The White Ribbon (2009) Script

THE WHITE RIBBON A German children's story

I don't know if the story I want to tell you is entirely true.

Some of it I only know by hearsay.

After so many years, a lot of it is still obscure, and many questions remain unanswered.

But I think I must tell of the strange events that occurred in our village.

They could perhaps clarify some things that happened in this country.

It all began, I think, with the doctor's riding accident.

After his dressage session on the Baron's estate, he was headed home, to see if any patients had arrived.

Entering the garden, his horse tripped on a wire strung between two trees.

His daughter saw the accident from a window, informed their neighbor, who informed the estate's steward, so that the agonizing doctor could be transported to the district hospital over 30 km away.

The neighbor, a single woman of around 40, was the village midwife.

Since the death of the doctor's wife in childbirth, she had become invaluable for him as housekeeper and receptionist.

After tending the doctor's two children, she went to the school to fetch her own son, Karl.

Have you seen Anni? You don't say hello?

Hello, Mrs Wagner. Forgive him.

Hi, Klara.

We're so worried that Martin forgot his manners.

That's all right.

How is the Doctor?

Not very well.

Must he stay in the hospital? I don't know.

We'll go see Anna, to help her out.


You enjoyed the choir? Yes.

Show how well you sang.

Good bye, teacher.

Last one is a rotten egg!

If I remember correctly, it seemed odd to me that the kids around Klara, instead of scattering after school to their homes, headed together to the exit of the village.

I could cut out some animals for you, like last week.

You'd like that?

We can color them together.

Or cut them from the lovely colored paper?

The golden one that I got for Easter?

Come on...

Well, I'll make us something to eat.

What if he never comes back?


Come on!

Don't be silly!

It'll heal, just like the flu.

Remember last winter?

You were very sick, weren't you?

And then...

Hi, Anni!

How are you?

Can we help you?

How did the wire get there? Did the Doctor say?

He was in no mood to talk: his collarbone was stuck in his neck.

I asked his daughter. She has no idea.

He rides through there daily.

Did you look at the wire? Sure.

It's thin, but strong.

Almost invisible.

Sorry, Madame. You play too well for me.

Don't apologize, concentrate. It'll help us both.

You play too fast for me, M'am. I'm not Frederic the Great.

How could he have played Schubert?

Let's do the Variation again.

Darling, if you like the music, sit beside me and turn the pages.

If you're bored, go to your room.

Or stay out of my sight.

I get nervous if you saunter around.

What time is it? Where's the nanny?

With the twins, I presume.

It's twenty to nine. Twenty to nine?

Way past your bedtime!

Has he done his homework?

Of course, M'am.

You want to turn the pages for me or not?


Then come here!

Let's go back to the Theme.

Practice the Variations. Or it's no fun.

I'll do my best, Baroness.

So from Bar 9.

Please forgive us, Father.

Forgive us.

Tonight, no one here has eaten.

When night fell, and you hadn't returned, your mother searched the village in tears.

Could we have enjoyed our meal, fearing for you?

Can we enjoy our meal now, after hearing your lying excuses?

I don't know what's worse: your absence, or your coming back.

Tonight we'll all go to bed hungry.

You surely agree with me that I can't leave your offense unpunished if we want to keep on living in mutual respect.

So tomorrow evening at this hour, I'll give each of you, in front of your siblings, ten strokes of the cane.

Until then, you may ponder over your offense.

Do you agree with me?

Yes, Father.

All right then. Go to bed now, all of you.

Don't touch me!

Your mother and I will sleep poorly:

I have to beat you and the strokes will cause us more pain than you.

Leave us alone, and go to bed!

When you were little, your mother sometimes tied a ribbon in your hair or around your arm.

Its white color was to remind you of innocence and purity.

I thought you were now well-mannered enough to get by without such reminders.

I was wrong.

Tomorrow, once your punishment has purified you, your mother will re-tie a ribbon on you, and you'll wear it until we can trust you again.

Where is the wire now?

Who removed it?

I don't know.

You weren't here?

You were in town with your father?


Then you were here. I was at school.

When you left, was the wire still here?

I didn't check.

When did you get back? At noon.

I make lunch for the Doctor and the kids.

I've helped him since his wife died.

Since when?

Since Rudolf's birth, 5 years ago.

I'm the midwife here. We work together.

But you saw nothing? No.

How long was the wire there?

I never saw it.

Nobody saw it before, or afterwards!

It wound itself around two trees, and vanished by itself!



What is it ?

Excuse me.

The day after the doctor's accident brought no solution to the mystery.

Then a second, far more tragic incident, almost made people forget the previous one.

The wife of a tenant farmer died in a work-accident.

The woman, who had an injured arm, was dispensed by the steward from harvesting chores, and assigned to lighter work in the sawmill.

Stay outside! I'm not done.

You get out!

On the same day, I had a strange encounter.

The weather was beautiful and hot, so I decided to improve my meager menu with some brown trout, which are plentiful in the river.

The Baron allowed me to fish there.


Martin, be careful!

Are you insane?

You want to break your neck?

Hello, sir.

What's this? Have you gone mad?

You know how high that is?

Didn't you hear me shout to you?

Yes, I did.



You saw me and wanted to impress me?

So why...

I gave God a chance to kill me.

He didn't do it. So he's pleased with me.

What are you saying?

He doesn't want me to die.

Who doesn't want you to die?


Why would God want you to die?

Promise me you won't do it again!

Look at me!

Promise it!

You don't trust me, huh?

Yes, I do, sir.

All right.

Go home. Tomorrow after your piano lesson, I'll talk to your dad.

No, please, don't tell him!

It's there.

Careful, it's all rotten.

Who sent her up here?

No idea.

We had to collect loose ends. She fell through.

You saw it?

Not really.

You know how it works.

The foremen assign weaker harvesters up here.

Who assigned her?

On my way home, after that strange encounter with Martin, was when I first met Eva...


Excuse me!

Sorry for accosting you.

Aren't you the new nanny on the estate?


They say you're from Treglitz.

Who says that?

The locals.



I don't know...

I'm the schoolteacher here.

I just thought...

When I saw you, I thought...

I'm the tailor's son from Vasendorf.

I know. What?

The Baroness told me.


That the teacher is from the village next to mine.

I see, yes...

Well... I thought...

Looks as if you're going there...


Back home. To Treglitz.


Are you going there? Yes, I am.

I thought... since you'll go through our village, you could... say hello to my dad, and give him a fish?


He'd love that.

Especially over the weekend.


I don't know.

Unfortunately, I have nothing to wrap...

Neither do I.


We could tie them on with fishing line.

Just like that, on the bike?

That's not a very good idea.

Right, it was just an idea.


Is it your bike?

No, the estate's.

Is this your first day off?

You must be glad to go home.

I can imagine.

Well... I've still a long way to go.




If you see my father in Vasendorf, say hello to him from me.

I don't know your father.

That's true.

It's my first time on a bike!

You're doing fine!

But be careful!

The woman today, what was wrong with her?

Which woman?

I see. She was dead.

What's that?



What's "dead"?

Quite a question!

It's when one doesn't live anymore.

When one has stopped living.

When does one stop living?

When one is very old, or very ill.

And the woman?

She had an accident.

An "accident"?

Yes. It's when you're badly hurt.

Like Dad?

Yes, but much worse than that.

So bad, your body can't take it anymore.

And then you're dead ?


But most people don't have an accident.

So they're not dead. No, they die much later.


Well... later, when they're really old.

Does everyone die?


Everyone, really?

Yes, everyone has to die.

But not you, Anni?

Me too.


But not Dad?

Dad too.

Me too?

You too. But not for a very long time.

All of us, only in a very long time.

One can't fight it? It has to happen?

Yes, but not for a very long time.

And Mom?

She didn't go on a trip?

Is she dead too?


She's dead too.

But that was a long time ago.


Martin, you coming?


You can come in.

What is it?

What do you think? I don't know.

It's a boy.

What? Don't you want a brother?

Lucky your father didn't hear you.

I'm sorry.

They knew it was dangerous for her.

What do you want?

You want to sue the Baron?

Or murder the steward?

Go cut off his head with your scythe!

Won't bring your mother back to life.

Father, you loved our mother.

Shut up!

After those two days in July, life in the village got back to normal.

The daily harvesting chores exhausted everyone.

Most of the kids pitched in to help their parents.

I took up the steward's offer to be his secretary during the harvesting, as I hoped it would enable me to see the young girl again.

I couldn't get her out of my mind after our meeting.

But she rarely came out of the manor house.

The doctor was still in the hospital.

Anna and Rudolf, his two children, were cared for meanwhile by the midwife.

After the farmer's wife's funeral, that the whole village attended, both accidents were forgotten.

Until the end of the summer when the harvest feast reunited the whole village, first in a joyful mood, then in horror and perplexity.

My thanks to all of you.

You have worked well.

The heavens were kind and the barns are full.

So the beer can flow, and you won't starve today!

Long live the Baron!

Long may he live!

Most honorable Baron and Baroness, dear merrymakers...

Let us hear on this festive occasion Psalm 145, Verse 15:

"The eyes of all wait upon thee, Lord;

"and thou givest them their meat in due season...."

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.


Now enjoy your meal.

Eat and drink to your fill! You earned it!

You promised us a chorale by your pupils.

Ask the pastor, Baroness.

We're still practicing for the confirmation feast.

That's in spring! Now it's the fall.

Our little singers aren't all very musical. Sorry!

Well, you two "mothers"?

Not taking part in the festivities?

It's so nice here in the shade.

Our son seems to be enjoying that!


I can imagine.

Who wouldn't like it.


What about yout?

Aren't you bored caring for other's children, with all the young lads over there?

No, sir. I like being with the children.

How old are you anyway?

17, sir.


Wouldn't you rather hold a suitor than the Baroness's kids?

Leave her alone, George! What did I do?

Won't you get us something to eat, Emma?

If you'll mind the children a moment, I'll go.

He was drunk, but they couldn't stop him.

Leave Frieda alone!

Shove it!

...I'm the rooster on the tower...

Someone cut off the Baron's cabbages.


Someone cut off the Baron's cabbages!

I never learned. Neither did I .

You have to count out loud.

One, two, three.

Your pupils will laugh when they see us dancing, sir!

They'd better not!

And stop being so formal with me. Am I so old?

It's coming along!


Don't look at your feet.

Quite a job, huh?

It's disgusting!

It was an old custom: "Harvest's done, pay everyone, "If we don't get our due, your cabbage'll be sliced for you."

Well, they sure slurped down enough!

Come in.

What do you want?

A favor, Father.



I found it. It's wounded.


May I keep it?

How will you go about that?

We'll heal it.

And when it's healed?

Won't you be attached to it then?

Will you let it fly away?

Piepsi still lives in a cage.

Yes, but it grew up in captivity.

This one is used to freedom.

Will you set it free, once it's healed?

Have you asked Mother?


What did she say?

That it was for you to decide, Father.


That's what she said.

You'll really take care of it?


You realize that's a heavy responsibility?

You'll be its father and mother.

We'll have to find a cage for your patient.

Did you do it, or didn't you?

Seems somebody saw you. So what?

They're lucky they still have their heads!

I have to tell you, Father: I'm proud of it!

Sit down!

What did you intend to do?

Tell me.

Come on. Tell me.

You know why, Father.

Because of your mother?

You think they caused her death?

You think that?

That I'm not man enough to settle it?

Know what your act may do for us all?

If Frieda loses her job, which keeps us alive for a whole year?

If we can't work here in the summer?

You want to marry and run the farm in two years?

You'll feed everyone without the help of the estate?

How do you know they're responsible?

How do you know they're innocent?

I don't know.

But I also don't know the opposite!

What do you mean "not there"?

He's disappeared. I looked all over.

He hasn't disappeared. When did you last see him?

Around 2 o'clock.

Around 2?

You know what time it is? I know, Baron.

What does my wife say?

She sent me to you. She's terrified.

I can imagine. You're an idiot, Huber.

Why do you think you're here?

To take care of one child! Is that so hard?

I'm so sorry, Baron.

You can shove your excuses!

Where did you last see my son?

Here. He left to play with the other kids.

Where? He didn't say.

My wife noticed nothing either?

The cabbage heads affair upset her.

She retired, indisposed.


Yes, a terrible migraine attack.

This is a madhouse!

Have you seen my son?


Ask your sons. Sigi has disappeared with some other kids.

What does it mean? That he's disappeared, dammit!

The steward's kids said they'd only seen Sigi very briefly, that he'd gone off with other kids.

They didn't pay much attention to it.

The search began shortly after midnight.

The searchers, tired, some still drunk, were divided into two groups: one searched all the estate's buildings, the other combed the countryside.

Around 2.30 AM, the siren sounded again calling the men back to the estate.

Sigi had been found.

He was in the sawmill, tied upside down.

His trousers were pulled down, his buttocks bleeding from cane strokes.

He was in a state of shock, unable to walk.

Lying on his belly, he was carried home on a makeshift stretcher.

Next Sunday, after the service, the Baron asked the pastor to let him speak.

City policemen questioned many of you this week.

To no avail.

First I thought my child was tortured by those who cut off my cabbages.

To get even!

For what?

Supposedly it was my fault their mother died in the sawmill, which is absurd.

At least, young Felder told the police that was his motive for his "mowing prowess".

I've always helped the Felder family.

But people aren't always grateful.

It takes character.

Don't run away, Felder!

It's your honor I want to salvage!

It turns out the "valiant" Max Felder boasted of his feat to his fiancée. Then the coward hid among his family, so he didn't have time to torture my son.

As to his father, he'd bite off his tongue rather than cover for his wayward son.

I'll remind you of a fact that most of you may have forgotten.

Two months ago, our doctor had a riding accident, and is still not back from the hospital.

This accident was caused by a wire strung in his garden, with the explicit intent of bringing him down.

There, too, nobody knows, saw or heard anything.

We all know it: those who injured my son, and the doctor, are here among us, in this room.

I won't let such crimes go unpunished, and hope nothing like that happens to any of your children.

That's why I call upon you all: help me find the culprit or the culprits!

If we fail to find out the truth, the peace of our community will be gone.

The landowner's speech frightened the locals.

The Baron wasn't popular, but as a powerful figure and employer of half the village, he was respected.

His statement on the community's peace was ominous.

And the mysterious character of these criminal deeds awakened the old mistrust of the farmers.

Come in!


May I come in?

What a question! Of course, come in.

What's it about?

What's wrong?

They fired me.

What do you mean?

Nothing. They just fired me.

The tutor was also fired.

I don't know where to go.

I'm afraid on the road alone.

Don't worry. Calm down.

Come, sit here.

Calm down, tell me what happened.


What happened?

The Baron's son isn't at all well.

His parents are desperate and angry.

Now they say the tutor and I are to blame, because we didn't pay enough attention to him.

But I'm only there for the twins.

I've always taken care of them very well.

When you and I were dancing, the Baroness had given me permission.

I haven't done anything wrong.

I know, come on. Stop crying!

Where can I go now?

My family needs my earnings.

You'll find something else.

You know, the Baron is quick-tempered.

But his bark is worse than his bite.

No, it's all over now, I know it.

The Baroness doesn't want to see anyone.

She wants to take the kids with her, to town, or to her parents' estate.

I'll try to talk to her.

We used to play piano together, four-handed.

But I wasn't very good.

Now she's the tutor, who studied the flute in town.

He doesn't play that well.

That's true.

Who does things like that?


Beating a child like that.

I don't know.

Can I stay here tonight?

Don't send me away, sir, please.

How could you think that?

I'll just wait for daybreak, here in the classroom.

Then I'll leave.

At home, they won't understand this.

They'll think I did something wrong.

Want me to come with you?


Tomorrow, after school?

I'll find a carriage, I'll be back by evening.

Why would you do that, sir?

Stop being so formal.

Why would you do that?

Come here, I'll play something for you.

If you want.

Good morning, Father.

I'm back again.

They set me free.

I can see that. So what?

Can you forgive me, Father?

Forgive you for what?

That the estate won't give me any work?

That Frieda was fired in disgrace?

That your brothers and sisters have nothing to eat?

Or what?

The next day, after school, I went to the estate to inquire about Sigi's health and to intercede for Eva's reinstatement.

I was told the Baroness had left that morning with her children.

Reluctantly, the steward lent me a carriage to take Eva home.

As we left the village, we crossed the doctor.

A few days after the Thanksgiving feast, Rudolf, his four-year-old son, had suddenly disappeared.

This upset everyone in view of the previous events.

The boy was finally found on the main road, scantily dressed for a trip, walking eagerly toward the town.

When asked where he was going, he said he wanted to visit his father.

He fought tooth and nail against being taken home.

The doctor was told about this and, due to be released soon anyway, he decided to cut short his stay at the hospital.


He was in the living room.

What do I owe?

3.50 marks.


Have a nice day.

Rudi, where are you?

Hello, Rudi.

Won't you say hello to your father?


I heard you wanted to visit me at the hospital.

And now you lock yourself in?

All right.

Then I don't want to see you.

I'm going away now.

Stay in the toilet, if you want.

Keep well, Rudi.

Your office is ready. Mrs Wagner did it all.

Why do you tell me that? I don't know.

I thought you'd like to know.

She took good care of you? Yes.

How old are you now?


It's amazing, you look so like your mother.

... your mother and I are very worried about you.

Think carefully. Do you sleep badly?

Are you overtired?


Do you have problems at school I don't know?

No, Father.

You don't understand why we worry.

I'll explain it to you.

As you know, I'm also the pastor for Birkenbrunn.

One day, a mother came to see me, as her son, about the same age as you, had the same symptoms you've shown for some time.

The boy suddenly seemed extremely weary.

His eyes were ringed, he was depressed and joyless.

He avoided looking his parents in the eye, and soon was also caught lying.

This lasted about half a year.

Then everything went very fast.

He lost his appetite, couldn't sleep any more, his hands began to shake, his memory started to fail, his face became covered with pustules, then his whole body.

Finally, he died.

The body, that I had to bless, looked like an old man's body.

Do you understand now why I'm worried?

What do you think caused these changes that led to that boy's miserable end?

I don't know.

I think you know very well.

Won't you tell me?


Then I'll give you the answer.

The boy had seen someone, who was harming the finest nerves of his body, in the area where God has erected sacred barriers.

The boy imitated this action.

He couldn't stop doing it.

In the end he destroyed all his nerves, and died of it.

I just want to help you.

I love you with all my heart.

Be sincere, Martin.

Why did you blush listening to the story of the poor boy?


I don't know. I felt sorry for him.

Is that all?

I think there's another reason.

It's written on your face.

Be sincere, Martin!

Why are you crying?

Shall I spare you that confession?

Have you been doing what that wretched boy did?


My arm!

Glad that you're back. About time.

One can say that. Yes.

It was hard with the children, without you.

I know.

He doesn't like me.

Who? Rudi.

He's at a difficult age.

Actually not.

They're always at a difficult age.


You didn't miss me.

What does that mean?

Nothing. I said it because it's true.

Nothing like a nice dose of self-hate!


Nothing. Forget it.

Winter came early that year.

For Reformation Day, on the first Sunday of November, a blanket of snow covered the village.

Quite unusually, the Baron, whose family had not yet come back, didn't attend the service.

The villagers took that as a sign of his anger.

Indeed, no leads had been found to a possible culprit, although the Baron's appeal had led to a flood of mutual suspicions, even to some attempts at denunciation, that had all turned out to be untenable.

Well, it's not pneumonia.

But you must be careful.

If his temperature rises, call me again.

Give him these drops every two hours.

And hang wet sheets over the oven.

That helps breathing.

Good night to you. Good-bye, Doctor.

How long was the window open?

Hard to say. My wife nursed him around 1 AM.

She came back around 2:30 AM.

By then the room was icy cold.

And the baby didn't cry?

No. The children heard nothing.

He's doing all right. We have to wait.

But it looks fairly good.

A drink to warm you up?

Or stay for supper.

No, thanks. I'm overloaded, I was away so long.

How's your arm doing?

It's all right.

It'll be fine in two or three weeks.

Thank you.

That must be terrible, I imagine.

One must be helpless with only one arm.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Well, good night, children.

Good night, Doctor.

If your wife thinks the baby's fever has risen again, let me know.


What do you mean "good"?

I mean, that's fine.

When did you go see Father?

Down in his office.


Just asking.

In mid-December, I finally got a letter from Eva.

Her father had found her a job in town, that she'd start early in the New Year.

Since the night she came to shelter in the school, when until dawn, we told each other the story of our short lives, her pale face, her shy but frank personality, were constantly on my mind.

The school holidays lasted until January 2nd, but already on the day after Christmas, in the cold but sunny weather, I headed for Treglitz to visit Eva and her parents.

And Sigi?

I don't know. The Baroness isn't back yet.

And the Baron?

We hardly see him. He talks to nobody.

I don't know. Some say they went to Italy.

To Italy?

The steward says they'll tear down the sawmill. Because it's...

Good morning.

Morning, young man.

Please be seated. We're not very formal here.


Care for a drink?

No, thanks. Very kind.

Really? No, thanks a lot.

So you're a schoolteacher?

Can you afford to have a wife?

My father's a tailor at Vasendorf. I've learned the trade.

I earn money on the side.

Taking over his business would've been smarter.

And why are you so focused on Eva?

She's still a child. You could be her father.

I'm 31.

Well, you're not far off.


Have you asked her if she's interested?

She's a child, knows nothing about life.

Speak up. Do you want him?

Come on. Say something.

He came all this way in the cold.

Leave her alone. Of course, she wants him. Can't you tell?

How can I, if she clams up!

Sit down again.


Don't take them too seriously.

Listen, I'm not a big talker.

On one hand, it suits mea if she leaves the house.

Lots of mouths to feed, as you can see.

On the other hand, it's moving too fast for me.

I don't know you.

I don't dislike you, but I need to know more about you.

The town hairdresser has agreed to take her on as an apprentice.

She'll get to meet people, she can decide if she really wants this.

If in a year she's still in favor of it, we'll talk about it again.

You can make up your mind too.

All right?

I actually thought I... Yes, I know.

But it's either that or nothing.

If you insist...

Yes, I do.


So, my work's waiting.

Even on holidays.

Don't get up.

I'll send the kid back in.

So you can say good bye.

A year goes by fast. The world won't collapse.

You can come and visit her.

Did your father tell you...?

Is that all right with you?

And is it with you, sir?

Don't call me "sir".

Adi! Are you awake?


What is it?


What's happening?

Look! Go see what's happening!

My God, what do you want?

Over there! Look out the window!

Something's burning! On the estate!

Untie me!

Come on, untie me!

I don't know if...

Untie me, I said!

What is it?

Be quiet!

Gustl, come and untie me!

What's going on?

Untie me, dammit! There's a fire!

What fire?

A fire!

Yes, a fire! Now untie me, dammit!

Father won't allow it.

It's an emergency! Somebody must warn them!


Stop shouting! I'll do it!

Shall I call Mom?

What is it? A fire!

I know. Your father already went.

What are you doing here?

Go to bed now! It's nothing.

There's a fire on the estate. Don't be afraid.

Go to bed and sleep.

Go on! You'll catch a cold.

Why all the noise? You woke them all up!

I thought it was dangerous.

I had to untie him.

Now everything's fine again.

Tomorrow, Father will tell you about the fire.

You all go back to bed.

I'll wait till you're in bed.

It's cold here.

Good night, then.

Sleep tight.

Night, Mom!

Why don't you stop doing that?

Why all the effort?

Don't look so dumbfounded.

You don't lack talent.

I just can't do it with you any more.

To be truthful: you disgust me.

Can't you finish your work?

I don't want to spend the night here.

What did I do to you?

My God, you've done nothing to me!

You're ugly, messy, flabby and have bad breath. Will that do?

The cover has to be sterilized.

Don't sit there looking like death warmed over.

The world won't collapse. Not on you, or on me.

I can't go on with this, that's all.

I've really tried... to think of another woman while making love to you.

One who smells good, who's young, less decrepit than you, but my imagination can't manage it.

In the end, it's you again and then I feel like puking, and am embarrassed at myself.

So what's the point?

Are you through?

I have been for ages.

You must be very unhappy to be so mean.

Please, not that routine!

I know I'm not much to look at.

My bad breath comes from my ulcer, you know that.

It didn't bother you in the past.

I had it when your wife was alive.

Spare me these sordid details.

Let me reassure you: it always disgusted me.

After Julie's death, I wanted to ease my pain with anyone. I could have screwed a cow!

Whores are too far from here, and once every two months isn't enough for me, even though I'm getting on.

So skip acting like a martyr, and scram.

Why are you only noticing this now?

When should I have noticed it?

At the hospital, I forgot how tiresome you are.

One grows sentimental when in pain.

Get out! Don't you have any pride?

There's no room for any with you.

That's true.

What if I do something silly?

Go ahead.

It'd surprise me. But be careful: it may be painful.

I know, I'm ridiculous.

You wouldn't care anyway.


Why do you despise me?

For helping to raise the boy?

For watching you finger your daughter and saying nothing?

For helping you to deceive yourself?

For listening to you claim how you loved Julie, when everyone knew you treated her as badly as me?

For loving you, when I know you can't stand being loved?

That's it.

Now get up. I have work to do.

You can't afford to get rid of me.

Who'll do the dirty work for you, who'll help you with the kids, and your practice?

You don't mean what you're saying.

I want to see how far you can go:

"Will she take it? Can I drag her even lower?"

I'm tired too.

I've got two retarded kids: Karli and you.

You're the most troublesome one.

My God, why don't you just die?

The year ended with fine weather.

The snowy landscape sparkled so brightly that it hurt the eyes.

None of us suspected it'd be our last New Year in an era of peace, and that this year would bring a radical change, of a magnitude we couldn't foresee.

Despite the strange events that had unsettled the village, we thought of ourselves as united in the belief that life in our community was God's will, and worth living.

... Christ's body as bread and as wine.

May the period of preparation for your confirmation be one of happiness and enrichment.

You, Martin, will now be free not only of that ribbon, but of those nightly ties that kept you from yielding to the temptations of your young body.

I trust you, my beloved children, and wish you a profitable and happy new year.

Shortly after Easter, in the last week of April, the Baroness came back with the children.

She was accompanied by a new nanny.

My secret hope that Eva could come back here, was definitely dashed.

The new nanny was an Italian woman who came from the area on the Mediterranean coast where the Baroness had spent the winter.


Hi, Ferdinand!


I'll come down!

Stay here, Sigi! You can see the boys later.

Let him go, Madam.

He's so happy to be back home!

All right, go. But don't be too long.


Where are you?


Won't you come say hello to your father?

Watch out, he's coming!

Be quiet!

For God's sake! Be quiet!


What's going on here?

Why are you still here?

There's a divinity class now!

Get going!

How about a good-bye?

Good bye, sir!

Good bye, Pastor!

I'm sorry, Pastor. It won't happen again.

Good bye, Pastor.

Good bye.

Let us pray.

Our Father, who art in heaven hallowed by Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever.


Sit down.

This is a very sad day for me.

In a few weeks, we all want to celebrate your confirmation.

For months I've tried to bring God's word closer to you, and make responsible human beings out of you.

Who do I face today?

Yelling monkeys, undisciplined, as childish as your 7-year-old classmates!

But to me, what is even sadder is that my own daughter plays the leading role in this pitiful display.

Last year I tied a white ribbon in her hair.

White, as you all know, is the color of innocence.

The ribbon was meant to help Klara avoid sin, selfishness, envy, indecency, lies and sloth.

At the start of the year, I naïvely believed that she was now mature enough not to need that ribbon any more.

That she'd become responsible enough, as the daughter of the spiritual leader of...


Anni? Where are you?


Rudi? What are you doing here?

Why aren't you in bed?

I can't go to sleep.

Is that why you're wandering around?

I woke up and you weren't there.

Dad has pierced my earlobes.

Does it hurt?

Yes, a bit.

Is that why you're crying?

I'm not crying any more.

Beauty has to suffer.

That's what they say.

Go back to bed.

Anni's coming.

I haven't worn earrings in ages, so the holes closed up.

For Whitsun, I'm getting Mom's.

The pretty ones, you know?

A few days after Klara's fainting fit, that frightened us all, and left her feverish and weakened, I went to see the steward, on the eve of Whitsun to borrow the carriage again.

Since my marriage proposal, Eva wrote me once a week.

I felt she was alone and lost in the city, and was hinting for me to come see her as soon as I could.

I wanted to spend Saturday with her and be back on Sunday to prepare the confirmation ceremony with the pastor.

The steward had gone to the sawmill, but was due back any minute.

Good morning, sir.

Hello, Erna.

He's cute.

Do you like him?

Yes. Very much.

He was quite sick last winter, I was told.

Yes. Very sick.

But the doctor cured him, thank God.

Maybe I'll come back this evening.

I'm sure Father will come for coffee at four.

Then I'll sit down again.

Can I get you something? A coffee?

It must be ready.

No, thanks. I'll just sit and wait.


Can dreams come true?

That depends.

On what?

On what does it depend?

If you dream of being first in your class, and study hard, your dream may come true.

I didn't mean that. Then what?

I mean, if you dream of something, really dream it in your sleep, can it come true?

Why, what did you dream?

Tell me.

You have something on your mind.

So tell me.

I dreamt that Karli... the odd little boy of the... I know.

Something terrible will happen to him.

Something terrible?

Like what?

I don't know.

Like what happened to Sigi.

But even worse.

But he's so sweet. He harms no one.

Come on...

It was only a dream. Don't take it so seriously.

Dreams don't come true. Let alone that kind.

But sometimes my dreams do come true.

What do you mean?

Last winter, before Gustl got sick, I dreamt my brother opened his window, so he'd die.

And his window was opened, he caught a chill, almost died.

What are you saying?

That's nonsense!

We arranged to meet at the railway station, as Eva wanted to avoid being seen with me.

She was living with distant cousins, who gave her parents regular reports on her behavior.

She had become thinner, which made her even prettier.

I was ravished again by her mixture of shyness and almost childlike outspokenness.

So it's not really so awful?

No. But sweeping up hair all day...

The twins were more fun.

But it's all right. I can't really complain.




Aside from the twins, you miss nothing?

Come on, you!

How is the nanny? She only speaks Italian?

That's what the steward says.

I see.

Where are you going?

There's a nice little pond in the wood.

We can picnic there. I brought some food.

I'd rather not. Why?

What is it?



I had no improper intentions.

I just wanted you to enjoy the picnic.


How could I disgrace my future wife?

All right then.

I'll turn around.


Accept and drink!

This is the blood of the New Testament, shed for you to forgive your sins.

Here! He's here!

Out of the way!

"For I, the Lord, your God

"am a jealous God

"visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation."

After the atrocities committed on the retarded boy, the Baron was finally convinced it was smarter to enlist the help of the county's police force.

So a few days later two plainclothes policemen arrived, who, after visiting several of the crime scenes, inquired if anyone had noticed anything suspicious.

When I learnt of Karli's torture, I didn't think of what Erna had told me.

When I remembered, I hesitated to tell the authorities.

Such an absurd coincidence might jeopardize the reputation and inner peace of the steward's family.

But when I heard that Karli might lose his eyesight, I made Erna come to the school and tell the policemen about her dream.

... we're not as stupid as you think.

But I really dreamt it!

Watch out!

I'll give you one last chance: tell us who told you of a plan to torture the boy, and we won't repeat it to anyone.

All right?

She's already had dreams that came true.

Is that so?

About what, may I ask?

It was a family matter.

I see! A family matter.

You checked if it was true?


Well, it may be true.

Maybe she's an authentic clairvoyant, and we're luckier than we think.

Stop crying!

Your deceitful whining won't work with me.

I've got other ways to make you talk.

I don't believe in witches and sorcerers, even less in the hallucinations of a brat like you.

So make up your mind to tell me the truth.

I won't let go till you come clean. Got that?

Now let's go see what your parents think of your version of the story.

Can you come with us?

Of course.

Hello, there!

Who do we have here?

Good afternoon.

Good afternoon, sir.

Why do you eavesdrop?

We saw the teacher had visitors. We didn't want to intrude.

We were waiting to talk to him.

What do you want?

To ask you about Karli.

Like what?

We heard he isn't well.

We wondered if we could help.

You'll be all right...

I know, it hurts.

Be patient...

Everything will be fine again.

It'll be fine.

I have to go now, Karli.

Don't worry.

I'll be back tomorrow.

You'll be all right. Don't be afraid.

The doctor will be back.

Come in!


What is it?

To replace Piepsi.

Because you're so sad.

Thank you.

You're welcome, Father.

Give me the whistle! Sorry?

The whistle!

What whistle?

Give it to me!

What whistle?

Give it, or I'll kill you.

I have no whistle.



For God's sake, what's got into you?

What has he done?

For the last time, give it to me!

Give you what, Father?

What is it?

What are you talking about?

You know what I mean!

But if he says so! What's going on?

Please wait!

What did the boy do?

Calm down.

Stay out of it! I have to go back to the Baron.

Georg! Please, don't!

You'll kill him!

... with the birch-trees in Retenow, it'll be 6,000 cubic meters.

It'll take them around three weeks.

And now we have 80 extra Poles.

They've been put up in the annex.

We're all out of bedding.

It takes time.

There are lots of kids with them.

In spite of it...

I won't stay here.


I won't stay here.

What does that mean?

That I'm leaving with the children.

What do you mean?

Armin! That's not so hard to understand.

How do you plan to do all this?

I don't know yet.

But in any case, we're leaving this place.



That'll be all, thank you.

Good night, Baroness and Baron.

I only came back out of fairness to you.

To give us a chance.

You gave me a chance?

Wonderful! And I missed my chance?

Will that help us to solve the problem?


Your sarcasm.

What is the problem we have to solve?

You stay here!

You'll only leave when I say so.


I was hoping to spare you this.

At Uncle Edoardo's I fell in love with a man.

He's from Lombardy and is a banker who advised Uncle Edoardo financially.

He courted me assiduously and was very fond of the children.

It was thanks to him that Sigi has blossomed.

Despite this, we came back.

Because I felt committed to you.

But I can't stand this place any longer.

Not so much personally, though life with you isn't thrilling for a woman of my age.

I'm leaving so the children don't grow up in surroundings that are dominated by malice, envy, apathy and brutality.

Sigi's whistle was the last straw.

I'm sick and tired of persecutions, threats and perverse acts of revenge.

Did you sleep with him?

You don't understand anything.

Did you sleep with him?

No. I didn't sleep with him.

You're lying, right?

Come in!

Good evening.

Good evening, Baroness.

Can I talk to you? Can't it wait?

No, or I wouldn't have disturbed you so late.

What is it?

They've assassinated Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo.

The news spread around the village like wildfire.

What would the consequences be?

The first who said "war", was severely contradicted.

But once the word had been uttered, it remained stubbornly at the center of all our thoughts.

I wanted to go to town quickly to discuss with Eva what we should do if war broke out.

Maybe her father would now agreed to an earlier marriage.

I asked the Baroness for the bicycle that Eva had borrowed previously.

I planned to use it to visit her Sunday.

Friday when I went to pick up the bicycle, I witnessed a strange confrontation.

What is it, Mrs Wagner?

Can I borrow your bicycle?

It's not mine. Can I borrow it anyway?

I just borrowed it myself. To visit my fiancée.


Where do you want to go?

To town. What for?

The stubborn steward won't lend me a carriage.

Please lend it to me.

Why? What for?

To go to the police. I know who committed those crimes.


Can I have the bicycle?

Why not tell me?

I'll only talk to the police. I'm sick of insults.

What about the doctor's horse?

I don't know how to ride.

Please! Believe me!

My son told me who did it to him.

He may lose his eyesight.

Lend it to me!


I was so sorry that I gave in.

But the state of that woman, usually so level headed, upset me.

What had she found out that she didn't dare tell?

Back in the village, I decided to investigate.

Hello, sir.

Hello, Klara.

What are you doing here?

We wanted to see how Karli was.

Can't you see it's closed up?

Yes. We were worried.

We saw Mrs Wagner bicycling off.

We wondered what had happened to Karli.

Go home. You don't belong in here.

Go on home.

Good bye, teacher.

I wondered why the midwife had closed the shutters.

Nobody in the village locked their house.

Why had the midwife locked in her son?

Karli, can you hear me?

I thought of Erna's dream again.

What if Erna hadn't dreamt it, but knew that Karli would be tortured, who had told her?

Who wouldn't she denounce?

The kids' interest in Karli seemed strange to me.

Usually, because of his disability, they had no contact with him, or treated him disdainfully.

When the midwife couldn't take care of him, she entrusted him to me or the doctor.

But since his mishap, I hadn't seen him again.

Worried, I decided to ask the doctor.


Wasn't his daughter in school? Yes, she was.

And she said nothing?

I have a request...

Could I talk to Klara and Martin?

Won't you wait for my husband?

He's at the church. The service is almost over.

But if you insist, please come in.

Be seated.

I'll fetch them for you.

Good evening, sir.

Won't you sit down?

Yes. Perhaps. With pleasure.

Can I offer you something?

A coffee, like during the piano lessons?

Yes, with pleasure. Very kind of you.

I'll be right back.

Did you know the doctor was leaving Eichwald?

You're not surprised by my question?

Our mother just told us.

Anna didn't tell you?

Not a word?

It's odd not to say you're going away on a trip.

Anna doesn't say much.

But this was completely different.

You're hiding something from me.


I'm waiting for you to tell me.

When you looked for Karli, what did you want from him?

We were worried. He's ill.

I'm asking Martin.

Yes. He isn't well.

And since his mother was leaving we thought we'd pay him a visit.

Did you ever wonder who mistreated Karli?

And Sigi?

Who tied the wire to trip the doctor?

Who set fire to the barn?


Of course, we wondered.


Father said it must be a sick person.

Sigi was with you at Thanksgiving. And Karli always wenet along.

I don't understand.


What did they do wrong?

Who? Sigi and Karli.


They obviously were being punished. For what?

I don't know.

Erna foresaw that Karli would be punished. What for?

I don't know!

Why ask us?

You're a smart girl, Klara. Don't play dumb.

I don't understand.

Talk about this with Father or Mother.

Shall I get them?

Martin, will you go?

Stay here, Martin.

I'll see them later. Now, I'm talking to you.

Tell me the truth.

Where were you when Karli was... Here.

I mean, after the confirmation?

Coffee's coming.

Could the children help you?

I'm afraid not. They know nothing.

His daughter said nothing at school?


Sorry I disturbed you.

Stay! My husband is coming, and the coffee is almost ready.

Thanks, but I'm worried about the midwife's son.

She didn't say when she'd be back? I didn't ask her.

She caught me off guard. She was panicked.

Wait, I hear my husband.

Good evening.

The teacher was waiting for you.

Yes. I'd like a word with you.

Please. Let's go to my study. It's quieter.

What's this about?

I spoke to the midwife: she said she knew who tortured her son.

She'll only tell the police, and went to town.


She left the boy behind alone and locked the house.

Locked it?

I went to ask the doctor if he was caring for the child, but...

there's a paper saying that the office is closed.

He and his kids have disappeared.

What does it mean?

I don't know.

I thought you might know. That's why I'm here.

I have no idea.

Please be seated.

Wasn't his daughter in school?

Yes. She mentioned nothing.

I asked Klara and Martin. They know nothing either.

Why should they?

I don't know...

I went to Mrs Wagner's place: they and some others were there.

To do what?

They were looking for the boy.


They wanted to help him.

So what?

I don't know how to say it...

I think they're hiding something.


I don't know.

When the doctor had his accident, last year, they appeared in his garden. Supposedly, to help Anna.

Yes... and?

Nothing. I had forgotten it.

I just remembered today.

I don't understand.

When the Baron's son was found...

He'd been with the children just before.

What are you getting at?

The steward's daughter predicted that Karli would be beaten.

She says she dreamt it.

The police think she's lying.

From whom did she find out? Who told her?

You're saying that your pupils, my children included, committed these crimes. Is that right?

You realize what you're saying?

Do you really know...

I assume I'm the first person to hear these monstrosities.

If you ever dare to bother others with this, if you ever accuse respectable families and their children and denounce them publicly, I'll make sure, take my word for it, that you go to prison.

I've seen a lot during my work as a pastor, but never anything so repulsive!

One can tell you have no children.

Or you wouldn't stoop to such aberrations.

You have a sick mind.

How did they let you loose among those poor creatures!

I'll speak to the authorities about this.

Now get out of my house!

I don't want to see you here again.

The midwife didn't come back.

I waited until morning, two days later.

Then I went to the manor house to inform the Baron.

He told the steward and said to open the house and take care of the disabled boy.

I'll look upstairs.

I'd never been in the midwife's house and felt uncomfortable barging into somebody else's place without asking.

It was strange, but while we still searched and called out Karli's name, I already knew our search was in vain.

Anyone who knew how devoted the midwife was to her son, knew she'd never have abandoned her wounded Karli.

During the next few weeks, the village gossips worked overtime.

Some claimed the doctor was Karli's father.

He and the midwife had tried to abort the child so their relationship wouldn't be found out, and that's how the child was disabled.

Some even claimed that the death of the doctor's wife was suspect, and the two might very well be responsible for it.

Better still, the doctor and the midwife, as potential murderers,y had also perpetrated all the other crimes.

Wanting to spare his legitimate children and himself from public disclosure of his guilt, the doctor had fled with them.

On July 28th, Austria declared war on Serbia.

On Saturday, August 1st, Germany declared war on Russia, and on France the following Monday.

The solemn service next Sunday was attended by the whole village.

A feeling of expectation and departure was in the air.

Now everything was going to change.

Eva's father, in the face of the coming war, had taken his daughter back home, and, at her pleading, had come to Eichwald where his future son-in-law lived and worked, to look it over.

The prospect of soon calling this beloved creature my wife also made this a festive day for me.

The pastor never mentioned our conversation again.

And apparently never went through with his threat to denounce me.

I was drafted at the start of 1917.

After the war, as my father had died meanwhile, I sold his house in Vasendorf, and with the money opened a tailor's shop in town.

I never saw any of the villagers again.