Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Ulrich Tukur, Mathieu Kassovitz, Ulrich Mühe, Michel Duchaussoy, Ion Caramitru
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Studio: Kino International Release Date: 10/05/2004
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A Powerful Lesson we May Still Need To Master
Timothy Kearney | Hull, MA United States | 10/02/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As far as films dealing with the Holocaust are concerned, I do not believe that AMEN is in the same category as LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL or SCHINDLER'S LIST. I say this not so much because of the film's quality, but due to the fact it is really a morality tale about what happens when people who are basically good fail to see obvious evil, do little to nothing about it, and in the end may even be aiding the evil that so opposes good. The Holocaust is merely the backdrop, and the failure of organized religion to oppose the evil of Holocaust is history's best example to demonstrate what happens when people do not oppose evil.At the beginning of the film, people of the Christian faith seem to be doing the right thing. People with mental and physical disabilities are being sent to the death camps, and churches, particularly the Roman Catholic Church boldly speak against the atrocity. Yet when the same thing happens to the Jews, the vigilant churches remain indifferent at best, and in more cases than not, silent. The more the churches realize the atrocities, the more deafening the silence becomes.Amen breaks new ground as far as the discussion is concerned. Much has been made about the silence of the Vatican in general, and more specifically Pope Pius XII's failure to speak. The film could have used the easy answer, namely fear that the Vatican would be destroyed, and would therefore destroy the Church as well. While this is mentioned in the film, it really does not seem to be the major reason for the silence. The choice for the Church was either to side with the Allies, which included Russia, a Communist nation. The Communists were viewed as more evil since Communists opposed religion. The Axis powers were just as evil as Stalin, but at least they allowed the practice of the faith as long as the Church was not critical of the Nazi Regime. This seems to be the more accurate reason for the silence.Many people who will see this film will see the Catholic Church in a less than positive light. I'm not certain this is accurate. The character of Fr. Riccardo Fontana is one of the two heroes of the film; he is Catholic, and actually stands for what is best in the Church. Keep in mind, the greatest Christians, Catholic and non-Catholic, are more often than not the heroes who stand alone, and the heroism of one who stands alone is probably a more powerful example of faith than any religious officials. We see in the character of Fontana one who makes a morally good choice and acts on it as opposed to the hierarchy, who made a bad moral choice of choosing what they believed was the lesser of two evils. Fontana is actually a Christ figure and his actions teach us how we should be acting. Also, people viewing the film should keep in mind that while the Catholic Church is the Church that is viewed as wrong, none off the other Christian denominations did all that much to stand up to the evil either. If Dante is correct about the hottest spot in hell being reserved for those who remain neutral, and silence is considered neutrality, many are in deep trouble."
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on a true story, *Amen* is an important, and heretofore unexamined, angle in cinema's ongoing grappling with the Holocaust: the complicity of the Catholic Church with the Third Reich's "Final Solution". Important BECAUSE the subject hasn't been examined in film. Precise, too; the movie is concerned with the murder of the Jews in particular. Early in *Amen*, we see the German Catholic Church put a stop to the euthanizing of what the Nazi Party calls "unproductive citizens", e.g., people with Down's Syndrome and, indeed, any who suffer from mental illness. The local archbishop threatens the Nazi bureaucrats with exposure to world opinion, and thunders indignant, logical arguments from the pulpit ("'Unproductive!' And what of injured soldiers returning from the front? Are they 'unproductive', too?" etc.). But the thing is, these mentally ill were baptized as Christians. The JEWS, on the other hand. . . . Director Costa-Gavras gives them an unlikely champion: an SS officer and chemist Kurt Gerstein (Ulrich Tukur) whose creation of a cleansing agent, designed to filter contaminated drinking water for the troops at the front, becomes a primary tool in the mass-murder campaign by the German government. The chemist, a devout Protestant, is horrified when he discovers to what uses his invention is being put. He is eventually brought to a concentration camp, and is more or less forced to view a gassing through a peep-hole on a gas-chamber door. Thankfully, WE'RE spared the sight. Indeed, we "see" almost no atrocities: Costa-Gavras assumes we're intelligent and moral enough to already know that genocide is evil. (Obviously a faulty assumption, considering that this movie received almost zero attention from audiences and critics. We clearly need piles of bodies displayed with Barber's *Adagio for Strings* swelling in the background, and a Schindler-like hero played by a robust and good-looking Irishman.) Instead, he shows us the hideous paperwork, the incessant criss-crossing of the cattle-cars (empty one way, full the other way) . . . the whole damnable mechanical PROCESS of the Holocaust. Gerstein decides to be the "eyes and ears" of this process, and even tries to slow it down in his fumbling way by hysterically claiming that THIS batch of chemicals is leaking from their canisters and must be destroyed, THAT batch won't be ready for months, and so on. Meanwhile, having learned that the Church managed to stop the murdering of the mentally ill, Gerstein appeals to the local diocese. Upon informing the local big-wig prelate that the Nazis are systematically wiping out the Jews, the prelate muses suspiciously, "Are you even Catholic?" But he DOES get the attention of a fictional young Jesuit, Father Riccardo (played with agonizing understatement by Mathieu Kassovitz). Riccardo becomes determined that Pope Pius XII should learn of the atrocities . . . and is fiercely checked by the Church bureaucracy and finally by the Pope Himself. *Amen* savagely attacks the Church in general and the Pope in particular: it's rather telling that Costa-Gavras could find no single figure to base Riccardo upon, but had to create an amalgam from various (and doubtless feeble) voices in the Church hierarchy at that time. Some may complain that Riccardo is merely a symbol of Good, and that another character in the film, known only with chilling anonymity as "The Doctor", is just Evil personified. But I think enough ambiguity is provided by Gerstein himself: we like him, we identify with him, we sympathize with his disgust, we encourage his attempts to alert the world, but we also feel uneasy that he remains in his position as SS Lieutenant. What IS the truth about Gerstein? We'll never truly know what was in his heart; we only know what he documented about the process of the gassings, after he was incarcerated after the war. Was he trying to condemn his murderous colleagues, or merely hoping to absolve his own continued participation? Or both? Perhaps Riccardo and the Doctor, both fictional, represent his own divided soul."
One star for Amazon's misrepresentation of this DVD
Perseus | OR United States | 04/11/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Regardless of the merits of the film itself and the importance of the subject matter potential buyers of this DVD need to be alerted to the fact that, contrary to Amazon's blurb above, it is *not* presented in the original language. It is dubbed into English with a variety of often incongruous accents. There are no other language tracks and no subtitles.
Perhaps for many viewers this is not an imporatnt consideration, but for those who wish to watch the film in its original form, it is available from Amazon.de under its original title "Der Stellvertreter (The Deputy)". The German DVD includes an English soundtrack for those who prefer it, but also a German soundtrack with German subtitles."
An altogether new examination of the Nazi madness
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Holocaust may be one of the more frequent topics in literature and film due to the incrediblity of the Final Solution to free the world of Jews, mentally retarded people, gypsies, homosexuals, and anyone else who fell out of favor with Hitler's grotesque vision of the German World. Because the subject matter is so heinous in nature, so loaded in history, and so prone to polarize audiences, what we have seen before this film AMEN is the horror of the fate of the Jews in graphic detail (The Pianist, Schindler's List, The Grey Zone, Bent, Paragraph 175, to name but a few). What Costa-Gavras has done is show us all of the same information, but from the stance of an SS officer who found the Final Solution appalling and fought to have it stopped. When his own efforts to quell the production of the killer gas crystals do not work, he seeks help from the Vatican. But as history has shown us Pope Pius XII failed the world, fearing more for the threat on the Vatican. The cold reception by the American envoys, concerned about battles to be won, support of Stalin and other allies, etc, even suggesting that the US did not want to accept large numbers of Jews as refugees as they would create an anti-Semitic problem for the US! No one escapes Costa-Gavras scathing eye with the exception of a priest within the Vatican who as a last resort places a yellow star of David on his cassock and is gassed with his fellow men, the Jews. The SS officer formally charges the Nazi regime in the language of the Italians, the French, the German people, and the Americans and for this act of bravery his is incarcerated.How much is fact and how much is story telling really makes little difference in this brilliant film. AMEN makes the world take responsibility for the Holocaust and only when we can accept the entire gamut of this horrid mark on history can we be ready to take action to protect against its recurrence. Many complaints have been made against the "dubbing" of the dialogue. In the DVD version the characters all speak in English and only infrequently is their another language spoken. The film is a must see for everyone and it is a first class film by any standards."