3 1/2 stars (out of 4)
Late last March, the Gene Siskel Film Center presented a one-week run of the documentary "Bonhoeffer," about the German theologian and pacifist Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945). The film turned out to be one of the Siskel Film Center's biggest draws in years, prompting management to bring the film back for two more weeks starting Friday.
Though much of the responsibility for the crowds should go to the well-crafted film and its director, Martin Doblmeier, credit is also due to the ethical issues that defined this man, who paid for his beliefs with his life. According to Bonhoeffer, it was not enough just talking about the dangers of evil; true Christians had to do something about it - an attitude that has particular pertinence on the international scene these days.
Bonhoeffer came from an educated, well-to-do but not especially religious family. So they were stunned when he decided to study theology at the University of Berlin. He made his mark early, writing essays about the changing face of the Protestant church, including his belief that Christians must follow the lessons of Christ's Sermon on the Mount to the letter, and not simply as a blueprint for ethical behavior.
Later, he developed his theory on "cheap" versus "costly grace." The theory elaborates on the moral difference between talk and action, and it eventually forced him to put aside his own pacifistic ways to play a role in an assassination attempt on Adolph Hitler.
The film also covers Bonhoeffer's travels to America, where he taught Sunday school at Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church, run by Adam Clayton Powell Sr. It was there that Bonhoeffer learned valuable lessons about racial intolerance, which he brought back to Germany in the midst of the festering "Jewish question."Included are interviews with friends, writers, and scholars such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the film features the Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer as the voice of Bonhoeffer. (Note: Director Martin Doblmeier will be present at the 7:45 p.m. Monday screening.)
"Bonhoeffer"Opens Friday for a two-week run at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St. Running time: 1:30. In English and German with English subtitles. No MPAA rating (not appropriate for younger children).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun