Wednesday, December 15, 2010

God On Trial (2008)

Inmates at Auschwitz put God on trial for breaking the covenant.

This was run earlier in the season as part of Masterpiece (PBS) modern block of tales. Based on an actual trial, it is a deeply affecting story about a group of men attempting to find out why God has abandoned them, and whether he has broken the agreement that he made with their forefathers. It is set entirely within one barracks during the time that they are waiting to have their numbers called. Those chosen will go off to die, for it seems that a train has arrived early and there is no place for the new arrivals.

It is a heady discussion of despair and hope. Has God abandoned them? Does God exist? What is the nature of God? These are the thoughts of men waiting to die, men with little left to lose. It is a discussion that will get your mind working. The answers they come up with might surprise you.

The film will also touch you.

I tend to be immune to Holocaust tales with name stars in it since the pretty faces never seem to be in anything more than a dress up tale, but here I was moved. The cast, which includes Dominic Cooper, Stephen Dillane, Rupert Graves, Anthony Sher, and Stellan Skarsgård, is first rate with only Skarsgård recognizable under the dirt and bruises.

In most films of this sort the filmmakers hit certain cliché marks, but none of that is here. It is simply men waiting to be chosen, pondering their existence and their humanity. I should point out that the film is cross-cut across time with a tour of the barracks and the gas chambers now. The modern story is not intrusive, and in its way actually helps move things along, with one of the final scenes very likely to bring tears to your eyes.

I highly recommend this film to anyone who wondered about God and the death of 12 million people or just about God in general.

On DVD and in the rotation of Masterpiece on PBS

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