MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
It has always seemed to me somewhat disconcerting to hear Americans pray for regime change in other countries, as if this is something that happens in a matter-of-fact fashion. The harsh reality of changing governments is that there will be violence and oppression in the mix. Whenever this occurs, many attempt to flee their native land to find safe harbor elsewhere. Totalitarian systems quickly create new refugees. Who gets to leave the country safely? Who do you need to know in order to obtain the necessary transit papers?
Transit is the latest film from the provocative German director Christian Petzold. The movie is based on a novel from 1944 by Anna Seghers depicting the Nazi occupation of France. Transit begins its story in modern-day Paris and there are no signs of swastikas anywhere, but one thing is clear: the government is making sweeps to round up people to send to prison camps and if you want to save your life, you need to come up with a plan to get out.
Georg (Rogowski) needs to get out of the country (for unspecified reasons) and he has friends who are setting up the details to leave from Marseilles to the United States and from there to Mexico. Before he leaves, he is instructed to deliver a couple of letters to a writer named Weidel. When he arrives at the writer’s apartment and discovers that Weidel has committed suicide, he grabs a manuscript as well as other personal belongings of the writer and heads to Marseilles. There’s now an opportunity for Georg to assume a new identity and in ways that will help his exodus.
Things do not go smoothly. The more Georg gets entangled in the paperwork and intrigue that are part of the emigration process, other persons get intertwined into his life, including a boy (Lilien Batman) who sees him as a possible father figure, a doctor (Godehard Giese) who is struggling with his own decision about leaving, and the mysterious and haunted widow of the dead writer (Beer).
There is a question that is repeated several times in the course of the film concerning the aftermath of a broken relationship: Who forgets first? The one who leaves or the one who is left behind?
And what do you do when there is no easy solution? Transit suggests that you may find yourself stuck in a purgatory or hell. I was reminded by this film about how often I continue to be a casual bystander when oppression and injustice take place before my eyes. Repentance is in order. Who are the strangers and aliens in our midst? They need to be embraced and cared for, “so [they will be] no longer strangers and aliens, but...citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19)
Let’s pay attention and choose to love boldly, whatever the cost.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: A suspenseful and melancholy film about living in everyday limbo.
Two pitchforks: One scene depicting the aftermath of a messy suicide; off-screen oppression; a few subtitled swear words.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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