03 June 2013

The Scarlet and the Black – And the Blue?

A few months back I received a box of DVDs reflecting a friend of mine's likes, interests and the rest.  I'd watched most of them since, but there was one I hadn't yet, and this past Saturday I put it in and watched.

The film was The Scarlet and the Black, a made for TV movie from the early 80s about the activity of Msgr. Hugh O'Flaherty in Rome during the Nazi occupation from 1943-45.  He coordinated an underground network that hid downed Allied soldiers, Italian resistance fighters, Jews, etc.  The film is part drama, part comedy, part mystery/detective story, as we follow O'Flaherty's tricks in dodging the Nazi authorities, who were soon on to him but unable to touch him because of Vatican diplomatic immunity.  Particularly gripping is the cat-and-mouse game played between O'Flaherty and Col. Herbert Kappler, the SS officer responsible for overseeing the occupation, and at one point Kappler has O'Flaherty in his crosshairs, but O'Flaherty moves, and no shot is fired.

Towards the end of the film, as the Allies are advancing on Rome, Kappler soon realizes his days are numbered, and that it will not go well for his wife and two young children.  Knowing of O'Flaherty's connections, Kappler arranges to meet him privately to make a startling request: that O'Flaherty secret his family to safety.  O'Flaherty gives him a talking (ok, shouting) down, and walks away.  As the film ends, it becomes clear that O'Flaherty did indeed get Kappler's family safely to Switzerland, much to Kappler's surprise – and relief.  What's more, we're informed that after the war, Kappler was held for many years in Regina Coeli prison and that O'Flaherty visited him every month, his only visitor.

I love/hate hearing about this kind of thing.  I love it, because it speaks to me of the depth of human selflessness and compassion.  I hate it, because it reminds me of how truly shallow mine is by comparison. 

No comments:

Post a Comment