BONHOEFFER tells the dramatic story of one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, his life and his resistance to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. While the German Church establishment embrace... more »d National Socialism, Bonhoeffer challenged his church to stand with the Jews in their time of need. Learning of the death camps, Bonhoeffer's religious convictions led him to the seemingly paradoxical conclusion that the only ethical solution was to conspire to assassinate Hitler.
Extensive research in archives in both Europe and the U.S. yielded extraordinary archival footage - including a speech by Hitler praying for God's blessing on him and the German people- and compelling images of the Catholic and Protestant churches open support of his regime. Bonhoeffer's life and thought are traced through family photographs from his childhood and early education in Germany to his travels to New York, where he met with black church leaders in Harlem and was exposed to the realities of racism and intolerance. It was in America that Bonhoeffer became convinced of the importance of social and political engagement on a personal level and for the Church community as a whole. Alongside this thorough visual documentation is extensive commentary by a number of Christian intellectuals including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John de Gruchy and Geffrey Kelly on Bonhoeffer's contribution to theology and philosophy. BONHOEFFER creates a well rounded picture of a man whose influence continues to be felt not only by his writings, but also by his the example of his life.« less
Compeling story of a theologian and anti-Hitler acrivist
E. Cook | Washington D.C. | 07/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a compeling documentary about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a prominent Christian theologian. Bonhoeffer, who lived in Germany during the time of Nazi rule, ultimately gave his life in an effort to stop Hitler's tyranical rule and opression of the Jewish race.
The documentary explores the concept of Christian ethics, and shows how Bonhoeffer was able to reconcile seemingly contradictory beliefs of the sanctity of life and justice - to the point that he was willing to participate in the resistance's attempts to assasinate Hitler.
The documentary uses phenomenal footage of Hitler's reign, interviews with Bonhoeffer's friends, family, and students, and analysis from historians to vividly tell this story. The story has direct relevance to the world we live in today.
If you are interested in an uplifitng account of how God can use one ordinary man to make a difference, then this movie is for you. Or, if you simply want to watch an amazingly well told documentary about an important era in German history (without feeling preached at), then this film also is for you. It certainly makes you think about our current world politics from a fresh point of view.
A+ for content A+ for presentation"
I would drive 700 miles
Stanford Gibson | West Sacramento, CA USA | 08/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary is quite simply a must see. My buddy and I contemplated driving from Sacramento to Seattle to see it before we heard about it on DVD. Simply put, it would have been worth the trip. The film is mostly primary sources, those close to Dietrich, several of whom passed away shortly after its filming. Bonhoeffer is one of the most compelling theologians of the twentieth century and this is the best window into his life available. Costly grace, ethical constructs of good vs good and the world come of age are all paradigm shifting ideas - but the locus of their authority rests in the details of his life and risks taken in the name of bold action in service of God. Highly recommended."
A remarkable film about one man's conscience and courage.
E. Bukowsky | NY United States | 04/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau, Germany, in 1906, to wealthy, privileged, and well-connected parents. He received his doctorate in theology in 1927. At a time when Germany was reeling from her humiliation at the hands of the Allies after World War I, the proponents of National Socialism began to capture the loyalty of Germans who were desperate to recover their economic, cultural, political, and military glory. Bonhoffer searched his soul, his conscience, and his Bible, in an effort to decide where his responsibilities lie. His decision to risk his freedom and his life by actively resisting the Nazis will forever set him apart as a man of valor.
"Bonhoeffer" is a superb documentary. It is informative, well-researched, and intensely moving. Rare archival footage includes a scene in which Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII), and Germany's vice chancellor, Franz von Papen, formally sign a concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich on July 20, 1933. The surrender of the Roman Catholic Church to Hitler's might at the expense of the helpless victims of Nazi terror makes Bonhoeffer's sacrifices all the more remarkable. There is also hard-hitting footage of Hitler and Goebbels spouting their venom before thousands of cheering and ebullient German citizens.
This ninety-minute documentary, in both black and white and color, includes comments by survivors, historians, and theologians who knew Bonhoeffer; their words lend gravity and verisimilitude to the film. These individuals describe Bonhoeffer as an inspiring teacher, a thoughtful writer of theological treatises, and finally, an active resister who took part in a failed conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. Bonhoeffer had an opportunity to stay in America, where, from a safe haven, he could have attempted to inspire resistance to the Nazi regime. However, Bonhoeffer could not bring himself to abandon his homeland at a time when she was under siege by an evil dictator.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed that religion is not an abstraction, but a way of life. It was his opinion that a man of God must care for all of his fellow human beings, and reach out to support them when they are in need. His example will forever inspire men and women of conscience as they continue to fight for the freedoms that we often take for granted. This film would be an excellent selection for high school and college students as part of a curriculum on the Holocaust, theology, and human rights."
Compelling and distressing
Tahl | Virginia USA | 03/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The producers have done an exceptional job making a compelling biopic on someone on whom there is almost no video footage. (We see Bonhoeffer in a moving image only once, at a family outdoor event, as I recall).
At the same time, they've made a movie about Germany, and in particular about how the Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany coped -- in some cases, welcomed -- the rise of the Nazi party, and about how Hitler himself used religious speech to his own ends. Almost all the footage of Hitler in this film is stuff I've never seen before; some of it startled me.
I learned a great deal, and was glad I did. The movie will probably appeal most to people interested in Bonhoeffer as a theologian and writer, but History Channel fans may get gripped too."
"This is the end. For me, ... the beginning of life!"
Gabriel E. Borlean | Odense, Denmark - birthtown of fairytale-writer H. | 09/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These were Dietrich Bonhoeffer's last words before he was hanged, naked, on a gallows of the evil Nazi regime (sadly, only weeks before his concentration camp was liberated by the Allies in WWII).
This 90 min. 12 chapters DVD is a documentary-styled film about the life and writings of a person called Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (The other reviewers did a good job at presenting his background).
This DVD can be enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike.
A legacy of God's grace, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor, theologian, university professor, anti-Nazi conspirator, and martyr who detected early on the evils of a new monster rising amidst his Germanic countrymen (Adolf Hitler as Fuehrer, racism as means of national liberation, the deification of state authority, the corruption of the state churches) and amidst Christendom before the break of WWII in September 1939. His theology and actions also saved the lives of some Jews he personally helped escape to Switzerland.
What sets this DVD apart from the other documentary films made on the legacy of this martyr ("Hanged on a Twisted Cross" by T.D.Mohan, and "Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace" by Eric Till) and a German-made movie (which I do not think has yet been subtitled or dubbed in English) are the fresh new historical footages, live interviews with Dietrich's entourage, friends, and surviving family member. One will also be privileged to see snippet interviews with historians, theologians, ministers, authors, and scholars who have studied Bonhoeffer's life and writings, and also the times (WWI, rise of Social Nationalism in Germany) that influenced Bonhoeffer's writings. The interviews are with people from 3 continents, some who only speak German (subtitles provided), and from various traditions.
After watching this film, one will have a very intimate understandings of Bonhoeffer's theology (for world peace, costly grace, social justice, understanding of church's role in society, ethics under an opressive murderous regime, Christ's role in a believer's life and in ecclesiastical matters) and internal struggles that made him return to a dangerous Germany after an eclectic and ecumenical experience abroad in more than 3 countries. Also a key element is how the struggle of being a true Christian to the gospel message in Nazi Germany changed Dietrich from a Pacifist to a collaborator and activist with the Resistance that was plotting and carrying Hitler's assassination attempts.
Another interesting aspect of this DVD film are the details of his romance and courtship with Maria von Wedermeyer, who became his fianc? (I won't spoil the details here).
For the non-Christian viewer this film is valuable in understanding at what level and under what circumstances the two main German state-churches (Catholic and Lutheran Evangelical) collaborated with the Nazi regime and how they tried to achieve their agenda (as a result of the devastation that WWI had on the lives of former Christians) by compromising with an evil regime. Also of historical interest, the discussion of how the Confessing Church (which was the only religious body who stood against Hitler and his henchmen) started and operated. For philosophers and humanists, this movie is an excellent discussion on the topics of "ethics" (also a book Bonhoeffer titled). Equally important is the discussion of how this man's faith in a supreme being (the God of the Bible) helped him to make decisions that others would not have made.
In the end, his legacy was even noted by the SS camp doctor who noted his faith and his certainty that God had heard him, after Dietrich prayed fervently to God kneeling on the floor of his cell and than another prayer before he bravely and composedly climbed the steps of the gallows ("Hanged on the Twisted Cross" film by T.D. Mohan)
He said, "This is the end. For me ... the beginning of life!"