Two or Three Cents (1): “God On Trial” (2008, TV)

Stephen Dillane, Stellan Skarsgård, and Jack Shepherd in BBC's "God On Trial" (2008).

There are few things that evoke such strong emotions with me as the fate of concentration camp prisoners during World War II. It is the sheer thought of people deprived of all their humanity that sends shivers down my spine. Yet, if we look beyond the cruelty that is impossible to review in an unemotional way, we do see small miracles happen among human beings reduced to their most primitive state – themselves and nothing but themselves. BBC’s 2008 television drama God On Trial provides an example of such a situation. It tells the story – supposedly based on real life events – of Jewish camp prisoners conducting a trial against God for breaking their covenant with him. The movie in itself is a rather plain juxtaposition of opinions, but those opinions are fortunately well worth listening to – for both non-believers and devotees (to which God whatsoever).  The often emotion-filled debates amongst the barrack inhabitants leads to several noteworthy scenes: a French physicist calls for reason by pointing out that it is all too far-fetched for some higher entity to create galaxies and at the same to bond only with a very select group of pious Jews; a deeply shattering soliloquy by actor Antony Sher, listing all the biblical entries that portray God as one that slaughters and slays his people without a justified reason (“Our God may be strong and he may be on our side, but he has never been good!”); the heart-rending story of a father (the brilliant Eddie Marsan) who was given the choice to save one of his three sons (“Which one should I’ve chosen?”, he weeps). My favorite moment, though, is when the bullying guard of the barrack speaks rashly of his motifs (which are practical, not moral) and suddenly interrupts his monologue to raise his hands to the sky. All of a sudden the soft sounds of birds become apparent, carried into the Jewish barracks by a gentle breeze. That’s where World War II suddenly becomes not only an intangible horror, but, moreover, a part of the world that we all still live in.


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Filed under Articles, Critique, English

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