubts against the Vatican and i agree : as i have already said when reviewing « angels and demons », i'm just disgusted by this place : for a spiritual center of humanity, watching this cohort of males in this incredible wealth is just the negation of the Christian message ! For me, the Pope is more like the Godfather, powerful and tangled with disparate interests !
Now, in the artistic field, we can see that Gavras has the same modesty as Spielberg : the horrors of the gas chambers are filmed indirectly but the peephole or the repeating empty wagons are powerful visions. It was an inspired choice to get Kassovitz as he's the young and only one engaged director now in France ! So, with his casting also in Spielberg's « Munich », the baton passing has happened and it's up to him to deliver those strong movies now!
I could hear that this movie was maybe not totally accurate (especially with the Christmas Speech) but the facts are given to ponder and the hypocrisy of the courageous allies is tragically told in the sadness of the ending !
but not that efficiently directed. Mr Gavras is not that good in directing actors apparently - they seemed to try to do their best to survive. Ulrich Tukur had no problem, his performance is excellent - but Mathieu Kassovitz is not that convicting. As for the supporting roles... Mr Gavras did a good job with the rest of his work however. As far as the accuracy of the script is concerned, I don't think there can be any doubt about it! I particularly appreciated that the Pope did not came across as a heartless opportunist, but simply as a weak (or maybe pacifist) person.
My opinion about this movie is a good one , but the ending was poor. I still asking myself questions about religion , after seeing this movie , and i was very impressed by the young jesuit . I'm from Romania and i recognized some of the locations and many actors . The most important of them was the Pope interpreted by Marcel Iures , which is one of the greatest romanian actors (You can see him also in "The Peacemaker"(1997) with George Clooney , "Hart's War"(2002) with Bruce Willis , "Mission: Impossible" (1996) with Tom Cruise) but in this movie his role was not to great . He could have been another actor i supose and still .... Anyway ... a film who motivated me to read MEIN KAMPF !
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