Based on a true story, this film shows how ordinary people can show extraordinary courage in the face of oppression.
Otto and Elise Hampel lived in Berlin during the second World War, after suffering a devastating loss, they began a simple but terrifying campaign of resistance. Acting entirely alone, they began to write propaganda postcards in clunky script. They wrote hundreds of these and left them in apartment stairwells or drop them into mailboxes. They knew full well that this act was a capital crime.
The third key character in the story is that of Escherich, a Gestapo inspector who is tasked to hunt them down. The effect of their simple courage and integrity on this man who begins having at least some integrity of his own and ends up completely undone both by their fearless virtue and the ruthless cruelty of his Gestapo bosses who pressurise him betraying his own last shreds of virtue.
There is a scene where Otto is kneeling before his accusers, head bloodied but not bowed which is so strongly reminiscent of Christ before the Sanhedrin or the Roman soldiers. Escherich is asked to join in the violence and it is as if we the audience are asked ‘And you? What would you do in that situation? Save your own skin and sell your own soul’?
That evening I read this verse just before I went to bed
Psalm 108: 29
May my accusers be clothed with dishonor; may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle.
Never have I seen remorse and shame so vividly portrayed, set against compelling courage.
It isn’t just an old story either. It’s a story for our times, for those who wage war against oppressive regimes through tools such as Twitter. It raises the question ‘would you stand up for those who are mistreated, even it meant kneeling in the dust alongside them?’