Visio Divina – Movie (Netflix): The Bombardment

July 2022 – This month’s Visio Divina offering from reviewer Peter Malone msc is THE BOMBARDMENT.

A very moving World War II film.

Each year, surprisingly in many ways since it is 80 years plus and minus since the harrowing events of World War II, that there are so many films dramatising aspects of that war. Lest we forget.

The bombardment is based on a true story, set in Denmark, the city of Copenhagen, March 1945, almost at the end of the war. We are introduced to 5 strands in the story which eventually come together. The tone is vividly set in the opening, three young women happily getting dressed, off to a marriage ceremony, a benign old taxi driver, jollity – and then a plane swooping out of the sky and strafing the car, killing them all. And the witness is a young boy, Henry, riding his bike, delivering cartons of eggs. He is overwhelmed by what he sees, traumatised, from then on unable to speak.

The strafing is by the RAF, revealed to be mistaken identity, the consequences weighing heavily on the pilots.

We are also introduced to a young man, condemned by his father, discovering that he is working for the occupying Germans. Then one of his friends is confronted in the street, is a resistance member, he is shot, and witnessed by mothers and little girls. It emerges that little girls go to a French school in Copenhagen, that Henry is a cousin of one of them and he goes to the school, managed by a community of sisters. The focus is on one of the sisters, Teresa, penitential, flogging herself, questioning God’s presence and absence, criticised by the superior community, yet devoted to the girls. She has also encountered the German collaborator and told him that he is the devil. But, there is a strange attraction between them.

The plot is ready for the central action. The Germans are occupying a large building in central Copenhagen, the Shell House, and the resistance are requesting the RAF to bomb it, even if some of their members are in cells immediately under the roof. We see the preparations, the planning by the RAF, three squads, setting out for the bombing, the first reaching its target.

However, the drama of the bombardment is the mistaking by two of the squads for the French school as Shell House. From then on, the drama is vivid, highly dramatic, tragic, the bombs and fires, the nuns and children killed and injured, hurrying to the basement, trapped, the attempted rescue… With such suffering of the innocent children, the film is very hard to watch. As is the aftermath, the anxious parents, the nun and one of the little girls beneath the building, water rising, and Henry, dismayed, but finding a task of identifying girls being taken to hospital, writing notes, taking them to the theatre for an actress to read out the details to anguishing parents.

This is not a spoiler, but the ending, narrowly focused, is not what we were quite expecting at all, but gives us a moment of relief before the final credits come up and there is a listing of all those who are killed, especially the names of the children.

Yes, it is difficult to watch, but The Bombardment is recommended.

Denmark, 2021, 107 minutes, Colour.  Alex Hogan Andersen, Fanny Bornedal, Bertram Bisgaard Enevoldsen, Susse Wold, James Tarpey, Ella Josephine Lund Nilsson, Ester Birch.  Directed by Ole Bornedal.

See the trailer here.