Life for Life: Maximilian Kolbe is a film with an unique approach to the life and death of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the Franciscan priest who volunteered to die in place of one of the inmates in Auschwitz in the 1940s. The 90-minute film was directed by award-winning Polish director/producer, Krzysztof Zanussi, and was filmed in Polish, with English and Spanish subtitles; the DVD has been released in North America by Ignatius Press.
Noted film critic Steve Greydanus, who wrote an essay in the DVD’s collector’s booklet and study guide, states, “Life for Life reflects thoughtfully on what the cult of the saints means for us, on the nature of hagiography itself. Perhaps more than any film I can think of, it explores how the saints can and should inspire us, if we are open to them, or how we may stumble at them if we are not. For this reason alone, it’s among the most essential saint films I’ve seen.”
Anthony J. Ryan, Director of Sales & Marketing for Ignatius Press, spoke to Catholic World Report about the the film.
CWR: The story of St. Maximilian Kolbe is indeed compelling and fascinating, as well as deeply inspiring. How can telling the story through the lens of the escapee who endured guilt over Kolbe’s and the other prisoners’ deaths due to his escape touch the hearts of viewers?
Anthony Ryan: Telling the Kolbe story through the eyes of the Auschwitz escape who essentially caused Kolbe’s death can touch our hearts in a few ways. We get to see that escapee’s reaction to the stunning heroic selfless love of a man who freely died a brutal death for another man he did not know. And how that heroic selflessness made him want to learn more about who Kolbe was, and what motivated him to do something so heroic. And how that investigation by the escapee impacted him, and how it also impacts us.
CWR: Why is the recounting of saints’ lives through the written word and films important to our Catholic tradition and faith?
Ryan: Telling saints lives on film is especially important to our Catholic faith and tradition because we get to see with our eyes the powerful and dramatic stories of these great witnesses for Christ. That witness makes a huge impact on us. Great stories on film have the power to make life-changing impact on its viewers, and even more so when the powerful story being told is about the greatest heroes of all, the saints of Christ.
CWR: St. Maximilian Kolbe was devoted to the Blessed Mother, established the Militia of the Immaculata, and later published a periodical titled “The Knight of the Immaculata”. How might St. Kolbe’s devotion to the Virgin Mary have carried him through to his last selfless breath?
Ryan: Kolbe’s huge devotion to and love for Our Lady was the source of all his spiritual strength. He called himself a “Knight of the Immaculata”. He was totally consecrated to her, and Our Lady, being a real mother and Queen, gave him her strong love and grace to deal with every challenge and overcome it.
CWR: How can Maximilian Kolbe’s profound selfless act and sacrifice of giving his life for another prisoner impact our lives today?
Ryan: Kolbe’s witness of dying for another is the perfect example of Christ’s words “greater love no man has than to lay down his life for his brother.” Kolbe did it for love. Especially since Kolbe did not even know the man he died for, and he did it in such horrific circumstances. Kolbe’s great witness should inspire us to love our neighbor with a strong love, no matter who they are.
CWR: Where can we get this extraordinary film?
Ryan: The film is available at Catholic bookstores. And on our website at www.ignatius.com. Or call toll free at 800-651-1531.
(This interview originally appeared on the CWR site on December 10, 2014.)
Watch the trailer for the film: