God On Trial: a new 90-minute drama for BBC Two
Jack Shepherd plays Kuhn
Kuhn is Mordechai's father, a pious older man. He is angry with his son who seems to have taken "the other side" and alludes to his disappointment in him and his past life; his conversion and taking a goy wife. He appears physically pained by what he sees as blasphemies in the unfolding debate. But when the end is near, his love for Mordechai becomes more apparent.
Jack Shepherd comments: "The first thing to say about God On Trial is that it got in under the radar. It's not in the current style of contemporary television drama. For a start it's more of a play than it is a film: a play of ideas, reminiscent of an older style of television drama, that made demands of its audience, and wanted them to think."
He continues: "For a play of ideas to work, it needs committed acting. Unlike a film, it's not directly about storytelling; it's not going to get by just through the slickness of its editing or the power of its images. It needs good group acting, which is something rarely seen on television these days.
"The group of actors brought together to make God On Trial was exceptional; everyone working together for the good of the project. When you're shooting 20-minute takes, it's teamwork that counts above all else. One inadequate performance can bring the whole thing down."
He describes Kuhn as: "An old and very Orthodox Jew who is against putting God on trial. To him, the trial is an act of blasphemy. Initially he tries to stop it happening, but as the debate progresses, he is increasingly drawn in.
"Kuhn believes that God is testing his people. There is nothing exceptional about Auschwitz: 'Bad things have happened before' and they will go on happening; all a good Jew can do is endure the suffering, with his faith intact.
"His son Mordechai is a 'modern' Jew whose renunciation of the faith has created a rift between them. Although the horror and the misery of their present suffering brings them closer together, Kuhn still holds a grudge.
"And yet at the end of the trial, when his son is selected for death, he is willing to die in the gas chamber in his son's place. As if to prove the strength of his faith, he is prepared to sacrifice his own life, in order to give his son the faintest chance of survival."
The whole experience of filming God On Trial has proved a haunting one for Jack: "I have to admit that I found the shoot an ordeal in that I didn't sleep properly over the two weeks. And when I finally got home and caught up on some sleep, I began to dream about the horrors of the camp."