Ok, I have a tendency to get into some pretty deep stuff here, and so every once in a while, I need to take a break. Over the weekend, our local PBS affiliate broadcast Hotel Rwanda, with Don Cheadle. It is the true story of the Rwandan Civil War of around 1994, with Don portraying Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda. It was so good, yet horrifying, that I had trouble sleeping that night.
The acts of genocide were just as jarring as the Holocaust. I would rate Paul as a better man that Oskar Schlinder, who is protrayed in the movie Schlinder’s List. Paul didn’t care if a person was Tutsi, or Hutu, he cared for them all, and did his best to protect all of them. The movie is absolutely inspiring, yet horrific.
So, it got me thinking about movies which truly moved me. So, I’m going to create a list. All of these are true stories, and I am not putting them in any particular order.
- Hotel Rwanda
- Schlinder’s List
- Memphis Belle
- Saving Private Ryan
- Saints and Soldiers
- A Beautiful Life
What movies have moved you?
I’ve just finished watching the mini series The Winds of War and its sequel War and Remembrance. Particularly the latter just blew me away. It covers all the major aspects of WWII in great detail and it’s something that you’ll never forget, especially scenes from the Battle of Midway, Auschwitz, and mass civilian executions committed by the Nazis in places like the Ukraine and Czechoslovakia. Even just filming those scenes must have changed the lives of the actors. Heck, even just watching it will change you. I loved Winds of War but War and Remembrance is even better (if that’s even possible). On a scale of 1-10 I give it a 20.
The next best mini series I have seen is one that I’m not sure was even known in North America. The series is called Against The Wind and it’s from the late 70’s, an Irish-Australian production based on a true story of Irish and British convicts being shipped off to Australia, who would go on to build up that country. It was very popular in Scandinavia and my husband never forgot it, so when it came out on DVD recently, he just had to get it and we watched it together. I knew almost nothing about this part of history until I watched this series. The suffering that those people endured and the cruelty of those who committed these acts of brutality rivaled even the Nazis.
A few months ago I watched The Pianist, about Polish Jews during WWII. Especially memorable about that movie, which is also based on a true story, is the scene where a high-ranking Nazi soldier shows true compassion and saves the life of a Jewish man. I like those movies that manage to show that even the Nazis had a human side to them. (Well, at least some of them.)
I also saw Saints and Soldiers and my favourite part in that movie is that scene near the end where the American and German soldiers’ eyes meet and they acknowledge each other. It was amazing.
A few months ago we watched an older Swedish-German movie called God Aften, Herr Wallenberg (Good evening, Mr. Wallenberg) about Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who was credited for saving the lives of many Jews. It was excellent and is one of those movies that makes you question yourself and how far you would be willing to go and whether you’d be willing to risk your life to save others.
I love these movies that force you to consider a moral dilemma or what you would be willing to do to stay alive. Many times there is no easy answer and yet many people in all different situations were forced into making horrible decisions that must have made them feel that they were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. One such German film is The Counterfeiters, based on a Jewish man who was torn between being exterminated in a Nazi death camp or using his talent for forgery of documents and therefore being kept alive by the Germans, even though he knew it could mean that the Germans would win the war and exterminate his people.
Whenever I’ve watched these movies — especially while watching War and Remembrance since it was so extremely powerful — I am in awe of those who were able to surive and endure and not be utterly consumed by hate. There was a particular scene where a Nazi is taunting Jewish slave labourers by urinating on the bodies of other Jews he had just killed. Later on, this Jew goes on to seize an opportunity to massacre several Nazi soldiers out of rage, even though he knows he has no chance of escape. I was surprised at just how much I sympathized with the man — that I could in fact relish in killing other human beings. I felt not an ounce of compassion for the Nazis he killed. It was interesting how strong the feeling was, even just from watching a movie. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to live with that hate and rage day after day in that situation. I even found myself sometimes feeling ashamed for my love of Germany (I speak fluent German, love Germany, and have been there several times). But I know that the hate has to stop somewhere and we have to move forward. However, these movies humble those of us who think that people just need to “move on.” It’s just not that simple.
It’s not a movie (though I hear rumours it will be), but a book that touched me immensely was A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I won’t give the plot away because you really need to read it, MH. I just have to say that this book actually brought me to tears and I’m not sure I can say that about any other book I’ve read. It also made me think about what it would take to drive me to suicide. I’ve never had suicidal thoughts, but I now know what would make me suicidal.
I haven’t heard of most of those movies–I’ll have to check them out. It’s funny to me how many of these movies we have listed are WW2 movies.
I don’t know if you’ve seen Hotel Rwanda, but it was so interesting on so many levels. At the beginning, Africa seems just like any American suburb–nice houses, swimming pools, etc. Then it turns violent almost overnight. It seems to me Paul was Hutu, while his wife was Tutsi. They have a wonderful loving relationship.
Anyway, the military rounds up Paul and his neighbors and orders Paul to shoot his family and neighbors if he wants to live. I wouldn’t have known what to do, but Paul offers to bribe the officer, and pays him 13,000 francs on the spot. The officer wants more for the other people, and Paul offers to give him 100,000 francs for all the people if the officer will drive him to the embassy.
I can’t think of a more repulsive situation to be in, and would not have been as level headed as Paul. It brought to my mind that idea that Christ paid for our lives, and Paul literally paid for the lives of his friends and family.
And that story isn’t more than 5-10 min of the movie…. Paul is simply amazing!!!