The ruined city of Berlin in 1945. Dr Hans Mertens, a surgeon, tries to drown his nightmarish memories of the war in alcohol. His self-pitying existence is interrupted when the original tenant of the apartment where he is living returns from a concentration camp. Determined to make a new start, Susanne Wallner, a young painter, soon comes to terms with the situation; she wants nothing more than to finally be able to live her life, to work and help rebuild. A fragile love affair slowly evolves between the two until Mertens is appalled by an encounter with his former captain. This captain, a man named Brückner, was once responsible for the execution of innocent civilians and is now living a comfortable, unmolested existence in town as a manufacturer. Mertens determines to avenge these murders during Germany’s first peacetime Christmas. At the last minute, Susanne Wallner succeeds in averting his plan. Brückner is to be publicly accused at a tribunal; when confronted with the news he repeatedly declares: ‘But I’m innocent!’ This post-war film which, according to the Deutsche Kinemathek is one of the 100 most important German films ever made also features a marvellous performance by a young Hildegard Knef in her first major role.
by Wolfgang Staudte
with E. W. Borchert, Hildegard Knef, Erna Sellmer, Arno Paulsen
Germany/Soviet Occupation Zone 1946