HE SHOOK HANDS
WITH THE DEVIL
"Who are you then?"
"I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust.
November, 1945. The war is over and after two and half years of ministering to wounded and dying soldiers in hospitals, Henry “Hank” Gerecke, a chaplain in the United States army, is preparing to finally return home to his wife, when he is offered one final assignment, an assignment no one else wants.
Gereke has been handpicked for a very unusual and controversial rescue mission. His orders are to go to the Palace of Justice at Nuremberg, where some of the most notorious men of the 20th Century are on trial for their lives, the so called, “Wolves of Hitler” – the former elite of the Third Reich, and attempt to save the souls of these condemned men.
Between them, these men have been responsible for the mass-extermination of six million European Jews.
On paper, Gerecke is the perfect man for the job, in his earlier 50’s, he is about the right age, having been raised by a German mother, he speaks fluent German and before signing up for military service, he had regularly ministered in prisons in his hometown of St. Louis.
But Gerecke himself, is far from sure he is the right man. The mere thought of coming face to face with these prsioners repulses him and catapults him into the most difficult moral dilemma of his life – Should anyone who commits evil on a massive scale be offered a path to forgiveness?
However, Gerecke feels it is his duty to accept the assignment.
Upon meeting the condemned men, Gerecke’s repulsion is replaced with pity as he finds not the terrifying figures projected on newsreels, but broken, haunted men, some filled with regret others a sad and pathetic sense of defiance. All but one man, Herman Goering, Hitler’s second in command.
Goering is a larger than life, charismatic, affable family man, like Gerecke, and, in spite of himself, Gerecke begins to form a genuine friendship with him.
But it is in Goring’s cell that Gerecke truly finds himself on the frontlines of another war, a war raging for the souls of men, between the forces of light and dark, where he will have to face not only his own fears and doubts but the limits of his empathy and the fury of an outraged American public.
As mentioned above, one of the strongest themes running through HE SHOOK HANDS WITH THE DEVIL is the battle between the powers of light and darkness. This is one of the reasons we will shoot the film in black and white, as it will allow us to emphasise the contrast between shadow and light more starkly than shooting in colour.
Shooting in black and white will also help convey a sense of the period of the 1940s.
Below are some examples taken from black and white movies that will serve as inspiration for the visual look of the film.