Germania anno zero (Germany Year Zero) (1948)
Director: Roberto Rosselinni.
Starring: Edmund Moeschke (Edmund Köhler), Ernst Pittschau (Il padre), Ingetraud Hinze (Eva Köhler), Franz-Otto Krüger (Karl-Heinz Köhler), Erich Gühne (Il maestro, Herr Enning), Jo Herbst (Jo), Babsi Schultz-Reckewell (La figlia di Rademacher), Alexandra Manys (Amica di Eva), Hans Sangen(Herr Rademaker), Karl Krüger (Il medico), Christl Merker (Christl), Gaby Raak (La donna di generale), Inge Rocklitz (Rifugiata), Heidi Blänkner(Frau Rademaker), Barbara Hintz (Thilde).
young German boy suffers from the hard times following the end of WWII
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
The movie was shot in Berlin in 1947. Berlin was almost totally destroyed and 3.5 million Germans live a terrible, desperate life. "They are tired." German children need to relearn to love life.
Twelve-year old Edmund is thrown off his job digging graves because he is not at least fifteen years old. He returns home to tell his family. His father is bed-ridden with a very weak heart. His mother is dead and he is cared for by his sister Eva. He also has a brother, Karl-Heinz, who was a German soldier in Russia and elsewhere. The father is always yelling at Karl-Heinz because he did not register for a food card and does not look for work. (He is probably a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder.) Eva says that their situation is getting desperate. Eva goes out at night a lot, but she never seeks a marriage partner. She is still waiting for the return of her beloved Wolf. Five families live in their half destroyed apartment building in Berlin.
Edmund runs into his old school teacher (who to a modern audience would appear way too touchy-feely to be left with a child). The teacher brings Edmund to his house and gives him a record of a speech by Hitler to sell on the black market. Edmund is introduced to a young fellow named Jo and a girl named Kristel. The teacher tells Jo to watch over Edmund and Jo agrees. Jo has a bar of soap that he sells to people on the streets or on the subway and then runs away with the money without giving the buyer the soap.
Allied soldiers are shown the entrance of Hitler's bunker and where his and Eva Braun's bodies were burned.
Kristel is all alone in Berlin. Edmund tags along with her and the two of them sleep out all night. When Edmund returns home his father slaps him for staying out all night.
The police raid the apartment building. Karl-Heinz starts to hide because he has not registered. He stops himself and tells his family that he is tired of hiding. He tells the police that he has no identification and he is taken to the police station and held there.
Edmund's father has another attack and is put in the hospital. The son visits his father in the hospital. His father is sad because he thinks he is a burden to the family and mentions that perhaps it would be better if he were dead. Edmund looks carefully at the medicines on his father's bedstand.
Edmund starts acting very strange. He seems to be very emotionally distant from others. His father is home from the hospital and Edmund surreptitiously fixes a brew that his father thinks is a bitter tea. The father drinks the liquid and later dies. When Karl-Heinz returns home he is very upset to learn from his sister that their father is dead.
Edmund goes to see Kristel, but when she is teased by the older boys about being involved with the young Edmund, she rejects Edmund saying: "I don't get involved with kids." Edmund is very upset by Kristel's rejection. He wanders through the city. He tries to ball soccer with some younger children, but they do not want him to play with them.
Edmund goes to see his old school teacher. He tells the teacher that "I killed my father." The teacher is immediately horrified and frightened by Edmund's act and calls him a monster. Edmund's teacher is afraid that he will somehow be blamed for influencing the young boy to kill his father. Edmund leaves.
Edmund is all alone. He wanders through an abandoned building across from his apartment building. His sister Eva calls for him and a number of people start looking for Edmund. Edmund hears them calling for him but he ignores them. He takes off his coat and goes to the edge of the apartment building. He throws himself off the edge to his death on the concrete below.
A short movie of only 71 minutes, but still a good one. It is very interesting looking at all the destroyed or half-destroyed buildings in the Berlin of 1947. Most of the streets are very clean, but they had to be rescued from all the building rubbish which has still not been cleared. No people ever deserved their punishment more, but still there are a lot of innocent German victims as is the young boy Edmund. The family, environmental and economic stresses on Edmund prove too much for him in the end. He is another victim of Hitler's brutal regime. It felt strange listening to the supposedly German residents of Berlin speak Italian, but I reminded myself that if Americans had made the movie, the actors would be speaking English. Rossellini had also done a movie about Italian youths after World War II.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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