Fernweh - The Ache for Distant Places

Synopsis: 

Feature Historical Drama inspired by a True Story.

A girl born in East Africa longs to go to Germany to be where she fits in, only to have her family dismantled in the wrath of Hitler’s regime.

This is an ensemble in which each of the family members struggles with the theme of BELONGING in their own way. However, the plot points pivot around the daughter EVA.

We begin at the start of the School Year. The English girls who dominate the school taunt Eva because she’s German and throw rocks at her. Eva’s been begging her parents to visit Germany for years and they never agree. But Eva saves her father RAINER by shooting a charging rhino on the plantation and he finally concedes.

At first, things in Germany appear wonderful. The economy has improved, the homeless people are gone. But then Rainer and his wife HELENA see JEWISH FAMILIES being led down the street with their belongings, and they realize everything is not as great as it seems.

The war breaks out. The Germans in Africa are interned by the English. They can’t go back. Rainer takes a job as a farmer for the government. To his dismay, he is sent to the Russian border to grow rubber plants. When he gets there, it’s immediately sacked by the Russians. He’s on the lamb for two weeks running through the winter forest and sleeping in sheds until he is captured by the Russians and sent to a POW camp.

Eva and her young female classmates are encouraged to get sperm donations to support the cause. She rejects everything that’s happening and joins the Youth Counter-Culture. They sneak into abandoned warehouses where they smoke American cigarettes and swing dance. The girls pluck their eyebrows and the boys where English caps.

Her brother LOTHAR joins the Hitler Youth. He’s determined to fight and bring his father home.

Helena discovers she’s pregnant. It’s all she can do to try to hold what remains of her family together while following the strict policies of the Government- ration cards for food and clothing, providing the cause of death and proof of Aryan ancestry back to 1800, and meeting with home inspectors.

Lothar’s Hitler Youth group has a street fight with the Youth Counter-Culture. Lothar tells his LEADER where the Counter-Culture hangs out. The Leader discovers their activities and catches Eva speaking blasphemy about the German Authorities.

Eva is sent to a Women’s Camp where they need people with little fingers to load toxic chemicals into bombs, which turns her skin and hair orange.

Finally the war ends. Eva barely makes it home. So does a Jewish girl they saw being led down the street when they first arrived in Germany. She used to live in their house and doesn’t know where to go now. All her family is dead.

Lothar sobs when he sees what the effort he believed in did to Eva and the Jewish girl. He gives the girl his room and vows to protect them. They invite her to live with them but she wants to find family and so they help her reconnect with her aunt in the South of France.

They receive a letter from Rainer and are relieved that he is alive. However, it is ten years before he gets a court date during which time he remains in a Russian work camp. At the trial, all the Germans are sentenced to 29 more years with hard labor.

The Jewish girl, through a letter, tells Eva the hardest part of being in a camp was knowing no one was coming to help her. She convinces Eva that even though her father is in Siberia, she must find a way to rescue him.

Eva stake’s out Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s office. She convinces him that although he made reparations for the Jewish people, he still needs to help the German people and get these 10,000 men home who have been held for ten years after the war.

Chancellor Adenauer goes to Russia and negotiates their release.

The men are released. They are shaven and showered. They wear identical trousers, zip up sweaters and caps. They are each given a bouquet of flowers.

They ride back in busses to the hundreds of family members who wait solemnly with signs of their lost loved ones. (The heartbreaking actual footage is on Youtube.)

Eva sees Rainer first and calls out to him. He comes over to the family, withered and aged, but so happy to be back in Germany where he belongs.

They go back to their home in the German mountainside where they all belong.

What makes this story different from other WW2 films is it’s about a regular German family and the consequences of having a war hungry government that can ruin your innocent life too even if you aren’t it’s intended target.

There is a lot more from the women’s perspective than we’ve seen. One of my favorite scenes is when Eva is on the train being sent to the women’s camp. The train is packed with regular looking German women, and women who look like men with their hair cut and slicked back, lesbians, political naysayers... It’s a cacophony of emotions as some women scream in anger while others sob.

We’ve never had a scene where the Jew comes back home and other people are living in their house. We’ve never seen how horrible it felt for someone who supported the cause to realize the destruction they supported and just break down sobbing.

We’ve never had a movie about the 10,000 German men who were kept in Russian POW camps for 10 years after the war. And evil Russians are timely!

This script is inspired by a true story. Everything from the father’s journey is directly from his journal.

Writer: 
Rosemary Griggs
Completion Year: 
2017
Duration: 
102 pages