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Movie Review – Bonhoeffer


Movie Review – Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer (2003)
Bonhoeffer poster Rating: 7.2/10 (286 votes)
Director: Martin Doblmeier
Writer: Martin Doblmeier
Stars: Martin Doblmeier, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Adele Schmidt, Richard Mancini
Runtime: 93 min
Rated: N/A
Genre: Documentary, Biography, History
Released: 20 Jun 2003
Plot: Portrait of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was imprisoned and killed by the Nazis for plotting to assassinate Hitler, conveys the essence of a man and his world. Bonhoeffer's life is lyrically presented, with his friends and family shedding light on his breakaway seminary, his travels to America and Harlem, his calls to change the world for better, and his noble attempts to respond to Nazi Germany as a Christian.

Bonhoeffer” is a documentary directed and produced by Martin Doblmeier which details the remarkable events leading up to his execution for his role in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor-theologian and was one of the primary founders of the Confessing Church; a church which began as an anti Nazi voice during the years preceding WW2. This documentary gives a little background information on Bonhoeffer’s early years but spends a bulk of the time unfolding his formative years. This includes his two visits to the United States in 1930 and again in 1939. “Bonhoeffer” does a pretty good job describing the impact that Adam Clayton Powell’s theology of social justice on his own thought as well as the influence of his time spent in African American congregations which resulted in his life-long love of black gospel music. The effect of Powell’s emphasis on social justice influences Bonhoeffer’s own pacifism.

Our older children watched this documentary as well and I found that was a valuable exercise for helping to better see the strengths and weakness of this documentary. One of the lingering questions which our children had was why Bonhoeffer decided to participate in the assassination plot to begin with.  This helped me to see that the film lacked a few key emphases which would have helped to better grasp the gravity of Bonhoeffer’s decision. The first was a lack of detail about the sheer inhumanity involved in the Holocaust. This goes without saying for those who have studied the Holocaust but for our children it seemed as if Bonhoeffer decided to oppose Hitler due to mere political disagreements- hardly just cause for assassination. The second emphasis which was lacking was a deeper dive into the intense struggle which Bonhoeffer had between his pacifism and the need to put a stop to the mass killings under Hitler. Both of these are certainly alluded to throughout the film, and those already familiar with the life and times of Bonhoeffer would presumably already know the details. However, it did leave the film rather flat emotionally and the viewer may find him/herself with a sort if disconnected knowledge of Bonhoeffer’s life.

I really appreciated the interviews with Bonhoeffer’s friends and family. This helped to connect some of those emotional loose strings to the historical facts that were missing as a result of the lack of depth into the details of Hitler’s atrocities and the emotional turmoil that a pacifist would have when contemplating an assassination plot.

I rented “Bonhoeffer” from Christian Cinema, a Christian owned company dedicated to “making the best Christian movies available to you in one place wherever you go”. Christian Cinema offers streaming On Demand family friendly movies with an option to own the electronic copy for a low price. They also offer DVDs for sale for those who prefer the traditional DVD option.


3 thoughts on “Movie Review – Bonhoeffer

  1. Ryan Smith

    I’ve always been curious about Bonhoeffer. I enjoyed Cost of Discipleship and Letters but never really studied his life.

  2. I would think without knowing why Hitler was so bad you would think the whole situation with the plot to kill him was silly or wrong even. I watched the trailer and it looks good. Maybe this weekend I’ll get around to it.

  3. Judah Jacobi

    I really like Bonhoeffer at times and at other times he drives me crazy with his social justice activism.

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