Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace

MPAA Rating: Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America

Reviewed by: Richard Schmitz

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Older teens and Adults
1 hr. 30 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Featuring: Eberhard Bethge, Ruth Alice Von Bismark, John De Gruchy, Geffrey Kelly, Desmond Tutu
Director: Martin Doblmeier
Producer: Adele Schmidt
Distributor: First Run Features
Copyright, First Run Features

“Pastor/Pacifist/Nazi Resister”

Two of the most chilling moments I have experienced in a motion picture came in the films “Alien” and “Bonhoeffer.” In “Alien,” it was the now famous dinner scene which used a dozen or so gallons of cranberry juice concentrate and a puppet monster. In “Bonhoeffer,” the scene was all too real in grainy black and white: a conference of Lutheran pastors offering Hitler, in unison, warm smiles and the Nazi salute.

“Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace” is directed and narrated by Martin Doblmeier. Available on video or DVD, this independent film presents the too-little-known revolutionary Lutheran pastor, academic and philosopher who moved from pacifist to participant in a plot to kill Adolph Hitler. In the film, we learn Deitrich Bonhoeffer, abandoned the safety of the United States to board the last passenger liner bound for Germany as war boiled from angry threat to evil action.

While all too many of Bonhoeffer’s colleagues clung to appeasement and denial as Cristalnacht descended into “the final solution.” Doblmeier uses a mix of historic footage, photos, interviews with family, academics and theologians (such as Desmond Tutu) with actors portraying key moments in Bonhoeffer’s life in Nazi Germany.

The beauty of this film is its ability to combine Bonhoeffer’s spiritual and political journeys. Just before the start of war, Bonhoeffer had returned to Germany and established a small Bible school where he passed along the message of a true, personal faith in Christ—something he gained while attending African-American churches in Harlem in the late 1930s. Bonhoeffer, who’d earned a PhD at age 21, came to America to study at the Union Theological Seminary. Dissatisfied with a purely academic relationship with Christ, he studied and came to appreciate the personal Christian faith he found at the Black church.

Bonhoeffer took his new-found faith back to Germany where he gained followers among young theology students—and a percentage of the German population. He preached on the radio, however his sermon critical of Nazi thinking ended his access to the media and put him under watch by the Nazi party.

Bonhoeffer was a pacifist, but he made a moral decision to work on a plot to assassinate Hitler, revealing his depth of character and courage. The plot was uncovered and Bonhoeffer was imprisoned, where he grew his faith and even brought some of his jailers to personal relationships with Christ.

The film is well worth watching, if for no other reason than it is an introduction to this remarkable Christian. The film has a couple of slow spots, but is a solidly-crafted piece of work in its totality.

(Probably will not hold younger teens or youngsters’ attention. Excellent for older teens.

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