Koch on Film


By Ed Koch

Volume 74, Number 3 | June 8 – 14, 2005

Koch On Film

The Ninth Day (+)

This film is overwhelming in its emotional impact. It is based on a true story, that of a priest, Father Henri Kremer (not his real name) who stood up to the Nazis when they overran his country, Luxembourg, and was sent to Dachau, a concentration camp

Father Kremer joined hundreds, perhaps thousands, of priests from all over Europe who resisted the Nazis, with respect to their racial theory concerning the Jews. The “ninth day” refers to a leave given to Father Kremer (Ulrich Matthes) from Dachau to return to Luxembourg to seek to convince the Bishop, who refused to cooperate with the Nazi occupation, to end his resistance. There is a discussion in the film on the role of Judas. Should he be condemned as most Christians do or admired for performing his role needed to allow Jesus to fulfill his role through death and resurrection. There are some scenes in Dachau showing the brutality of the Nazis to the incarcerated priests that are extraordinary in their impact on the audience. There are scenes and revelations of the innermost feelings of Father Bernard, which exhibit his humanity and frailty. Ulrich Matthes’ acting is unique in the intensity that comes primarily from his eyes. When he returns to Luxembourg on his leave from Dachau, his sister, two brothers and brother-in-law are in danger and will be impacted by his decision on whether or not to give in to the demands of the young Nazi officer Gebhardt (August Diehl) assigned to turn him. If he is unsuccessful in turning him, he has been threatened with assignment to the Eastern Front. There are raised doubts many still have today concerning Pope Pius XII’s failure to resist more voiced by Father Kremer; there are the defenders of Pius XII pointing out that with resistance, the lot of many more Christians and Jews would be worsened, as occurred in Holland.

This movie is no walk in the park. It has the power of a kick in the gut by a horse. It is well worth your seeing. It is playing at the Quad. It is in German with English subtitles.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (-)

This episode explains how Darth Vader, the bad guy we’ve met in the next three chapters, became that way. I won’t tell you why he chose the dark side of the force and became evil. The voice of that phantom menace is James Earl Jones, whom one thinks of as avuncular when he speaks for Verizon.

His original name before he went to the dark side was Anakin Skywalker, played in this movie by hunk Hayden Christensen. He was briefly married to the beautiful Padme (Natalie Portman) who became the mother of two principal characters who have appeared, as young adults, in later chapters: Luke Skywalker and his twin sister, Princess Leia. The two were separated at birth.

For anyone in America who may not know, this film is a prequel. Although released 28 years after the Star Wars series began in 1977, “Revenge of the Sith” deals with events that took place far in the future, but before the first three films to be released. The word ‘prequel’ was coined to cover this situation, since ‘sequel’ normally refers to later events.

The movie is filled with lots of ingenious machines and robots of different shapes and sizes, who constantly attack the Jedi Knights. Anakin, who was denied the title of Master, and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) are a kind of Samurai protecting the Republic from the barbarians who want to destroy it. There is not much to this film except lots of fighting between machines and people, with an occasional dragon-like creature ridden by Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. The dragon earned his fees from the studio. Obi raised Anakin Skywalker and is responsible for him ultimately becoming a Jedi. The head of the Republic, Chancelor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) tells Anakin that the Jedi Council intends to overthrow the Republic. We soon learn who the really good guys are. One of them is played by Jimmy Smits, who has an inconsequential part. (He should never have left the NYPD Blue series in which he starred.)

I was totally unimpressed with the entire picture including all performances except that of the dragon. This is not a movie for children under the age of ten. It involves blood, gore, mass killings of children and boredom. The latter is the real killer. Maybe the creator and director, George Lucas, will keep his word and we have seen the last of these cartoons.

– Ed Koch