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West Germany / Switzerland, 1973 (MIFF 1974)

Director: Maximilian Schell

Heinze Giese, an ageing German industrialist, has recently been in a car accident in which his eldest son was killed. Because Giese crossed through a red light, he has lost his driving licence and is now a 'pedestrian'.

The death of his son starts him thinking about his previous life and his own death. Meanwhile, the editor of a popular newspaper suspects a story, and initial research brings to light incriminating circumstantial evidence.

A Greek woman alleges that Giese was the German army officer who shot her child during the liquidation of the villages in the Second World War. There is no clear evidence, but the newspaper prints the story, which blows up into a major political storm. The case is discussed on television and leads to demonstrations among the workers in Gtese's factory.

The film is about guilt, death and fate: its lone set by a quotation from Joyce, "history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake". Maximilian Schell has assembled an impressive cast which includes Gustav Sellner, head of the Berlin opera, as the industrialist, and Peter Hall, head of Britain's National Theatre, as the crusading newspaper editor. Equally impressive is the group of ladies of the European theatre, including Peggy Ashcroft, Elisabeth Bergner and Lil Dagover.

'The acting is brilliant and the editing delicate and expert.'

Frankfurt New Press

'. . . eminently a political film which holds up to us a mirror of the world and reality in which we live.'


'The best German language film of the last ten years.'

Photoplay, London

Film Critics Award, Chicago.

See also...


Directed and co-written (along with leading players Franke and Levy) by Helmut (not the actor) Berger, this fast, funny, furiously paced romantic thriller has been favourably compared to Beineix's ... More »

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