Today I watched the Bonhoeffer documentary film that came out in 2003. Bonhoeffer is one of my intellectual heroes. The film told his life's story in an effective and yet somewhat cinematic way. This intellectual German theologian on a teaching fellowship to Union Theological in New York found his comfort not in theories and notions but in the fervency of black churches in Harlem.
I've always liked Bonhoeffer, because he recognized from the beginning the evil of the Nazis, when other churchfolk sought to accomodate and "work around" National Socialism. He taught at illegal seminaries, because he declined to be part of the "official church establishment". He went to work in German intelligence, so that he could act as a double agent on behalf of the plot to assasinate Hitler. When the conspiracy failed, the inevitable execution resulted.
The movie works quite well, humanizing and yet lionizing. The vast amount of interview material they assembled is impressive, and timely, given that so many from that time are dead. Yet so many of the issues about Bonhoeffer's life were not covered, both important personal details and flaws, as well as details of some key views. The principal "issue" in Bonhoeffer's life--whether to resort to violence to eliminate Hitler--is well covered. Key parts of his theology are covered. But the
movie skims the surface, missing the points about what makes Bonhoeffer's thoughts, particularly in his prison papers, of interest to people who aren't Christians. Bonhoeffer sought to confront modernity, but he did it in a way that neither modern day "liberals" nor modern day "conservatives" can quite co-opt or encompass.
Still, it's a fascinating film.
I had a lot of other things happen today--a musician set a poem of mine to music,
a collaboration with an LJ'er on a song bore strange and tasty fruit, but
in the face of the horror of the Nazis and the courage of Mr. Bonhoeffer, I'll
close. I have a longer post in me about this fellow, as I have posted other posts in the past. But tonight I am reminded of images of complacency in the face of atrocity, and a man who came back to danger when he had safety in his hands.