I still haven’t seen or read Rolf Hochhuth’s 1963 German play The Deputy, which caused quite a stir when it first appeared and has intrigued me ever since I read Susan Sontag’s essay about it. But whether or not this English-language adaptation, scripted by Jean-Claude Grumberg and director Costa-Gavras, is faithful to the play, it’s an absorbing and compelling account of a historical episode that should be better known. Like the play, the film focuses on the efforts of SS officer Kurt Gerstein (Ulrich Tukur) and a young Jesuit priest (Mathieu Kassovitz, playing a composite of several people) to enlist the Vatican in exposing the Nazi death camps to the world. The most controversial part of the story is Pope Pius XII’s failure to take a stand against the camps as he did against Nazi euthanasia, which the film examines in detail. A sober and serious docudrama, this follows the example of Shoah in refusing to show or represent any of the death-camp horrors, leaving this up to the viewer’s imagination. 130 min. (JR)

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