Director: Roland Suso Richter.
Starring: Felicitas Woll (Anna Mauth), John Light (Robert Newman), Benjamin Sadler (Alexander Wenninger), Heiner Lauterbach (Carl Mauth), Katharina Meinecke (Magda Mauth), Marie Bšumer (Maria Goldberg), Kai Wiesinger (Simon Goldberg), Wolfgang Stumph (Pfarrer), JŁrgen Heinrich (Gauleiter Martin Mutschmann), Susanne Bormann (Eva Mauth), Paul Ready (William), John Keogh (Flight Lt. Leslie, Master Bomber), Christian Rodska (Arthur Harris), Anja Taschenberg (Grashena), Pip Torrens (Saundby).
made for TV movie
love story set against the massive bombing of Dresden Germany in 1945
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
January 1945. World War II is in it sixth year. In the west, the Wehrmacht's Ardennes offensive has failed. In the east, the Red Army's decisive offensive began on January 12. Two weeks later, it will free the Auschwitz concentration camp. American and British air power controls German airspace. British bombers are now able to attack German cities at will. And yet, there are still cities almost untouched by the bombs.
Dresden. Doctor Alexander Wenninger and Nurse Anna Mauth perform an operation during an American bombardment. When they finish the operation, Anna kisses her doctor. When the bombing is over, Anna says: "I thought Dresden wouldn't be bombed."
British bomber pilots drink at a bar. The most recent news is that the Soviets reached the Neisse River near Gorlitz. They have to get ready for a bombing raid on Magdeburg, located west of Berlin. They go. It's ten seconds to target and ten second later, the call goes out "Bombs gone!"
Anna and some others have a bit of a party, but they are scolded by Dr. Wenninger.
Robert Newman and his bomber are attacked by Messerschmitt fighter planes. Two of their men are killed. The others bail out. The plane crashes. The parachutists come down to earth. The villagers rush out to get the pilots. One of the pilots is killed by a vengeful villager. Robert tried to save his partner, but is shot in the side. He takes off running and goes into the woods and up the hill.
Anna brings breakfast to Alex.
Robert goes into a barn. He takes his pilot clothes off and puts on a German long coat. Then he goes out walking.
Bomber command gets the report that they scored 44% percent total destruction of the chosen targets. The top ranking officer there, Arthur Harris, gets a phone call. He tells the man on the other end of the line, yes, he has seen the reports of the Russian advance.
Robert mixes in with the refugees from the bombing. The doctor wants to marry Anna. But when he broaches the subject he proves pretty inept. So Anna has to take command. She tells him to get on his knees before her. She then has him repeat a romantic poem ending with the asking of her hand in marriage.
While the pilot walks the streets of Dresden, he sees kids harassing a Jewish man. He walks over to a hospital and works his way over to the stairway to go hide in the basement. He lays down in an isolated corner and passes out. Back in England, his best friend William offers a toast to the men of the "Mona Lisa" who gave their lives for England. May they rest in peace.
Anna comes into the kitchen for breakfast. She asks her father Carl, the head of the hospital, if he was able to get his hands on some more morphine which is in short supply. Her sister comes in for breakfast. Anna tells her mother Magda and her father that Eva could use her connections to get the hospital more morphine. Eva resents Anna bringing up her boyfriend, the adjutant of the powerful Gautleiter. Father asks Anna if her doctor has proposed to her yet. Anna tells dad, yes.
At bomber command the news is that the last German has left Warsaw and the Russians are breaking through everywhere. The Germans will try to stop the Russians at the Oder River. They will use the 6th S.S. Panzer army, which is being moved into central Germany. Stalin expects British help to keep German pressure off them. So they have to pick a city for a twin raid in coordination with the American bombers. They are looking for a city east of the Elbe River with high urban concentration; flammable construction; and narrow streets. They must disrupt the German supply line to the eastern front. And also Churchill needs something at Yalta to show that the British are still in the game.
At the Dresden hospital Robert goes back upstairs. He goes into the nurse's quarters and eats some of the food left on the table. Anna goes into the quarters and sees a man leave. She runs after him. She follows him downstairs and turns on a light. Anna sees Robert with a scalpel in his right hand. They stare at each other for awhile and then Anna turns and goes back upstairs. Anna goes home. She wants to see her father but his door is locked.
Anna's best friend at the hospital is Maria. She goes home. There she says hello to her Jewish husband Simon Goldberg. He tells her that their rations for four weeks now have to last for four and a half weeks. But Maria has some extra food (given to her by her friend Anna).
Another breakfast rolls around at the Mauth house. Eva tells her family that her friend will help them get more morphine for the hospital. At the hospital dad puts morphine in his cabinet in the basement. The cabinet is filled with morphine. The pilot sees the hospital director at his morphine-filled cabinet.
A non-Jewish man has been hanged from a lamp post in the city for having an intimate relationship with a Jewish woman. The Jewish woman has to stand there in the cold and snow in her slip next to the hanged man. The Mauth women eat at a restaurant. The most recent news is that the British have bombed Monchengladback, Kalrsruhe and Wiesbaden. Then the women go to the movies. The newsreel speaks of the V1 rocket, which the narrator says is the German answer to the Anglo-American bombing. Mom claps when she sees the scenes of the destruction in London. But this reminds Anna of the poor man in the basement of the hospital. She leaves the movie theater and brings some drink and food to Robert. She then leaves promptly. Robert doesn't say a word.
Simon tells Maria that every night he prays to God to destroy this place. Maria says the war has gone on so long that they are not going to quit now. She reminds her husband that nothing will happen to him as long as she does not divorce him.
Anna speaks with her father. He mentions something that strikes Anna as ridiculous. He says that some time in the future she will come to hate him. Anna sees Robert again. She tells him she does not know who he is and doesn't want to know. Robert touches her face very gently and then wipes off some dirt. She says thank you. Back upstairs Alex asks her if there is anything wrong? He hasn't seen much of her lately. He asks if he should come over tonight? She says that she is a bit tired.
The pilot shave his beard with the scalpel. He wants to leave the hospital. Outside on the hospital grounds he sees a lot of German trucks. He sees a radio communications truck and gets into the back of it. Anna goes downstairs to check on Robert, but he is gone Robert tries to use the radio equipment, but the Germans are just too close by. The Gestapo come into the hospital and say they are looking for a spy. Anna agrees to show the Gestapo the basement. Robert has returned to the basement and now tries to hide himself in another place. Luckily for Robert and Anna, Gautleiter's adjutant is there and he tells the Gestapo men that there is no one else down in the basement and he wants them to leave. One of the Gestapo men challenges the adjutant, but the other just agrees to leave quietly without creating an incident. Meanwhile, Robert is back upstairs. He sees a German lieutenant die on a stretcher bed and decides to change places with the man.
The next thing we know Robert is put in a hospital bed with the German wounded. Anna, Maria and Alex make their rounds on the ward. Anna is absolutely shocked to find Robert in a hospital bed. Alex notes that the wound for the patient is supposed to be a head wound, not a side wound. Anna takes the blame for the "mix-up" and apologizes. She also covers for Robert by saying he doesn't talk because of trauma. Maria is suspicious, but says nothing in order to protect her friend. They leave.
Later Anna comes back to Robert's bed. She is angry with him. She puts antiseptic on his wound and he certainly feels the pain. He glares at her. She ignores this and puts a bandage on his wound. It is becoming obvious that Anna's father and the adjutant are doing something with the morphine from the hospital, but we don't know exactly what it is. That is until Alex finds out about the morphine and Carl has to tell him that he uses the morphine to pay for his and Alex's new hospital in Switzerland. They will all be moving to Switzerland soon. Alex says he can't ignore this. But dad asks him what about that help he got Alex to avoid enlistment in the German army?
A little boy is brought into the hospital with a bad pistol shot to the stomach area. His brother comes in with him. The doctor examines the boy and says he can do nothing for him. Anna is shocked and tells him that if he won't do anything for the boy, she will. He tells her that there are thousands of wounded men and he can't care for all of them. Anna tells him that he is "so cold". She goes to look at the boy, but Maria is already wheeling the boy's dead body out. The dead boy's brother blames himself for the death because he was the one supplying the weapon the boys played with. Now he wants to kill himself with the pistol. Robert sees this and starts talking in fluent German with the boy. He even does some magic tricks for the boy, who slowly gives his pistol to Robert.
Anna has been watching all of this. In private she tells Robert that he is English and the spy the Gestapo was looking for. As Anna is thinking about what this all means, Alex comes in. She tells him that she was just bandaging this patient's wound.
At bomber command Dresden and Chemnizt (a little west of Dresden) are chosen as two possible targets for dual bombing.
A woman runs into the hospital saying: "They shot us!" She tells Anna that they shot her husband. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the woman until Anna sees the back of her head where there is a terrible wound. Anna fights verbally with the soldiers that come in to grab the woman. She puts up such a resistance that the soldiers grab both Anna and the woman. They take them outside and line them up against a wall. The soldiers prepare to shoot the two women. Fortunately, Alex comes rushing out saying that they need the nurse to help save the wounded soldiers. So the soldiers let Anna go but they execute the other woman. Anna is upset by this near-death experience.
Anna continues to be upset. She goes to see the pilot in his bed. He sees that she has been crying and holds her and stokes her hair. They kiss. She gets in bed with Robert under the sheets and they have sex.
The next day Anna prepares for her engagement to Alex. She sees her pilot leaving the hospital and runs to get him. Anna tells him to kiss her to throw off the guards. Then she tells him that he has no papers and if the guards check him he will be imprisoned or killed. So the two of them run for it. The guards chase them but they dive into a church and get away. In the church Anna asks her pilot his name. He tells her it's Robert. But he also tells her that she must forget him. He is a British bomber pilot. She is shocked that he is not a spy, but a bomber that kills Germans. Her eyes fill with water and she runs away.
Bomber command gets its orders. The target is Dresden!
Tonight is the night of the engagement party for Anna and Alex. Alex introduces his parents to Anna and then to Anna's parents. Robert is outside watching the house. Anna gets another shock. Robert comes into the house dressed in a German officer's uniform. She walks over to him and asks him what he is doing here? She tells him he must leave. After all, this is he engagement. Robert asks: "Is it really?" He walks deeper into the center of the party. Anna grabs him and starts dancing with him. Robert tells her to come run away with him. She tells him that he bombs German hospitals and kills German soldiers and citizens. Robert says, well at least the hospital has enough morphine for all the wounded. Anna says this is not true, but Robert tells her that her father has a whole basement full of morphine. She tells him he is lying and tells him to get out of here.
The Gauleiter and other high Nazis arrive at the party. Robert runs to the hospital to bring back proof for Anna. He grabs some morphine vials. He returns to the party and puts the vials in Anna's hands. She is shocked once again. She walks up to her father and puts the two vials in his hand. Alex comes to her and Anna asks him how long has he known about all this involving the morphine? He starts to explain it away, but Anna stops him to say that he is a coward. This infuriates Alex. He says Anna is a poor little spoiled rich girl who has no idea of what life is really like. He had to attend ten hours of medical lectures and then go wait tables for a nickel.
Anna goes over to Robert and tells him to come with her. She also goes to the reverend of her church and asks him for his help. Anna also tells Maria that they have to get out of here. Maria tells her about the ship "Lilienstein" tied up at the dock. Anna then goes and gets Robert. They hide up in the attic until everyone leaves the party. Up there they have sex (off-screen). Anna asks Robert when will the war end?
The bombers are due over Dresden at 10 p.m. The Brits will come out first and the Yanks second.
Dad and Alex look for Anna and Robert. They get Anna's dog and tell him to find Anna. He leads them to the attic. They find the two in hiding. Alex is able to grab Robert's pistol (the one he took from the small German boy) and with it knock Robert unconscious. He then gives Robert an injection to make him sleep. Anna is taken downstairs and locked in a room.
Dad tells Alex that apparently his daughter hide an English officer. They plan to turn Robert over to the Gestapo after the women leave for Switzerland. Alex says the Gestapo will execute him, but dad reminds him that it is either Robert or them. Dad walks over to speak with the adjutant. He tells him that Anna found out about the morphine, so they are going to need those passes they arranged for right away. The adjutant tells dad that he doesn't have them with him. He will give them the papers tomorrow. Dad then announces to everyone that the party is over early.
Maria speaks with her husband who tells her that Budapest has been liberated and the Russians are at the Oder River. He also tells her that he has to deliver letters tomorrow coming from Dr. Ernst Neumark, Director of the Reich Jewish Organization. Maria starts crying. The addresses are to gather at the synagogue Friday morning. He then tells Maria that he is not on the list. She breathes a sigh of relief. When she leaves the room, Simon looks at the letters and takes out the one addressed to him. He lied to his wife.
The bomber pilots get their briefing. They are told that Dresden is a city full of German soldiers to be thrown on to the eastern front. The trip will be 1,600 miles there and back. The time of travel will be ten hours. They will attack in two waves with a three hour interval. Some 244 Lancaster bombers will arrive over Dresden at 10 p.m. In the second wave of bombers there will be 529 Lancasters. The officer in charge of the briefing says to the men: "Good luck lads. Get flying! And bomb the city until it burns!"
Mother comes in to give Anna some food. She tells Anna that dad has assured her that Robert will be put in a prisoner of war camp. Anna is not interested and will not eat anything. The train to Munich will be leaving at 10 p.m.
The weather forecast is given again. One of the high ranking officers doesn't like the idea of bombing Dresden and that perhaps, as it has been said, Germany is being over-bombed. His superior officer tells him that back in August of 1942 Churchill promised Stalin to destroy every building in every German city. And that's what they will be doing. The pilots get in their planes. William, Robert's best friend, questions attacking Dresden, but is told they have been told what they have to do.
Dad and Alex get the women together to take them to the train to go to Munich. Eva says she is not going, but her mother says yes she will. Alex gives Robert another sleep injection.
At the hospital Maria asks Alex where is Anna? She is very suspicious about what is going on. Her husband Simon delivers his first letter. He has to have the recipient sign for it.
William starts up his Lancaster bomber.
Maria sneaks into Anna's house. She lets Anna out of the locked room. Maria agrees to stay behind, while Anna goes to get Robert. She has a hard time getting Robert awake and standing up. She is foiled once again by Alex who has been keeping a close eye on Anna. All the women will be going on to Munich. Dad tells Anna that he told her that one day she would hate him and she doesn't say anything. The doctor drives with the women to the train station. The air raid sirens go off. Alex insists that they get on the train. But then the bombs start dropping and everyone panics and heads for the nearby bomb shelter. But as everyone pushes their way into the shelter, Anna, in the confusion, gets away from Alex, turns around and goes out of the shelter. But that stubborn Alex comes after her.
Anna runs down the street headed for home. Alex gets in a car and comes after her, but the car soon gets stuck on a pile of rubble in the street. He gets out of the car and runs after Anna. Anna, however, is suddenly stopped by a fireman who tells her it is impossible to get through because of all the fires. Alex catches up with her. They go into another bomb shelter. The civil defense fellow, named Fritz, refuses a Jew entrance into the shelter. (Meanwhile, Robert kicks a hole through the roof and gets out.) The whole shelter shakes when the bombs hit. Fritzís wife starts having her baby. Alex and Anna help with the delivery.
Outside in the streets Annaís father tries to steal an ambulance. He is stopped by a a group of people asking for help with the wounded. Dad says that he has to go to the station to help people. They say the driver is drying to escape. They open the door and pull dad out. A fellow takes dadís briefcase. He opens it just as dad dives for it and all the money in the briefcase flies out and into the nearby fire.
Fritzís wife holds her new baby. (The next wave of bombers knows the way to Dresden because the entire city looks like itís burning.) The door of the shelter starts burning and the people force open the door to get out. When Anna gets out she canít believe the destruction. Alex keeps grabbing her and she tells him to let go of her, but he still hangs on. Anna sees her dad walking around as if he were in a daze. A building wall collapses and lands on dad. He loses both his legs. Anna tries to comfort her father, but Alex pulls her away for fear of another collapse. An explosion occurs.
The second wave of bombers arrives. The bomb leader tells the men to drop bombs left and right of the fires. Dadís body is cremated by the fire caused by the explosion. Alex and Anna run right past Robert. Anna looks back and sees that it is definitely Robert. Alex wants to fight Robert off, but more bombs start dropping and they have to take cover. Maria and Simon come outside. Simon rips off the yellow Star of David on his coat. The fire storm is so strong that the winds start pushing Anna toward a fire. A mother walks by pulling behind her a burning baby carriage. Roberts grabs hold of Anna and then has to ask Alex for help to bring Anna to safety.
Alex says that they have to go underground and work their way over to the river. They go downstairs. They break a hole in a wall and look inside the next room. The people there are all dead of carbon monoxide poisoning. They make the hole larger and Alex goes through the hole first, followed by Anna and Robert. Robert and Alex, with a great deal of effort, manage to open a door to the next room. In the room there are many people praying. Anna walks through and sees her reverend. They keep going.
Robert goes down the next hallway first and the building collapses on him. Anna immediately starts trying to uncover him. She begs Alex to help and he finally joins in.
Maria helps a man up off the ground but then realizes that he is not Robert. She has become separated from Simon. Simon is having the same experience when he realizes the woman he is helping is not his wife but a strange woman. Maria and Simon call out for their other halves, but it is hopeless given the roar of the fires.
Anna finds that Robert is still alive, but his foot is trapped and he canít move. Anna starts digging a bigger hole to get to him and free him, but Alex keeps saying that they have to go. Robert joins the chorus and tells her to run. Anna goes with Alex but soon she is running back to free Robert. She digs a bigger hole and crawls into the room with Robert. She seals up the hole in the wall. She then frees Robertís foot. He tells her that sheís crazy. She should have gone. They both think they will die in the room.
But the next day Robert is surprised to see that he is still alive. He awakens Anna. Robert sees the hole in the wall through which they received fresh air. He grabs a loose section of wall and starts busting a big hole in the outer wall. When the hole is large enough so he can see outside, he finds that they are next to an open shaft. They crawl out of the hole and climb up the shaft to the street.
On the street they see the near complete devastation. We see that Annaís mom, sister Eva and Annaís dog Fritz are all still alive. A soldier executes Fritz, perhaps because he was holding a baby (his own) rather than doing his duty. Other survivors are seen that are known to Robert and Anna. The little boy Robert saved from suicide has survived. Maria is alive and finds her husband. They embrace. A woman sweeps her floor in an apartment with the outer wall completely missing. Alex has also survived.
Anna tells Robert that she loves him. He has a faint smile on his face. He goes to climb to the top of whatís left of the church known as the Frauenkirche and sees total devastation as far as one can see.
Anna as narrator says that Robert went back to England. A couple of months after the war he was killed in a plane crash. He was on his way back to Dresden for the birth of their daughter. In the 1,000 degree heat the sandstone of the Frauenkirche became so porous that it disintegrated. Some forty-five years later the Frauenkirche is rebuilt. (There are scenes from the opening of the new church.)
Good movie. Both my wife and I liked it. Interesting love story between a German nurse who despises British and American bomber pilots but still falls in love with a downed British bomber pilot. But mom and dad want her to marry the nice German doctor she works with. Anna, however, has a mind of her own and insists and persists in loving Robert. At times the struggles of the couple to get free of dad and Dr. Alex becomes a little too much because their plans are derailed too many times. The film really picks up steam with the fire bombing of Dresden. Perhaps in some ways the bombing was almost as bad as the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan (twice). There was no problem with radioactive poisoning but the bombings lasted for such a long time and the people suffered terribly as they tried to survive the fire storm. It was really like being in hell. I certainly have a better idea of some of the terrific sufferings of the people of Dresden in February 1945.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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