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If you are wondering if you can learn from this film; if your time will be well spent; if you will think, feel and act differently after absorbing (even just some of)the words and images from the life of this modern martyr, at least there is hope. Spend some time with this well crafted, respectful documentary work about a model of moral courage, and you will be hard pressed to continue life unchanged (or at least unchallenged). An early morning viewing leaves the rest of the day (or your life) to consider what of Bonhoeffer's life speaks to men and women of moral purpose today. You perhaps will see what I saw, that the moral, political and individual choices and problems of 1934 are not really all that different from 34 A.D. or 2004. Well done.
Incredible detail. It lays out Bonhoeffer's entire life; his passion for
Christ, his strivings to achieve peace among churches. He was a true hero,
and more people need to hear the story of this young man brutally silenced
by the Nazis a month before peace was declared. As a German and a Catholic,
it was particularly hard for me to watch, since the Catholic church was also
outed for signing a concordance with the Nazis in 1933. But as has always
been said, it is best to understand the past to prevent repeating mistakes.
It is also interesting because of background information provided by the people in Bonhoeffer's life, such as a niece, nephew, close friend, and sister to his fiancee. Plus, for those who love the German language, many of his former students and some clergy speak in German on camera with a translation. Haunting and highly recommended.
It looks like a PBS piece ... because it undoubtedly will be. The support credits include some of the few remaining funding sources for long-form documentary work ... but that's just the bankroll, not the message. For those who have spent more than a few moments wondering how the impressive intellectual and cultural powers of Germany in the '30's and '40's could have "allowed" Hitler to wreak the genocide and destruction that he did, start here. "Bonhoeffer" digs into the mind and spirit of one man... but the filmmaker's eye never blinks. The careful balance of grainy black and white, motion camera exploration of archival stills and contemporary color footage of eyewitnesses, historians and theologians creates a tapestry that romances the viewer into wondering who this "Dietrich" is ... then experiencing his personal struggles and turmoil ... then taking shallow breaths as he poses for a picture in the Tegel prison courtyard in a jacket and tie -- gentleman to the end. The closing fog- bound color photography of Flossenburg (the concentration camp where Bonhoeffer was hanged literally days before the allies arrived) is chilling. The perfect coda.
I've watched a number of documentaries lately and am often amazed at
the stories of history past, but the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer moved
my heart so deeply that I will struggle to articulate my response to
the film. I am struck by the conviction and courage of Dietrich. His
insight on the scriptures, his sincere honesty, and his life's example
to the Christian community are inspiring.
This film gave me a better understanding of what it must have been like to be a citizen in Germany during the first half of the twentieth century than anything else I've experienced. This explanation of the chain of events that led to brutal violence toward the Jewish people in Europe as well as the moral examination of the Christian response to the socio-political position of Nazi Germany answered so many of the questions I've always asked. "How could such a majority of the Germans be persuaded to support the causes of the Third Reich?" "What motivated Germans to act with such hatred?" and "What were Christians thinking and doing during this time?" The only reason I did not give the film a rating of 10 was because the person I watched the film with fell asleep so I wish it would have captured that person's attention as it did mine. I pray that the story is spread to many others either through this film or perhaps a major Blockbuster style account of these events. The good news that Bonhoeffer believed in so completely and the God he gave his life to offer so much more hope to an audience that cries out for the answer to the question "Why, God?" than a story like "Life is Beautiful" ever could. Movie producers everywhere: "Listen to the story of Bonhoeffer and watch this film".
The story of Dietrich Bonhoffer has been waiting to be told for some time.
His life had many elements that easily make for a compelling movie. His
refusal to fall in line with the Nazi party, his secret machinations to
overthrow Hitler and his eventual hanging as a spy are just a few of them.
Unfortunately, this documentary does little to build any excitement and mostly relies on a number of talking heads. Most of them are theological experts and historians. Some of them are prone to wander off on verbal tangents, losing the audience and losing focus.
The more interesting speakers are the people that actually knew the man, such as his brother-in-law and the sister of his fiance. Their recollections are the most insightful and interesting.
In the few times Bonhoffer is quoted, actor Klaus-Maria Brandauer speaks the words and does an excellent job. As someone else has noted, he would have done even better to have been the narrator. The person narrating the film seems rather wooden and distant from the material.
What truly seemed to be missing from this film was a sense of what drove Bonhoffer to do what he did --- which was to essentially break stride with the rest of the German Church and draw attention to himself in a time when such actions could cost him his life (which they eventually did). He spoke out against the mistreatment of Jews and even formed his own seminary. He went against his own pacifist views to take part in a plot to assassinate Hitler. What compelled him to do these things? The movie doesn't truly attempt to get at this.
While Bonhoffer is a good attempt at telling the story of a man who gave his life for what he believed in, it's honestly a rather boring documentary that will sadly be overlooked by most who aren't already familiar with Bonhoffer's life.
This documentary reviews the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer with the focus
on the relationship between his religious beliefs and his personal
actions. Factually, there's little in the movie that you could not get
from Google. Bonhoeffer was one of a minority of Christian leaders in
Germany who publicly and privately opposed the rise of Adolf Hitler and
the Nazi party. What the film does is anecdotally present the growth of
Bonhoeffer's theology from the conventional Lutheranism of his
upbringing into a kind of social activism in which the actions of one's
life are what bring one to Christ. The defining moment is when
Bonhoeffer arrives in New York, intending to teach at Union Seminary,
only to realize "one who believes does not flee." The film notes the
irony that while Bonhoeffer did not like Reinhold Niebuhr, by the end
of his life he was living the kind of social activism preached by
The film itself is well-made and follows a standard documentary format, with period films, stills and interviews with surviving friends and family. Significant passages from Bonhoeffer's writing are mixed into the narrative description.
Bonhoeffer was a pastor, teacher and theologian. His life was not exciting in the conventional sense, although he did some spying against the Nazis that must have been nerve racking. And much of this film is spent relating belief and action. The question asked and answered for him was a simple one: To what extent are our actions the consequence of our beliefs? It's the question we are left to ponder for ourselves.
Lacks depth, perspective, and jumps around a lot. Interesting film
historically and as a documentary into a seldom discussed part of Nazi
Germany. Only worth watching if it shows up for free on TV.
Humor shows up unintended. The most interesting parts are when history reveals one thing and the religious people they interview have interpretations completely disconnected with that reality. You laugh at their either intended deception or utter naiveté. One might say the film makes a better study of cognitive dissonance.
In the end, it comes off like listening to priests excusing the activity of fellow priest sex offenders. Maybe a more accurate comparison would be the Bush administration excusing itself for lying about Iraq and the war by claiming it wasn't intentional and taking credit for the newspapers and organizations that disagreed with it from the beginning since they are American.
So, while the story of Bonhoeffer provides an interesting addition to history, it really isn't worthy of a theater. It's best viewed within the context of a course on World War 2 history, so that it can be fully understood that while Bonhoeffer was a part of a group in the Protestant church that fought against Nazi Germany, most of that same church, including its leaders, supported the Nazis, just as they now support Bush at the time this film was made.
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