God on Trial
So most of today's TV programming is total crap. But every so often something comes along to remind you of what a powerful medium TV is. One such event is God on Trial on Masterpiece Contemporary. It was on PBS earlier this month and I hope you haven't missed it because it truly does live up to the "masterpiece" billing.
The story is that a group of prisoners at Auschwitz put God on trial for breach of contract; basically breaking his covenant with the Jews. Whether or not this actually happened is still a debate but it's entirely plausible. How often, in times of crisis, do people ask "how could God let this happen?"
What makes God on Trial so amazing are the performances. , Stephen Dillane, Stellan Skarsgard, and Rupert Graves play the tribunal...a rabbi, a professor of law, and a young man at odds with his more religious father. The other prisoners cover all walks of life, from a Polish glove maker who wonders why his mother had to suffer to a French physician who argues against the existence of God from a scientific point of view. But it's the wonderful stage actor, Antony Sher (who I had the privilege of seeing as both Richard III and Shylock with the Royal Shakespeare Company) who makes the most dramatic impression. He doesn't even speak until over an hour into this 90-minute film but when he does you can't take your eyes off him. He makes the most brilliantly-written argument against a benign God that I've ever heard and his performance is passionately perfect.
God on Trial is not easy to watch. For anyone with a heart nothing about the Holocaust is. The fact that, at the end, half of these characters we've come to know and care about are herded off to be executed only adds to the sense of pain that you feel. But it's worth it. It's powerful, thought-provoking, and one of the finest things I've seen on TV in years. I'll be thinking about this one for a while.