Monday, March 16, 2015

A Review: The Jewish Cardinal

My husband and I watched The Jewish Cardinal last year on Netflix, after my brother said we had to see it.

We found the film fascinating and entertaining. It is based on the true story about a Jewish Catholic priest in France, Jean-Marie Lustiger, who had become Catholic as a teenager during World War II. His struggle with reconciling his Christian beliefs and experience with his Jewish identity and heritage creates a tension throughout the movie that never really resolves. When he is appointed as a cardinal by Pope (now Saint) John Paul II, Lustiger's battle to be both a Jew and a Catholic is heightened. However, this conflict of identities presents a beautiful opportunity for healing in the relationship between Jews and Christians, which was still reeling forty years after the horrors of World War II.

I definitely recommend this film! It is thoughtful, and the dialogue is witty. Lustiger's friendship with St. John Paul II is carefully respectful yet still touching. This takes place mainly in the 80's, and it's remarkable to see such recent history from the vantage point of this film. The characters maintain their humanity, their flaws and strengths, and I'm grateful that the makers of The Jewish Cardinal chose not to make them "holier than thou"-types.

The shooting of St. John Paul II is talked about only a little in the film, and yet it clearly affected so much through changes in the Pope's demeanor. Their handling of the assassination attempt is an example of the thoughtfulness of the creators. There are nuances and subtleties throughout that strengthen the senses in understanding the weight of the story. When Lustiger visits Auschwitz to resolve a problem with a convent, you are ready for the full impact of the emotions that come flooding.

The movie is in French, and we watched it with subtitles. As I post this, it's still on Netflix! There is some mild swearing, and some of the topics may be too heavy for children. I want my thirteen and fifteen year old to see it, but I don't feel my younger kids are ready for it. Here is the IMDb link for the list of actors, director, producer, etc. : Le métis de Dieu (The Jewish Cardinal)

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