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Bonhoeffer: Agent of grace

Bonhoeffer: Agent of grace
Directed by Eric Till (1999)
DVD Movie (M15+)
RRP $29.95

This film is based on the story of pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer an anti-Nazi conspirator, who was part of a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler during the Second World War and also involved in sneaking Jews out of Germany.

Working on a book on ethics Bonhoeffer was reluctant to participate in these actions but becomes persuaded that “it is worse to be evil than to do evil.”

Director Till is successful in his goal of bringing to film the story of someone who showed moral action in a period of great evil. “I wanted to do a film showing the dilemma that confronts a righteous man when he’s dealing with people who have no scruples.”

While the film takes some artistic liberties with the story (“You can get bogged down by the truth of it all,” said Till) it remains faithful to the essence of the real story although the romanticising of his relationship with his 18 year old fiancé, Maria, is a little clumsy. I felt that, while the film demonstrates his courage, it doesn’t really capture the theological genius of Bonhoeffer.

Perhaps the most effective aspect of Bonhoeffer: Agent of grace is its ability to convey expression of what life was like for intelligent dissidents in Nazi Germany and some aspects of the complicity of the state churches in their relationship with Hitler’s regime.

The film finishes as strongly as it is played with Bonhoeffer facing a naked death on the gallows one week before liberation by the Allies and Gestapo investigator Dr Manfred Roeder’s statement, “So, this is the end”.

Bonhoeffer strongly answers “No!” and faces a martyr’s death as bravely as he had lived.