War and poetry, cobbler’s nails and revolution. The catastrophe of the First World War descends on a sleepy provincial backwater somewhere in Russia. And the cobbler has always worked there, in this petit-bourgeois hole. On Sundays, the women stroll by the village pond. Russians and Germans live together peacefully alongside one another as next-door neighbours. Suddenly, however, the cobbler's sons have to depart to the front, and the old German has to abandon his house. Not long afterwards, the first prisoners of war arrive. The cobbler's daughter gets involved with one of them, and some of the Russians almost beat the life out of him. But her father needs him: “He is not a German, he's a cobbler!” At some point, the soldiers at the front become tired of fighting: the revolutionary spark ignites the spirit of revolution at home, too. The German and the Russian cobblers march as one.
With a twinkle in his eye, and a touch of melancholy and muted revolutionary pathos, the director, Barnet, a great utopian, received nothing but devastating criticism from the press. Nowadays, not only are audiences delighted by his theatrical talent and masterful “poetic montage”, but his pacifist-internationalist view of world war and revolution can unfold their full impact for the first time.
Print courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna