"Hiding Place" Re-Release a Must-See for a New Generation
- Friday, April 14, 2006
James Collier (“Joni”) made a career out of directing Christian films, but “The Hiding Place” is probably his best – if not his most famous – movie. In addition to coaxing excellent performances from his cast, he uses visual cues to perfection, such as the brief close-up of a fire, as the train travels to Ravensbruck and the engineer adds shovelfuls of coal. In another scene, we see a huge chimney billowing black smoke, through the reflection in a mirror. During the concentration camp scenes, he has the actors clamor for food and clothing, walk through mud, shiver in the cold and dress, after a shower, without first toweling off. These are powerful, lasting images that attest to Collier’s talent.
While the script is straightforward, it is never simplistic. Scripture is quoted throughout, but it is always in context, and never forced. As a result, it flows naturally and is extremely credible. Moreover, Collier manages to avoid both the nudity and the graphic descriptions which modern directors find so necessary. Although the film refers to the hideous medical experiments conducted on inmates, for example (when a nurse says that pregnant women are always sent to “Experimental”), it is always brief and indirect, making the film wholly appropriate for older children – with great parental input, of course.
“The Hiding Place” benefits from excellent performances all around that never veer into sentimentality or especially, cheesy evangelism. Although the women are Christians who both live and explain their faith, they are credible and real. Perhaps this is because we see such real people who struggle, as well as a diversity of faith – not just in Corrie and Betsy, but also in the other characters. It is therefore not surprising that Jeannette Clift received both a Golden Globe nomination and a BAFTA nomination for her performance in this film. Julie Harris, who just happens to be the most honored performer in Tony history with ten nominations and five victories, was also outstanding.
Cinematographer Michael Reed (“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”) uses a lot of darkness throughout the film, especially during the nighttime scenes inside the inmate’s quarters. Sometimes, he even leaves the actors faces hidden, save for a sliver of light. It’s odd, yet it works, especially when the next scene takes place outside, where the sun bounces off the snow. This cinematography almost seems to be a message, with its stark contrasts between dark and light.
I remember reading (and later, seeing) “The Hiding Place” several times as a teenager, and it served as my introduction to both the horrors of WWII and the theology of suffering. Corrie Ten Boom did not claim to have all the answers, yet she presented her faith – as well as the need for forgiveness – in such a dramatic way that I have never forgotten it. So as I watched this film again, I was reminded of the things that had left their imprint on my heart years ago.
One, God cares more about our character than our comfort. It’s a chilling, frightening reality in a world bent on material comfort, but one that I know from experience to be true. Two, there are prisons worse than Nazi concentration camps.
“I live to hate,” says one of the inmates to Corrie, early during their imprisonment.
“Hate is surely a prison worse than this,” she answers.
Starring Julie Harris, Tom van Beek, Eileen Heckart and Jeannette Clift, "The Hiding Place" released in April 2006 from Fox Home Entertainment.
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