Two Movies to Make You Think in 2018

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Why do you go to the movies? For many people, it is for sheer enjoyment or to escape from life’s pressures for a few hours. One of the things I most enjoy in life is learning something significant about truth and reality. Therefore, I like watching films that are true stories or based upon them, and especially ones that make me think about the deep questions of life.

This year, I want to recommend two films, both released some years ago, for people like me who want to think about the deeper issues of life and history. The great philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC) said that human beings were made to reflect on life and that the pursuit of reflection is part of finding a fulfillment and satisfaction that is unique to humans.

Since I am a passionate student of history, both of the films listed here are based on true stories and center on the Holocaust that transpired during the Second World War, which I view as one of the most important events in humankind’s history. I was saddened but not surprised to read of a recent study that reported that 22% of US millennials did not think they had even heard of the Holocaust.So as an educator, I want to especially recommend this movie list to those of the millennial age group.

Both of these films contain language and violence, and the second film contains sexual content that some may find objectionable. So, for the most part, these are films for adult viewers. Please use your own discretion in selecting which thought-provoking movies you view in 2018.

1. Conspiracy (2001, rated R)

This BBC/HBO television film depicts the historical meeting and personal psychology of 15 leading Nazis who gather at the 1942 Wannsee Conference in Germany to plan the Holocaust. In the meeting, the brutal SS Nazi leaders Reinhard Heydrich (played by Kenneth Branagh) and Adolf Eichmann (played by Stanley Tucci) charm, entice, argue, bully, and threaten the other officials into accepting Adolf Hitler’s wishes to exterminate the Jews in what is called the “final solution of the Jewish question.”

As the Nazis plan the details of the Holocaust at a beautiful lakeside villa in Wannsee, they often sound like corporate members carrying out a mundane business meeting. The way they casually talk about executing mass murder makes the film truly gripping. Branagh’s dramatic depiction of Heydrich is chilling and earned him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor. Tucci’s performance as Eichmann, Heydrich’s faithful right-hand man in planning the genocide, brought him a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor.

This film raises the question of how a single two-hour meeting of 15 leaders could result in the murder of 11 million people—6 million of them being Jews and 2 million of those being children. Yet history testifies that some big government conspiracy theories can become catastrophically true.

2. Schindler’s List (1993, rated R)

In this classic film directed by Steven Spielberg, the topic addressed is arguably the greatest crime in history: the Holocaust. The movie powerfully and painfully captures the incredible violence and evil of the Nazi attempt to exterminate European Jewry from the face of the earth. Yet at the heart of the film is the extraordinary moral transformation of ethnic German businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who goes from opportunistic profiteer to Holocaust rescuer.

There is also a dramatic contrast between the film’s two other central figures. Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) is Schindler’s Jewish accountant who balances the tasks of keeping Schindler’s company economically viable and keeping the company’s Jewish laborers from being sent to the gas chambers. SS officer Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) is the psychopathic commandant whose brutality is difficult to comprehend.

This is truly one of the greatest films that I have ever seen. Spielberg’s agonizing true-life tale won seven Oscars, including Best Picture in 1994.

Humankind cannot afford to forget the Holocaust, nor can we allow our young people to have no knowledge of it. These two powerful films will serve to remind viewers of the Holocaust’s horrific reality.

Join me next week for two more movies to make you think.

Reflections: Your Turn

How did you first learn of the Holocaust? Do you appreciate movies that make you think about historical events?

Endnotes

  1. JTA, “Twenty-Two Percent of U.S. Millennials Are Not Sure if They Have Heard of the Holocaust, Study Finds,” Jewish World (blog), Haaretz, April 15, 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/holocaust-remembrance-day/1.5994426.

  One thought on “Two Movies to Make You Think in 2018

  1. July 10, 2018 at 6:37 am

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

    • July 10, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      Thanks for the reblog, Vincent.

      Ken Samples

  2. July 10, 2018 at 6:47 am

    Thank you for these suggestions. I have not seen “Conspiracy” but will add that to my list. Another excellent movie about the holocaust that rips at your heart is “Sophie’s choice” with Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline.

    • July 10, 2018 at 2:32 pm

      Thanks, Janet.

      Sophie’s Choice is powerful.

      Ken Samples

  3. jamesbradfordpate
    July 10, 2018 at 9:24 am

    I remember as a child watching that Herman Wouk miniseries—-I forget whether it was Winds of War or War and Remembrance. I cried during the gassing scene. I think I first learned about Hitler from a Judy Blume book—-Starring Sally J. Freedman as herself. But the Wouk miniseries was when I first appreciated how horrible the Holocaust was. Another powerful series was the documentary Genocide, which I watched in a class in 7th grade.

    • July 10, 2018 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks, James.

      Ken Samples

  4. July 10, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    I watched Schindler’s List years ago, and watch Conspiracy on Amazon a few moments after I received the e-mail on this post. While it was clear that a couple did not want to participate in killing the Jews directly, they still had no problem with sterilizing them. While sterilizing is certainly less gorry, the fact remains that you are killing off generations of people when you do that. I am not sure I will ever understand people. When I catch up a little better on my reading list I hear I should get the book

    “Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland”
    If you recommend it as highly as someone else I respect, I will hurry that along.

    • July 10, 2018 at 2:35 pm

      Thanks, Wanda.

      Ken Samples

  5. July 11, 2018 at 2:40 am

    Excellent idea to comment on classic and recent films from a christian perspective. I hope there will be more…

    • July 11, 2018 at 10:10 am

      Thanks, Alainw.

      Stay tuned for next week’s article.

      Ken Samples

  6. Cog
    July 16, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    For a time—when I was growing up in the ‘60s—my family would gather around the TV to watch The NBC Movie of the Week. One time they showed The Diary of Anne Frank, the 1959 version. It was very powerful to me, so shocking. Also—being a kid too—I could relate to Anne and wonder how I might have coped with hiding in an attic .

    A short time later I was visiting my friend from school and somehow we got to talking about the Anne Frank movie. His mother overheard and said that their neighbor—“the widow lady next door”—had been in a Nazi concentration camp where they tattooed a number on her arm. After that, over the next couple of years, i got to know their neighbor a bit when I visited my friend. I remember that I always wanted to ask her about the tattoo but felt sure it would’ve been inappropriate to mention it.

    • July 17, 2018 at 1:38 pm

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Cog.

      The Holocaust is difficult to get our minds around and yet it happened.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  7. Tina
    July 17, 2018 at 8:07 am

    Can’t wait until Hollywood starts making more clean movies.

    • July 17, 2018 at 2:32 pm

      Tina:

      I respect your conviction.

      However, movies depicting the Holocaust will never be easy to watch.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  8. David
    July 20, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    You are right, Mr. Samples. Schindler’s List is certainly one of the greatest films ever made. Spielberg is not a Christian, I know, yet the scene near the end when Oscar Schindler breaks down in anguish about how he could have saved “one more” is not only one of the most moving pieces of cinema ever filmed, it is also a striking glimpse into our own culpability when standing in front of a Holy God. The scene is moving because it strikes a chord of truth for us all. No other filmmaker has managed to cut so deeply with this kind of truth – our need to be forgiven.

    Christians would do well to take such art seriously. Art, and our ability to appreciate it, is one of the great gifts of God to man. It is one of the things that most separates us from the animals. Art has also, at its best, moved the project of human civilization forward. Movies like Schindler’s List should not be looked at as ways to merely pass the time. Works like this can also be part of the life of the mind. Taken with care and consideration they bring riches well beyond their running time.

    • July 21, 2018 at 9:02 am

      Well said, David. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Aesthetics is a critical part of the imago Dei. The part where Schindler breaks down is extremely powerful.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  9. Christine G
    August 3, 2018 at 11:33 am

    You asked when I first learned about the Holocaust: it was when I read a book about someone’s experience in a concentration camp. My father took us to the library each Saturday night, and we were allowed to check out anything we wanted to. I don’t remember the name of the book, but I do remember a scene where guards stomped on a prisoner in the straw to damage his kidneys. Later I read books such as Diary of Anne Frank, then as an adult Corrie Ten Boom’s autobiography. I agree that Schindler’s List is a powerful film and should be required viewing in European history classes. (My paternal grandmother was an emigre to the US as a small child; I don’t think the Holocaust was ever discussed. – She lived in Conn., and I grew up in Calif.)

    • August 3, 2018 at 4:07 pm

      Thanks for sharing your important family educational experiences, Christine. Your father sounds like a very wise man.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

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