Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Scarlet and the Black (1983)

Cinema Catechism continues this Thursday, November 11, 2010, at 7 p.m., with a showing of the outstanding film The Scarlet and the Black at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church Parish Center, together with further discussion and reflections on this fall's theme of Love and Truth.

I was unable to find a clip of the movie in English, but here is a good one in French --

Movie Review
by Steven D. Greydanus

Overall Recommendability A+
Also known as The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican, The Scarlet and the Black tells the true story of a Holy Office notary who, during Nazi occupation of Rome, covertly ran an underground railroad for Jews, anti-Fascists, and escaped Allied POWs.

Riveting and edifying, this WWII drama stars Gregory Peck as Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty, a plain-speaking, straight-dealing Irish priest who boldly aids enemies of the Third Reich under the watchful eye of Christopher Plummer’s Nazi Lt. Col. Herbert Kappler. Their cat-and-mouse game is thrilling and great fun, and culminates in a startling showdown in a very significant setting.

John Gielgud plays Pius XII, who is depicted sympathetically and is shown to be willing to stand up to the Nazis. In one scene he is depicted as having had second thoughts about his Concordat with the Nazi regime — a portrayal the well-meaning filmmakers undoubtedly meant to put the Holy Father in the best possible light. . . .

Movie Review
by Richard Pettinger

Blog Critics
The Scarlet and The Black tells the true story of Irish priest Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, who helped to save thousands of Allied POWs and Jews during the German occupation of Rome in 1943-44.

Monsignor O’Flaherty got to know British servicemen by visiting Italian POW camps. When Italy switched sides in 1943, many Allied servicemen fled to Rome, where they sought the help of O’Flaherty in the Vatican. The Gestapo learned that there was a network dedicated to hiding Allied prisoners and sought to break the network. In particular the Gestapo chief Kappler becomes obsessed with finding and capturing the priest at the centre of the huge operation.

The film, directed by Jerry London for television, creates a great sense of tension as the Gestapo try every means to capture or assassinate O’Flaherty. This tension is heightened by the personal battle of wills between O’Flaherty (Gregory Peck) and Kappler (Christopher Plummer). The acting is superb and there are some very sharp, incisive and memorable dialogues between the two.

Gregory Peck successfully pulls off portraying a priest who embodies both great compassion and a burning sense of indignation at the actions of the Nazis. His role is equally well matched by Christopher Plummer, who portrays the complex character of Kappler. On the one hand Kappler is responsible for the most appalling atrocities, on the other hand we are aware of his good nature which is slowly squeezed as he serves the Nazi regime. He is devoted to the Nazi ideology but we see it gnaws at his hidden consciousness. His hatred of O’Flaherty is perhaps a realisation he secretly admires his nobility and selflessness. At the end of the war, as the Nazis are in full retreat, we see Kappler make an emotional appeal to his arch-enemy O’Flaherty to save help save his family.

The Scarlet and The Black is a good action film, but also portrays the complex moral dilemmas that many faced during the Nazi occupation of Rome.

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