Release Date: May 27th (NYC-Quad Cinema and Embassy's New Metro Twin), by Kino International.
The Cast: Ulrich Matthes, August Diehl.
In German with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: During WWII, a Catholic priest (Matthes) imprisoned in a concentration camp is temporarily set free for nine days during which he must either convince the Bishop to support the Nazis or return to the camp.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Ulrich Matthes is perfectly cast as the priest who faces a big challenge that risks his own life. He is the kind of actor who knows how to act not only with dialogue, but with his eyes and other body language. Another actor who gives a strong performance is August Diehl as an officer in charge of keeping an eye on the priest during his nine days of freedom. Diehl makes this officer look so evil and hateful, yet at the same time he shows subtle hesitation and even a little fear. Unfortunately, he is under control of the Nazis, so his evil must remain. The customes, set design, and cinematography work very well to show the starkness and cruelty during WWII. Surprisingly, there is very little violence. A few scenes are difficult to watch, such as the priest trying desperately to taste water drops from a pipe. The plot itself is easy to follow, drags at times. There are helpful captions that let you know the number of each day until the ninth day.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: This films is more concerned about character rather than plot. The most intriguing, thought-provoking scene is when the priest confronts the officer about the Nazi cruelty and makes him try to empathize with him. When the officer points a gun at him after the confrontation, his refusal to shoot it is very interesting and shows a different, emotionally complex side. The two even share a drink together. It is inspiring to watch the courageous priest struggle to survive every day and bond with the Nazi officer. It is very refreshing and compelling to watch a film two smart men who are opposed to one another, rather than one who is just plain stupid. Since this is based on a true story, this is an important film to watch in order to be educated about a little-known story in history.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 2
THE BOTTOM LINE: A very thought-provoking, character-driven film about an important, diffucult part of history. It drags at times, but the strong performances and smart script save the film from being boring or dull.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "N" Menu