Film Festival Preview
The Ninth Day
A Volker Schloendorf Film
On the fifth day of Toronto’s International Film Festival a viewing public with an appetite for historic philosophy or philosophical history better bring a strong stomach to the Ryerson Theatre, where the film will be screened.
During the preview this reviewer had an impulse to leave several times as the story developed, yet I was riveted to my seat.
This was not a Hollywood epic, not a high budget Spielberg version of yet another effort trying to explain what atrocities mankind can inflict on mankind. It is the translation of a real story into pictures, written by someone who was there. And the way it is done is so realistic that the movie feels more like a documentary.
It is not simply a story about the triumph of the human spirit over its miserable flesh. This is a film about treachery most intimate, about the treason committed by individuals trying to justify the betrayal of their personal integrity. It is not just a story about the Third Reich, it just takes place there, mainly between two man, one an ordained priest from Luxemburg and the other an almost ordained turncoat.
It is not a story about human strength and weaknesses, but about the anatomy of understanding, understanding what makes a Judas a Judas and how does one get there, and what are the consequences for the perpetrator.
Many more questions are asked: Will the perpetrator blame the victim for his existence, or will he solicit the victims understanding? Will he expect the victim to take responsibility for his torturer’s shortcomings, his wrong choices? Will he persuade him to swell the ranks of betrayers, create another Judas? How can religious texts be used to defend an ideology, a question that is as important now as it was then.
And it certainly is also a story about the misbegotten use of power and authority to achieve an end that cannot be explained by normal means. It is an attempt to explain personal wrongdoings, when the doing of nothing is as destructive as the doing of something.
And in the end it is a story about responsibility, about the responsibility to stay true to ones convictions, to hold on to the code of honor one has defined for oneself. It is a personal story; everyone’s personal story of responsibility in the totality of life and it’s many facets. It pushes responsibility straight back to every individual, does not allow for hiding within a group agreement, actually points out how dangerous it is when that takes place and becomes an excuse for survival considerations.
And it is a movie about courage, about persistence, which in the end will win the day, at least in the personal integrity department.
It is a film that shows the conviction of a true moviemaker, someone who feels compelled to tell stories that explain life and the world we live in. Why Volker Schloendorf felt he had to make this movie now, when so many want to get on with the future, is something we must ask him. Like us he probably knows that as long as there are lies on the line, as long as the whole story has not been told, the truth has not been totally revealed, nothing has been handled.
Many attempts have been made to take this chapter of history and put it into a context that can create understanding of a time that defies logic.
For all Film Fest info go to www.bell.ca.filmfest
But then perhaps that is where the problem lies, we rely on logic, not analytical, pure, clean thought in a subject that is in itself insane and defies all forms of reason. Therefore the answer cannot be found in a story, or any story. The truth lies within the anatomy of the mind, the mechanisms and contraptions used to manipulate and entrap an individual, but also in an individual’s ability to bypass those existing mind-machineries fed by lies until those lies become truth, and with his/her ability to disagree with the status quo, the powers that are or might be. Truth relies on one’s own integrity, totally and completely.
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