Broken Lullaby (1932) - full transcript

A young French soldier in World War I is overcome with guilt when he kills a German soldier who, like himself, is a musically gifted conscript, each having attended the same musical conservatory in France. The fact that the incident occurred in war does not assuage his guilt. He travels to Germany to meet the man's family.


Paris, November 11, 1919.

The first anniversary
of Armistice Day.

This is a day of joy and happiness
for all of us.

Let us be thankful
that peace has come.


Let us look to our tomorrows

and forget our yesterdays.

Peace on earth
to men of goodwill.

Father, help me.

I can't get away from his eyes.

I killed a man.




I am waiting for your confession,
my son.

Father, I wasn't born
to be a murderer.

I was a musician. I played
first violin in an orchestra.

I used to be so happy.

My whole life was devoted to music.

I wanted to bring
beauty to this world.

And I brought murder.

There's no music left.

Nothing in my ears but the sound

of a dying man.

You killed a man.

- Why did you kill?
- Why?

I don't know.

For no reason.
For no reason at all.

And he didn't even raise a hand
to defend himself.

He just looked at me.

Looked at me.

Whom am I going to kill and for what?

For two years I lived in Paris
and I loved the French.

And now I am told to kill them."

"They can't kill everybody...
Maybe I'll be lucky.

I can't write any more.
The earth is shaking.

Auf Wiedersehen, Auf Wiedersehen."

I opened his coat.
I found more letters.

They were in German.
I could read them.

They make German boys learn French
and French boys learn German.

And when we grow up
they make us kill each other.

Walter Holderlin.

22 years old,

Falsburg, Baden.

Berg Street, number 64.

The man I killed.

My son,

the agony of your soul
is quite unnecessary.

You may go forth clear and
of conscience without a stain.

You are free from crime.

Father, how could I have done it?

You have done nothing but your duty.

My duty?


Duty to kill?

Duty to kill?

Is this the only answer I can get
in the house of God?

I give you absolution,

not only for your sins

but for your blasphemy.

I came here to find peace

and you haven't given it to me.

- She lost her son.
- And she forgave the murderers.

God will help you, my boy.
Come with me.

- Come, my son.
- Son? Son?

Yes, he was somebody's son.
He had a mother too.

You must forget.
You must calm down.

Do you think his mother,
if I came to her on my knees...

- Quiet, boy, quiet.
- You think she could forgive me?

Of course she could.
But now you must forget.

Father, I know his name,
and where he's from, I could go.

We'll talk about that tomorrow.

No, father.
I'm going to his country.

I'll see his people.

Father, do you think I'm mad?

Am I?

Nine million people
got slaughtered

and they're already talking
about another war.

And the next time
they'll be 90 million.

And the world calls that sane.

Well, then I want to be insane.

I killed one man,

Walter Holderlin,

and I can't escape.

God knows, I'm not a madman.

Go there, my boy,

to his country.
Go to his people.

God is with you.


Now, Fritz, you be a good boy.

Behave yourself.
No more fighting.

I didn't want to fight him,
he's bigger than me.

But what should I do
when he calls me a Frenchman?

Then you give him a good...

No. No, don't do it.

Don't do it, Fritz.
Hold yourself in.

And save it up for a real Frenchman.

Do you understand?

No, father.

You will, my son.
You will.

Goodbye, young man.

But nobody's going to call me
a Frenchman.

- Great boy.
- He'll do.

I hope so. Some day.

How do you do, Fraulein Elsa?

Herr Schultz,
how many times have I told you?

I didn't come to see you.
I want to consult the doctor.

I'm a sick man, very sick.

Heart trouble.

Dr. Schultz,
what's your trouble?

Doctor, I'm afraid I have to
disappoint you. I'm not a sick man.

On the contrary, I wouldn't be here
if I weren't in perfect condition.

Dr. Holderlin, I came here
to talk with you about Elsa.

Elsa? I don't...

I know, it's a delicate matter,
but we must face the facts.

What are the facts?
Here's a young girl,

she was engaged to a young man

who died bravely
on the field of battle.

May I take this opportunity
to express my heartfelt sympathies.

Your son was a hero.
A hero.

But I'm sure this bereavement
must be extremely painful.

Let's not discuss it, please.

Quite right,
let's not talk about it.

Let's forget. The war's over.
Life must go on.

To make a long story short.
I wish to marry Elsa.

Is she in love with you?


Considering my business
and social standing,

I hardly think there will be
any objection from the young lady.

Did you say something?

Not yet.

Doctor, let me assure you,
I'll do everything that I can

to help you forget...
the loss of...

Wasn't the name
of your son Walter?

What a coincidence.

My name is Walter too.

You are absolutely right,
Herr Schultz. Life must go on.

That's exactly what Walter said
before he left.

I remember the day.

And even in his last letter...

"Elsa, promise me this.

If anything should happen to me,

if I thought your happiness
would be ruined,

then indeed
death would be bitter."

Very touching.
I know exactly how you feel.

No you don't.
If you did, you wouldn't be here.

I wonder if I could have a minute
with Frau Holderlin?

Don't you dare. Herr Schultz,
leave those two people alone.

Leave me alone.

Leave the four of us alone.

Goodbye, Herr Schultz.

I only want to be with him
a few moments.

He was so young. So young.

- A fine boy.
- He would have been twenty today.


It doesn't seem possible.

How time flies.

It only seems like yesterday

since I put 17 candles
on his birthday cake.

- He was such a tall boy.
- Nearly six feet.

But he was such a puppy.

Romping around,
always falling over things.

And always hungry.

It's a wonderful thing
to watch a growing boy eat.

How he liked cinnamon cakes.

How did you know?

He was always around my kitchen
on Saturdays when I baked.

He never told me.

He loved them.

How do you make cinnamon cake?

Well you take a cup of flour
and half a cup of shortening,

and a dash of baking powder,

- two cups of sugar.
- Two?

I always use one.

Well, I'll know better next time.

Don't cry anymore, my dear.

They must be somewhere,
our boys.

And I'm sure they can see us.

I don't think they'd like us
to be crying all the time.

We must learn not to weep

and to love what we have left.

There are so many years
ahead of us.

Father, you had a hard day today?

No, no. A wonderful day.

Everything was fine.
A great day.

Marvellous soup.

You know, I think good times
are coming back again.

- The whole town looks different.
- You should see the shops now.

Yes, you'd hardly believe
there was ever a war.

It's the truth, isn't it?

- Good evening
- Good evening.

- Want to see the doctor?
- Yes.

Someone to see the doctor.
I told him the doctor is eating.

You shouldn't send people away.

I didn't. I just said
the doctor is having dinner.

However, I said, I can talk
with the doctor, but he said no.

He'll come back some other time.
Peculiar fellow.

Comes here to see the doctor
and then doesn't want to.

Seemed to be rather relieved.


A Frenchman.

He's been here before.

I got suspicious of him
so I talked to him.

You know what he did?
He gave me a tip.

10 francs.
French money.

Dr. Holderlin?

Yes. Come in.

Come in, sit down.

- Doctor, I don't know how...
- Just a moment, please.

Be seated.


Paul Renard.


Hotel Kaiserhof.

A stranger here, huh?

- Yes.
- Where are you from?


A Frenchman?


A Frenchman.

Yes, I am.

That can't be possible.

Let me look at you.

It's hard to realise.

A Frenchman sitting here,
under my own roof.

Get out.

- Get our of my house!
- No.

I came here to see you.
You must listen to me.

Oh, France is talking, huh?
Victorious France.

- Dictating, giving orders.
- Doctor, you must understand.


There can be no understanding
between you and me.

Millions of dead lie between us.

A dead world!

- You were a soldier?
- For three years.

And you're alive.

You killed Germans?

- I...
- Shut up!

The French killed him.

To me, every Frenchman
is a murderer of my son.

What can I do for you?


Oh, pardon me.


- She was there.
- Where?

I just came from
the grave of your son.

From my son's grave?

I am Walter's mother.

Welcome to our home.

Let me look at you.

A Frenchman...

Putting flowers
on my son's grave.

Thank you for the flowers.

You knew Walter?


- You met him in France?
- Yes.

- In Paris?
- And you didn't forget him.

I can't forget him.

God bless you.

Please, forgive me.

But here I am in the house
where he lived

with his father,

his mother


His fiancée.

His fiancée.

I cam here to talk about him.
And now...

Oh God!
It's so difficult.

You don't know what it means to us
to have you here.

It's just as if
you've brought Walter back again.

- Tell us about him.
- Everything you know.

Everything you remember.
How did you meet him?

- When did you see him last?
- Tell us about when you last saw him?

When I saw him... the last time...

He was happy?


He was very happy.

- It was in Paris?
- Yes, Paris.

We went out together.
Two friends.

We went out together,
we had a great time.

A wonderful time.

What an evening.

You made them very happy.

And me too.

I'm glad my coming
was not a mistake.

Oh, no, no.

It was inspiration.

That could only have been
given to you by God.

You made us feel alive again.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Do you like that dress?

- Yes, I like it very much.
- Well you're wrong.

That dress is for a brunette.
Here is a dress for you.

Listen, I'll tell you a secret.

Remember, you must not
repeat this to a soul.

It's a French model.

- It's really very pretty.
- Made for you.

I haven't sold you a dress
in a long while, Fraulein.

It's about time you got one.

Let me tell you, a young girl
should keep up with the styles.

It's bad to be left behind.

This is good for four years, because
it's two years ahead of the style.

- Come in and slip it on.
- No, thanks. I haven't time today.

I tell you what, as it's you,
I'll make a special price.

- Take it away for 295,50.
- Some other time.

walking along by the wall.

- Did you really see it?
- With my own eyes.

Good morning.

- After you, Fraulein Anna.
- We're in no hurry.

Five lamb chops please.

Did you say five?

Yes, five.

And tomorrow I want pig's knuckles.
Also for five.

Yes, Fraulein Anna.

And don't think you'll get one word
out of me about that Frenchman

- Not a word.
- What Frenchman?

You know very well what Frenchman.

The one who is in love with
Fraulein Elsa.

- In love?
- He doesn't know it, but he is.

- I'll be back in a minute.
- Me too.

Frau Everett!

Frau Schmidt!

Frau Oberkirtner!

Frau Kugel!

Come and look.

Adolph, look.

I can hardly believe
it's Wednesday already.

No, Paul, it's Thursday.


How the days go.

I love this little town.

I wish you could stay here.

Is there very much
you're missing at home?



- Elsa...
- Yes, Paul.

- A toast, gentlemen.
- Prost!

Now gentlemen,
if I walk in Paris

on the boulevard I expect to see
Frenchmen, naturally.

And plenty of them.

In fact, too many.

- Prost.
- Prost, Herr Schultz.

Prost, gentlemen.

But when I walk
on a German street

in a German city,
under a German sky...

- Pardon me, there's no more goulash.
- No goulash?

Why print it if you don't have it?

There is enough of our country
occupied by foreign soldiers

- Who knows if they'll ever leave?
- Why don't they let our cities alone?

- Well, bring me sauerbraten.
- Yes, sir.

And a juicy piece!

Gentlemen, let us face the facts.

Sauerbraten for Herr Schultz,
plenty of fat.

- Who is this Frenchman?
- That's what I'd like to know.

What's his business here?


I may as well tell you.

I've come to the conclusion
he's a spy.

The porter told me he has
in his room

a violin case, locked.
He never opens it.

Doesn't surprise me at all,
not at all.

Now, gentlemen,
let me ask you one little question.

What is in this violin case?

What can be in this violin case?

Maybe a violin.

There you are,
that's what's wrong with us.

Always trusting,
believing anybody.

A Frenchman comes along
with a violin case, locked, mind you,

and we take it for granted
it contains a violin.

We never learn.

Well, my friends, good morning.

Same round table, same chairs,

same old friends

and Herr Schultz.


- Nine beers, please.
- None for me, please.

All right. Eight beers.

Better make it seven, doctor.

- One beer, please.
- Yes, sir.

I hope I'm not intruding.

Not at all, doctor.
Very glad to have you here.

In fact, we were
just thinking about you.

Well I'm not sorry I came then.

Why don't you bring
your friends along?

You mean my friend.

Well maybe I will.

He came here from France

to put flowers
on my son's grave.

He is my guest.

My wife likes him,

Elsa likes him.

And I love him.

Well, there's only one thing left.

Let's sing The Marseillaise.

I haven't done any singing,
Herr Schultz, since my son died.

- And who killed him?
- And my son?

- And my son?
- And my two sons?

No one here can tell me
the meaning of death

or the meaning of hatred.

I've drunk deep of both of them.

And so, I tell you,
have the French!

Who sent that young man out
to kill Germans?

And who sent my boy,

and your boy, and your boy,

and your two boys?

Who gave them bullets
and gas and bayonets?

We, the fathers!

Here and on the other side!

We're too old to fight

but we're not too old to hate.

We're responsible!

When thousands
of other men's sons were killed

we called it victory
and celebrated with beer.

And when thousands
of ours sons were killed

they called it victory
and celebrated with wine.

Fathers drink to the death of sons!

My heart isn't with you
any longer, old men.

My heart is with the young,

dead and living,

everywhere, anywhere.

I stood in front of this hotel
when my son marched by.

He was going to his death,
and I cheered.

Excuse me. You were a friend
of Walter Holderlin, weren't you?

May I introduce myself?
Schultz is my name.

- You're from Paris, aren't you?
- I am.

- Going back soon?
- I don't know.

Oh, you ought to stay here.

Of course,
I guess Paris is a great city.

Lots of fun there.

Pretty girls. But then I guess
there's nothing wrong with our girls.


you're not having
such a bad time here. How about it?

If you say one more word...



My bill, please.
I'm checking out.

Yes, sir. Right away.

- Has Paul come?
- Father, will you lie down?

I'll tell you when he comes.
You've had a very exciting day.

Yes, I told them.

What time is it?


have you ever stopped to think
that some day Paul may leave us?

No. Elsa...

I know.

But when I first met you
you were living in Dresden.

Now you're living in Falsburg.

Are you going to lie down,
or aren't you?

- Good afternoon, Herr Paul.
- Good afternoon.

How are you, my boy?

Come on, take off you coat.

Elsa. Elsa!

Yes, father?

- Pretty, huh?
- Beautiful.

I'm very happy.


Yes, Paul?

I'm going away.

You're going away?

I came to say goodbye.

You're going away? Why?


Yes, mother.

That was worrying me.
It breaks the line.

- Thank you, mother.
- Now it's nicer.

What is it, Paul?

Tell me.

I... I have to go to Paris.

But... you're coming back?


Look at me, Paul.

Now, tell me.

I don't belong here.

Go on.

- The whole town will tell you.
- What?

Elsa, I've got to go.
I have no right to be here.

Who has a better right?

I love you, Paul.

No, Elsa.
It can't be.

- You don't know what you're saying.
- You love me too, and you know it.

God help me.
It's true.

What are you afraid of?
I'm not afraid.

My conscience is clear.
I'm willing to face everybody.

I'll walk up the street with you,
arm in arm.

Let them open
their windows and doors.

Let them look. I'll tell them:

"Yes, we love each other.
Yes, the war is over."

Yes, the war is over!

And he's dead, buried underground,
and I'm alive,

in his house,
and in love with his...

And what of it?

"Dearest Elsa."

This is his last letter.

It was written the day...

the day he died.

The 22nd of October.

It was found by his body.

He wrote it to me,
but he meant it for both of us.

"Here I am in the trenches.

Any moment an attack
might begin.

I have a revolver, a gun,

a bayonet and a hand grenade.

And before God,
I don't know why.

Whom am I going to kill?
And for what?

For two years I lived in Paris
and I loved the French.

And now I am told to kill them.

The noise is getting awful.

How much longer will I live?

And when I die,
who will benefit by it?

Elsa, promise me this.

If anything should happen to me,


if I thought your happiness
would be ruined,

then indeed death would be bitter.

Don't show this letter
to father and mother,

it might frighten them.

Maybe it will never reach you anyway.

The noise is getting worse.
You can't imagine.

The French have opened up.
It's going to be a terrific battle.

But they can't kill everybody.
Some of us will be left. Maybe..."

"Maybe I'll be lucky.
I can't write any more.

The earth is shaking.

Auf Wiedersehen, Auf Wiedersehen."

You read his letter before.



I read it...

I read it... in the trenches.

Who are you?

- Answer me.
- I didn't know who he was.

He was a German soldier,
I was a French soldier.

- There was an attack...
- You?



I killed him.

Now may I go?

Why did you come here?

- What did you want from us?
- Forgiveness, mercy.

I wanted to confess, but I couldn't.

Why did you stay here?

Why didn't you go away
the next day? The day after that?

Mrs. Holderlin, There's something
I want to say to you.

Yes, Paul?

I'll say it for him.

Sit down, mother.

Mother, for three years
you've suffered.

There's been nothing
but grief and emptiness.

But, mother, it's over.

It's over now.

That is what Paul wanted to tell you.

His life too
was shattered by the war.

He had nothing to live for.

And then, he came here.

Like a blessing.

And you, mother,
you opened your doors wide.

You took him into your arms
and he...

He returned your embrace.

Mother, you smiled again.

It took you out of hell into heaven
and he won't drop you back again.

No, mother.

Paul loves you.
Paul is going to stay here.


They must never know the truth.
They mustn't even guess it.

Let me go, Elsa.

Run away, kill yourself.
That's easy.

And leave them behind
with two sons to forget.

I won't let you.
You won't kill Walter a second time.

- You're going to live for them.
- Live? Here in this house?

- Face them every day?
- You've got to do it.

- You'll be here looking at me?
- I don't matter. Neither do you.

It's them we have to think of.

My son.

You mustn't be afraid
to make us happy.

Take it, my boy.