The Ninth Day | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Ninth Day

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Like Costa-Gavras's Amen. (2002), this German drama uses a true story to examine the Catholic church's response to the Holocaust, but it focuses less on institutional politics than on personal conscience and responsibility. It's based on the diary of Father Jean Bernard of Luxembourg, who spent four years in the "priest block" at Dachau for resisting the Nazi occupation; in February 1942 he was released for nine days with orders to persuade his bishop to endorse national socialism. His fictional counterpart (Ulrich Matthes), a brutalized man whose beady eyes and sunken cheeks suggest a starving rat, is haunted during the journey by memories of his weakness in the camp and is tempted by the young SS officer he reports to (August Diehl), a man whose own faith has curdled into an intellectual appreciation of Judas. Volker Schlondorff (The Tin Drum) directed. In German and French with subtitles. 98 min. Gene Siskel Film Center.

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