In Darkness, movie director Agnieszka Holland addresses the Banality of Evil

If you could have any faith at all, 

after what you had been through…

then I could have faith too.

words to my Dad

How have you struggled with faith? Have you ever considered that such struggles could express a great deal of faith, rather than lack of faith?

 

The tragic concept of “The Banality of Evil” struck me as I read Christianity Today‘s interview with Agnieszka Holland, director of the amazing foreign film In Darkness

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In Darkness focuses on WWII, the Holocaust, and  Leopold Socha, a Polish sewer worker and petty thief who finds Jewish people hiding in the sewers, and his choices. Will he keep their hiding place secret? If he does, will he do so for the money they offer in desperation, or for other reasons?

In the interview Holland describes how easily Socha could have turned to evil, by betraying the Jewish people he found. Initially he was misinformed about Jewish people, he has bias, he is motivated by money, and yet he turns toward good in dangerous times.

The New York Times in reviewing In Darkness suggests that Holocaust movies (and I would add Pacific Holocaust-Japanese Concentration Camps, and  World War II novels) have become their own genre. Director Holland’s focus on Socha illuminates why our fascination, fortunately, with the “banality of evil” and the mystery of “emerging good,” has not ended.

Here are the disturbing realities of history. People who were expected to protect Jewish people, or captured peoples anywhere, often did not do so. Those not-protecting, or even betraying people subject to genocide included: priests, nuns, public officials, average citizens and many more. People who were expected to have no powerful inclination for good often did protect Jewish people, or captured peoples everywhere. This group included criminals, atheists, AND the people I just listed for you: priests, nuns, public officials, average citizens and more. So there are few easy predictors as  to who will follow deep inner convictions of what is right. There are also few easy predictors as to why some people have such inner convictions.

Holland goes on to say in her Christianity Today interview:

Agnieszka Holland.

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“This is much more a people’s story than the ones I have told with the metaphysical direction. It has to more do with chance or fate. What was interesting to me was to describe how thin the line is between good and evil, represented by Socha. He can slip either way at any moment. I don’t know if you can look at this in religious terms. People survive by caprice in my films—the caprice of God, if you believe in God. But chance plays such a big part that you must ask yourself if it has meaning or is meaningless.”

“The biggest challenge to humanity is the fact that the Holocaust is meaningless,” she says. “Some recent movies and books try to give the Holocaust meaning, a moral. I do not agree with this. This is why it is such an important experience to explore, because you cannot give it meaning.”

Holland was raised by a mother who was Catholic, and a father who was Jewish.In her life journey she experienced times of great faith, and times of doubt. Her experiences ranged from baptizing herself as Christian as a teen, when a priest refused to baptize her, to later times of doubt.

Sometimes it seems to me the people who claim to struggle with faith, like Agnieszka Holland or  like my father, A.C. “Kees” Jobsis perhaps have the greatest faith of all. My father once wrote me, as I was off to a retreat, that he wished he had the faith I did. He also wished he could inspire me with faith. What he did not realize, but what fortunately I did get the chance to tell him,  was something like,

“Dad, your faith, however much you struggled inspired me. If you could have any faith at all,  after what you had been through and what you had witnessed, then I could have faith too.”

How have you struggled with faith? Have you ever considered that such struggles could express a great deal of faith, rather than lack of faith?

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