Filming took place in Scotland in Dumbarton
and Bishopton for two weeks in January 2008. Executive Producer Mark Redhead
comments: "With the attacks of September 11 and the Iraq war,
religion is now centre-stage in a way that has not occurred before
in my lifetime; extraordinary atrocities are being committed in the
name of God, while natural calamities and man-made disasters claim
thousands of lives every year. 'God On Trial' is set in an extreme
situation, but it wrestles with the great questions we all ask
ourselves: how can there be so much suffering in the world, and what
kind of a god could let such things happen? God On Trial attempts to
look at some of the most perplexing metaphysical issues, but it is
also a drama about what keeps the human spirit alive even when faced
with the worst suffering and impending death."
Produced by Hat Trick Productions
for BBC Scotland. Aired on BBC 2 on September 3, 2008 and on PBS - Masterpiece Theater
on November 9, 2008.
"There's no reason to deal with history for history's sake. It is
only important to deal with it when we can learn something from it.
We have so much to learn from this time."
The Daily Telegraph:
Demanding but ultimately brilliant. Apparently Frank Cottrell Boyce
wrote "God on Trial" from a position of personal faith. Yet, as each
of the characters put forward a different view on the question of
God and suffering, it was clear that he was willing to interrogate
his beliefs with real ferocity... Any short summary is bound to make
"God on Trial" sound more simplistic than it was. Instead, as the
fierceness of the intellectual and emotional grip tightened, it was
impossible to imagine any halfway-thoughtful viewers, of whatever
convictions, not having a disturbing sense of their own ideas coming
under sustained and convincing attack.
The performances were so strong it felt a privilege to watch the
The result, given the hazards of such an enterprise, its multiple
risks of exploitation and false sentiment, was very good indeed,
gripping both by means of theological debate and unexpected
Virtually every line throws up an interesting theological or
philosophical question, and it left me reeling and a bit numb. For
the characters it's clearer, and they reach their verdict: guilty.
Crikey, some people aren't going to like that. Powerful and
thoughtful stuff, with some fine performances by some fine actors.
Actually, if anything, the performances are a little too fine - this
was look-at-me, theatrical acting by actors with the prerequisite
long pauses. Fine from the circle, even the stalls, possibly a bit
too much through a television camera. Anyway,
that's a minor quibble in what was intelligent, grown-up TV.
A thoughtful subject, sensitively and thoughtfully handled with
excellent performances from some of our finest actors. Adult drama
for thinking adults. Top stuff.
What it most resembles is a stage play: a dramatic piece full of
impassioned speeches, with an intelligent script and a strong
international cast. The subject is the rumoured (possibly
apocryphal) trial staged by prisoners in Auschwitz facing the gas
chambers; God, not Hitler, is charged with betrayal and breach of
contract – ie, breaking the covenant with the Jews that was promised
to Moses. The drama is not about whether this trial happened, or
whether, if it took place, it happened like this. Instead it's an
intellectual exercise that includes much thrashing out of obscure
points of Old Testament history. Yet the setting gives it weight and
some extremely good acting brings the debate to life. To mention
only a few of the excellent performances, there's Stellan Skarsgård
and Dominic Cooper, a million miles away from their roles in Mamma