It seems we are, indeed, going to be treated to a movie called "Valkyrie", in which Tom Cruise will play Claus Schenk, Graf vom Stauffenberg, the conservative German military officer who organized the plot to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944.
The project has already made lots of amusing waves in Germany, mostly because Tom Cruise is a member of the Church of Scientology. This odd synthetic can-do American Value-Pak half-religion half-business combo is a focus of almost-pathological obsession in Germany. The government — and I’m not kidding here — actually spends millions tracking the organization and writing hand-wringing reports about its "unconstitutional" world-view.
Stauffenberg’s son said Cruise should "keep his hands off" my father, and that the film will "surely be crap." Various German officials, always keen to protect their subjects from the insidious danger of Scientology, fell all over themselves to announce that they had denied Cruise’s film team permission to film in various government-owned buildings — sometimes even before a request had even been made.
Now director Florian Graf von Donnersmarck (scion of a wealthy and well-connected German family with ties to the von Stauffenbergs) steps up to the mike to break a few lances (as the German saying goes) in favor of the project. Excerpts, in my translation:
[In a brochure recommended by a German politician to warn citizens about Scientology] much is made of the fact that L. Ron Hubbard began his career "writing Westerns, horror stories, and science fiction." Then he wrote a history of the world which smacks of science fiction, and which is taught to his disciples as the truth, in return for lots of money. But isn’t it glorious that we live in a world in which a half-successful science fiction writer can earn hundreds of millions by explaining to his disciples that, 75 million years ago, an evil ruler named Xenu deposited billions of his subjects into volcanos and blew them up with hydrogen bombs? And that the resteless souls of these murdered people are now the source of all our suffering on earth? The horribly boring pressure to conform that thrives everywhere in Germany these days will not tolerate this. It demands complete correctness in all aspects of life.
But perhaps, in this context, one should take a closer look at Stauffenberg. As youngsters, my brother and I discovered a letter from Stauffenberg in a book, in which he wrote his wife that the population of Poland were "rabble," composed of "many Jews and many half-breeds," "a people that enjoys rule under the jackboot." … But do we therefore deny Stauffenberg his glorious heroism, his strength of conscience and his exemplary character? Of course not. But his superhuman perfection? That, yes.
Perhaps we should simply recognize that none of us is a god — neither Stauffenberg nor Tom Cruise nor L. Ron Hubbard nor the rest of us. Germany offers no patent recipe for the world, and neither does the United States. In truth, everyone must find his own way in the world, and life remains a search for inner truth. Stauffenberg represents exacly this search. All I wish for from the state is that it should provide me a secure framework in which I can carry out this search. But in the Tom Cruise/Stauffenberg affair, the German state again pretended it had all the answers already.