Der neunte Tag (2004) - News Poster

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Kino sold on 'Death,' 'Day'

Kino sold on 'Death,' 'Day'
Kino International has acquired North American rights to Karen Shakhnazarov's The Rider Named Death and Volker Schlondorff's The Ninth Day. Death tells the story of Boris Savinkov, a leader of the terrorist faction of Russia's Socialist-Revolutionary Party and an active participant in the killing of Russian governors and ministers in pre-Soviet Russia. It is set to open in New York in April. Day is loosely based on a prison diary by Luxembourgian priest Jean Bernard recounting his experiences during the Nazi era.

The Ninth Day

The Ninth Day
Screened Toronto International Film Festival

TORONTO -- In The Ninth Day, Volker Schlondorff returns to the themes of morality and conscience during the Nazi period, themes that have occupied him and other European filmmakers for decades.

Constructed more like a theological debate than a dramatically expressed story, the film is thought-provoking but not terribly involving since right and wrong are clear from the start. The only issue is: Will the protagonist betray his conscience? The Ninth Day is certain to play the festival circuit, but will be a tough sell theatrically in North America.

Catholic priest Henri Kremer (Ulrich Matthes) gets a surprise release from the horrors of the Dachau concentration camp and is allowed to return home to Luxembourg. There he learns that this reprise is momentary: He is given nine days by Gestapo Untersturmfuhrer Gebhardt (August Diehl) to convince the bishop to support the Nazi occupiers and thus drive a wedge between the Luxembourg church and Rome. If he fails, he returns to Dachau. If he escapes, his family and all the priests in the camp will be killed.

As the bishop delays seeing Father Kremer, a dialogue breaks out between the gaunt, shrunken-faced priest, a physical wreck after Dachau, and the smooth-faced, facile Gebhardt. A former Catholic seminarian himself, Gebhardt uses the language of the priesthood to debate the moral implications of Kremer's dilemma and the role Judas played in the founding of the Catholic Church.

However, there is little evidence that Kremer could actually influence the bishop's decision, even if he wanted to. Nor does the film develop any suspense over the eventual outcome, as neither character has any real flexibility.

The story unfolds against a bleak and snowy Luxembourg, where all color has drained away, as dreary classical music plays in the background. This was, of course, one of the gloomiest periods of human history but there is still such as thing as overkill.

THE NINTH DAY

Provobis Film/Videopress/Bayerische Rundfunk

Credits:

Director: Volker Schlondorff

Writers: Eberhard Groner, Andreas Pfluger

Producer: Jurgen Haase

Executive producer: Wolfgang Plehn

Director of photography: Tomas Erhart

Production designer: Ari Hantke

Music: Alfred Schnittke

Editor: Peter R. Adam

Cast:

Henri Kremer: Ulrich Mattthes

Gebhardt: August Diehl

Marie Kremer: Bibiana Beglau

Roger Kremer: Germain Wagner

Running time -- 97 minutes

No MPAA rating

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