The Life, Convictions and Martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Running time: 2 hours.
This two-hour documentary would be an excellent resource in accompaniment with the PBS dramatic film we reviewed in the last issue—Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace. This is a first class production with lots of archival newsreels of the Nazi era and specially filmed scenes at the sites where the great German theologian lives, studied, and died. This could be regarded as the definitive Bonhoeffer filmed study in that his long-time friend Eberhard Bethge wrote the script, along with Renata Bethge and Christian Gremmels.
One aspect of Bonhoeffer’s life, which I missed decades ago when I was in seminary, is the theologian’s strong defense of the Jews. Both this and the PBS film deal wit h Bonhoeffer’s relationship to his sister and her Jewish husband (He helped them escape from Germany). His famous statement that those who do not defend the Jews are not worthy of singing Gregorian chants is included, along with many other excerpts from his writings. (These are read by Mike Farrell—and Ed Asner serves as narrator.) Although Bonhoeffer’s stay in America in 1939 is given short-shift (see the dramatized film for more on his interest in the black church and music), great attention is given to his wrestling with his conscience concerning getting involved with the plot on Hitler’s life. Bonhoeffer saw the murder of Hitler for the crime that it was, and yet when weighing the lives of so many others against that of the dictator’s, he could see no other choice.
He could not stand by and do nothing by retreating into Christian sanctity and piety. The film would be an excellent prelude to showing the dramatized film, or as a follow-up to it. Or as a means to introduce a Lenten study on Bonhoeffer’s LIFE TOGETHER, COST OF DISCIPLESHIP, or other writings.
Note: The above was written for the Feb. 2001 VP, but the contact information below has been updated.
Available on DVD for $15.99 (plus postage) #4863V from Gateway/Vision Video, P.O. Box 540,Worcester, PA 19490 – 054 . Tel: 800-523-0226.