Stars : Ulrich Tukur , Mathieu Kassovitz , Ulrich Mühe ,
Directed By: Constantin Costa-Gavras
There are some chapters in the human history that can never be forgotten, they have left their marks and scars on the life of millions. One such chapter is Holocaust, a scar , a wound that has and may never heal. Almost all of the humanity was affected by it and different people had different experiences. A lot of movies have touched it and a few of them have really left an impressions. Our filmmakers have depicted and tried to touch upon every aspect of it. Amen is again a movie that touches this subject but from a completely different side. Its a beautiful movie, which not just broadens the view but also somehow brings to light a new face of the people , nations involved and the religious institutions at time. Its based on a 1963 play by Rolf Hochhuth, The Deputy, a Christian Tragedy, about some real men and contains some arguable truths.
Kurt Gerstein a Lieutienant in the S.S and member of the Hygiene institute is responsible for designing and maintaining system for purification of water, lived in Berlin. At that time war had begun and it was widely believed Nazi's have started their evil plan to exterminate all the Jews, but people didn't believed it and neither did the church. Kurt is moved out to a camp to look up some purification process , unaware what was meant by context of purification in his new posting , Kurt becomes a witness to one of the extermination process. He decided the world should know about it and so do Vatican, so they could protest against exterminating the Jews and pressurize Germany to stop it.
Young Jesuit priest Riccardo Fontana hears Kurt and decides to help him out . Riccardo believes a lot in the holy father and his father being a count he had the access to his Holy father. This is the story of their efforts to prevent one of the worst genocides in the history and the relations between the church and the Nazi Germany. Its the story of ugly side of the allies and their politics and what could have been done.
The most impressive aspect of Hollywood movies has been their stories, they have always picked up subject and feelings that do form a connection. This time I couldn't find out what pulled me into this one but there was something about the characters and their efforts. May be it was my need to solidify belief in people. There were people in the Nazi ranks who did tried to bring an end to Nazi crimes by eliminating Hitler and failed but I never knew about the efforts by Kurt and Riccardo. Though the efforts by Kurt and Riccardo couldn't stop Hitler but they do establish that being human is more important and keeping that humanity alive is possible even in the worst of circumstances.
The movie is also about the role played by the Allies and the church during World War II but it also points about the power of belief. Some people are driven by their believes, even if its against their own country. Kurt is driven by his believes in human values and Riccardo in the power of his God but it also holds true for German officers and the Allied commanders. The role played by the church is similar to what it has been playing about various issues all through the history, for which it has been and is under severe criticism even today.
The performances of the leads in the movie are very commendable. Ulrich as Kurt Gerstien gives a very believable performance. The inner conflicts of Kurt and his struggle to keep his emotions to himself are very well depicted by Ulrich. The guilt of being part of the crime, horror of what he sees and fear for safety of his family are expressed beautifully by Ulrich. Mathieu as Riccardo plays the most important role and gives a heartfelt performance. His struggle to keep his shattering faith intact is a pitiable sight and Mathieu does well to make you feel that pain. The climax of the movie when Mathieu makes his decision is poignant and shocking. Towards the end the broken Riccardo brings out the best of Mathieu.
The subject of the movie is sensitive, specially depicting the role of church but credit should be given to Constantin Costa for dealing with it intelligently and not shying away from bringing the dark role of the church. The story itself is very engaging and a reason enough to watch the movie , the screenplay adds to the already fine movie. The script never lets you off and made me more curious to know what happened next , may be that's more because of the subject but still the screenplay makes an already great movie more engaging and some scenes in the movie just fill you up. Specially the last 15-20 minutes of the movie left me surprised and with a feeling of remorse about what could have been done.
The movie is different from a lot of the movies made on the subject of Holocaust but its still quite similar to lot of them in where it makes the connection. This movie does finds it place right up there with Schindler's List and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Definitely a must watch.
Plus : Heartfelt story and struggle. Brilliant direction.
Rating : 9/10