Hermann My Father (1987) Movie Script

1944, on the morning of June 6th.
German occupying forces in France
defend their Atlantic fortifications
against the vastly superior strength
of the advancing Allies.
In vain.
In these bunkers
all the soldiers will die,
buried in the rubble
that collapses all around
and on top of them.
My father wasn't one of them.
Not any more.
My father is still alive.
You're still alive, Father.
You learnt French
and France has always meant a lot to you.
Can you tell me a little bit
about what France means to you?
Yes, I like the country,
the sea that almost surrounds France.
And the French people.
Their way of life.
Their politeness.
You also used to read French books.
You also used to read French books.
What did you read?
Guy de Maupassant, for example.
"Mademoiselle de La Seiglire."
We read it at school too.
And Balzac...
I read some of his work.
And Jules Verne.
I can just about put them
on an equal footing.
These were books you read as a boy?
- Yes.
- You read Flaubert.
Flaubert too.
Gustave Flaubert, yes.
Yes, but now,
being here 45 years later,
the last time I spoke French,
it is of course difficult
to remember it all again.
The older you get,
the worse your memory becomes.
And your memory becomes less...
You forget individual words and then...
then it is of course difficult
to speak fluently.
It was also very difficult for you
to come back to France at all.
Am I wrong about that?
Memories of the war never fade.
They always remain quite vivid.
And then of course...
quite clearly
you have to show some reticence
towards the people
you have hurt so much.
My father.
In 1940, you were a soldier in France.
In 1944, you were in Greece or Russia.
Weapons of death and destruction
that rained down
in this attack on France.
And finally for the French people,
Freedom from the German occupiers.
The Allies landed here.
From here they advanced
towards the German border.
The war went on for almost a year
after this devastating raid.
The occupying forces came here
in June 1940, of course,
and we were under Nazi occupation
until the 6th June 1944.
Was it hard
being under Nazi occupation?
Yes, it was very hard
and above all oppressive.
We had to work
for the occupying forces
and anyone who refused,
was deported to Germany.
Sadly, many never returned.
But you still honour this cemetery
which has lots of Germans in it.
When soldiers are buried
after they die,
you have to honour them.
For the sake of future generations,
this page in history
must teach them about peace
and ensure
that they never experience war.
And it has to be said
that the soldiers who were here
weren't all Nazis.
Of course.
From the contact we've had,
we found out that many of them
were forcibly enlisted
and they were obliged,
as we were,
to put up with the Nazi regime.
My father didn't join
the National Socialist Party.
That's why he was forced
to become a soldier.
So, as you say,
it's up to future generations
to make sure they don't repeat...
- such things.
- The errors.
I think the best thing
for future generations
is to get to know one another very well
and, as others have said,
to love one another.
So why didn't you join the Party?
I was the son
of a primary school teacher.
And it was common knowledge
that primary school teachers
were democratically-minded.
And that was the case with us as well.
Other primary school teachers
from neighbouring villages
met up with each other socially
every Saturday,
at a different teacher's house
each time,
and teachers were not exactly
the most stupid people.
And therefore I had to admit
that the comments they made there,
against the Hitler regime and so on,
gave me plenty of food for thought
and for that reason
I continually put off
joining the Party.
Although I was put under pressure
from many sides,
I became convinced,
from the conversations
of these teachers with each other,
that under Hitler's regime
we would end up at war again.
And that's why
I didn't join the Party.
The consequence of this whole business
was of course that these teachers...
that one teacher after another
was replaced.
Including my father.
His place was taken by a young man
who was already trained
in Hitler's ideology.
You were one of the first
to be called up.
This German military equipment is still
left standing on the Normandy beaches
to rust away.
After 40 years.
Oh, Inge.
You're there. Good.
I'm phoning from this call box...
A lifelong love for this woman,
my mother.
A love of France whose border
you had to cross like this.
As a soldier, as the occupier.
And witness what your fellow countrymen
created there.
A pile of rubble.
France, 1940.
Entering a country you love
like this.
On these vehicles, tanks, machines,
in this uniform.
France, 1940.
You say you never shot anyone.
That's what they all say.
If nobody had fired their guns
there wouldn't have been this war.
Can you enter a country as a soldier
on these tanks, these machines,
without firing your guns?
You must also have been afraid
that you would be shot at
when you invade like this.
Forgetting Flaubert, Maupassant,
forgetting that you thought
you loved this country,
and you go marching in like this.
I look for your face here.
One of them must be you.
No, you were in a truck
during the invasion,
setting up lines of communication.
Trying as little as possible
to be an enemy.
But the others around you came here
as the enemy, and so you did too.
Did you find the place
where you were stationed in 1940?
I was here in the spring of 1940.
There were lots
of these little houses...
You tell Philippe Collin
what it was like.
It's easier than telling me.
In that house.
Four or six in one house.
So these little wooden houses
were fishermen's huts?
Yes, perhaps. I don't know.
But on the other side of the dunes
was the exercise ground.
How did the day unfold?
What did you do all day
in Coutainville in 1940?
At five o'clock in the morning,
we bathed in the sea
and at seven o'clock
we had breakfast.
Half an hour later,
there were exercises
down there.
And the corporal would be like this...
"Eyes left!"
Eyes left.
No definite article.
"Eyes right!"
"Eyes straight ahead!"
Yes, and then...
...lots of running.
And, "Lie down!"
We got down like this
on the ground.
And, "Get up!"
Et cetera, et cetera.
Three hours non-stop.
- In a room like this...
- Yes?
...there were six or eight soldiers.
- But they slept in bunk beds.
- One on top of the other.
At the time
you sent these postcards home.
French towns lay in ruins
after your invasion.
Well, if it doesn't affect
the Germans...
It did affect them.
As early as 1940. Fear.
These photos of Saint-L date
from around 1900 to 1920,
but this is the town you knew
and the town I knew too.
I was ten, or nine even.
And the houses no longer exist
but the places,
or what we could see of them, existed.
On the wall of this building here,
I remember seeing, in 1940,
a black-and-white poster
showing a German soldier
carrying a little boy in his arms
and handing him a jam sandwich.
And written on the poster was:
"Trust the German soldiers."
In this street here,
the parents of a school friend of mine
ran a newsagent's
and I saw the newspaper there in 1941
when the Germans invaded Russia.
I remember it well.
And you left soon afterwards.
- You left Saint-LG in about 1941?
- Yes.
This is the police station.
You might remember that.
The town hall.
The clothes date from around 1910
but apart from that, nothing changed
between then and 1944.
It still resembled the 19th century
in 1944.
This is the Champ de Mars,
the post office.
- What else is there?
- Ah, the post office?
- Yes.
- The square in front of the post office.
Yes, the Place du Champ de Mars.
I received a telegram
from my father-in-law,
announcing the birth
of my daughter, Emma.
Inge? Oh, good.
Yes, so how are you?
Very well, yes.
It's so nice here.
You wouldn't believe it.
OK, see you later!
So the French flee
from their ruined homes
at the time I was born, 1940.
My parents were not murderers.
But they couldn't stop the war either,
which affected them
again and again.
One person alone couldn't stop it.
Many wanted to stop it,
as you say.
So could Hitler alone carry on with
the war against the wishes of so many?
What am I meant to believe?
What can I believe?
I'm your daughter.
So, listeners,
at this moment
you represent the nation abroad.
And I'd like to put
ten questions to you,
that you along with the German people
must answer
before the whole world,
but especially our enemies
who are also listening to us
on their radios right now.
Is that what you want?
The British say
that the German people have lost
their faith in victory.
I ask you:
Do you want total war?
If necessary, do you want it
to be more total and extreme
than we could ever imagine it
to be today?
You wore such a uniform too.
When they saw you in it
in occupied countries, they hated you,
not you as a person -
they hated the material,
the uniform, the insignia,
and you hid behind it,
for those who Hitler's war
had conquered,
which wasn't your war
and yet it was your war.
I expect
that the war will end in such a way
that those who can still stand
on two legs
will rob those who are lying
on the ground.
Did you see the Germans arrive?
The Germans? Yes.
I watched out of my kitchen window.
I watched them pass.
There were endless convoys going past.
They were going up to Cherbourg.
That stayed with me.
It's unthinkable.
I remember,
my father was a hunter
and his hunting dog
was on the other side of the road.
And I saw one of the Germans
leave his convoy
to pick up the dog
and take it with him.
My father was a hunter
and he really loved his dog.
Naturally, he thought
things had got off to a bad start.
My parents were farmers.
We had quite a few cattle
and when we came back,
we found none.
Everything had disappeared.
So my brother and I
had to find work after the war.
There was nothing here for us,
so we each took up a profession.
I became a mechanic
and my brother a pastry cook.
I worked as a mechanic
for a number of years
and then I became a sales rep.
I spent my days
driving all over Normandy.
And one day,
I was in a customer's attic.
I was installing a television aerial
and as I passed the wire
over the roof,
I put my hand on a German rifle,
a Mauser.
It brought memories of the war
back to me.
And after, that I collected
anything I found from World War II,
piece by piece,
and I built these models.
And I've ended up
with this museum
with 121 models on display.
So that's how
the collection came about.
You were stationed here one winter.
I've got my rifle, for example.
Every one of us had a rifle.
But with my rifle I never...
I never fired a single shot!
Throughout the whole war.
You walked through these autumn leaves
in your green uniforms,
longing for leave,
your family, your home,
and carried the war with you
deep into the innocent woods.
Oh, there you are.
Oh, how lovely it is
to hear your voice again.
Yes, I've arrived here in Bagnoles.
Yes, yes.
Everything OK at home?
Yes. Splendid!
So I'll be with you again
in 10 to 14 days.
Goodbye, see you then. Yes.
How long were you away from Mum
at that time?
6 1/4 years.
And you had leave now and again,
didn't you?
Yes, two weeks once a year.
And the rest of the time you were afraid
you would never see your wife again?
Yes, I was very afraid
before the Russian campaign,
but I was posted just in time
to Greece and then everything was OK.
And then when you came back,
everything had changed terribly.
Yes, it certainly had.
You too?
Yes, one is bound to be changed
by a time like that spent in the army.
Tough military service
changes everyone.
And your wife had changed too?
Yes, I guess she was a bit depressed
after such a long time on her own.
Until I...
Until I was four,
I wasn't really aware of you at all,
and then I only had a father...
because you were away a lot then too,
I only had a father for a very short time.
- Yes, yes.
- Brief moments.
Unfortunately, that was the case.
And therefore
I always really found it so difficult
to imagine what sort of relationship
I could have with you.
Yes, a proper family.
You told me that the kitchen was here.
Yes, the kitchen was here.
Our field kitchen was here.
The big truck with the...
The big truck was here.
And at the back there was a stove
and a field kitchen on it.
And that's where the soldiers got
their meals, the soldiers of my company.
And they just sat all around,
or what was it like?
No, they sat down wherever
they could find somewhere to sit.
They sat down there.
Otherwise, they took
their meals standing up.
- Just standing up?
- Yes, out of their mess tins.
- That's not nice either.
- No.
And spoons and forks
were joined together with a hinge.
Oh, yes, I know that.
Everything was made of aluminium
and quite light.
It was really...
- ...not a very pleasant life.
- No.
- When you think that...
- No, but you get used to it.
The casino.
A place for officers.
Forbidden for ordinary soldiers.
At this time
you were an officer cadet.
You organised supplies
because you spoke the best French.
Wine, beer, champagne for the casino.
Beer for the troops.
Was there dancing here?
Yes, but not very often.
On Saturdays, if at all.
Saturday night to Sunday morning.
What sort of women were here?
Were they from France?
I can't say,
but they came in cars and...
I don't know where they came from.
I can't say.
You weren't here much?
No, I was only here
if there were any special matters
to deal with,
when something happened.
For example, when someone drunkenly
shot and smashed a chandelier,
when they were celebrating a birthday.
Show me this chandelier.
Then I was ordered
to get it repaired.
Everything has changed a lot here,
hasn't it?
Yes, it has changed.
These chairs and these tables?
Yes, I think
they were different as well.
But here...
That's not the chandelier?
These aren't the same chandeliers, no.
They were...
It was different.
Did they play roulette here as well?
Yes, I believe so.
But you were never in the room?
No, I was never there.
And over there was the hotel
you stayed in?
That was the hotel, yes.
Do you know which floor
and what kind of room?
Yes, on the first floor,
third room on the left.
- And now it's...
- ...closed.
Yes, it was here.
Here on the first floor.
The third room.
Have a look along here.
Peter stayed in here. That's right.
And Heinrich next door.
All right.
Oh, yes.
Such a long time ago!
Half a lifetime ago.
Grand Htel Bagnoles.
Htel Des Thermes.
After the French army surrendered
it was handed over to you,
the German occupiers.
- Good day, sir.
- Good day.
- Are you looking for something?
- Yes, yes, yes.
We'll be more comfortable
talking inside.
- Thank you.
- Come in.
- Sit down.
- Thank you very much.
My name is Hermann Sanders.
I'm German, as you know.
- I'm Mr Tertre.
- Yes.
My name is Auguste Tertre.
I was born round here
so I know it well,
and the time when it happened.
During the war
I met a Mr Zolar.
He was a gardener
here in Bagnoles-de-l'Orne.
- He was at the Grand Htel.
- Yes.
I was in his garden,
in his big garden.
The big garden on the other side
of the casino.
I like flowers.
- And we got on very well together.
- You became friends?
Did you watch him growing his plants
in the greenhouses?
They left soon afterwards.
- He left?
- They left.
I don't know whether he died here.
I can't remember.
But he was replaced in 1942.
- As early as 1942?
- 1942.
- He was replaced at the Grand Htel.
- Right.
Why did Zolar have to go?
Because he had been your friend?
"What sort of times are these
"in which a conversation about trees
is almost a crime,
"because it implies silence
about so many atrocities?",
said Brecht.
I've never seen a tree
quite like that before.
Come and see.
Look at all the branches.
- The trunk and the branches.
- There's hardly any trunk.
The branches start
one metre from the ground.
All the branches start from here.
You can see here.
It's exactly the same.
- Ah, yes.
- All of them.
- These are individual branches.
- How wonderful.
It's not a central trunk.
I've made enquiries
and there are two like this in France.
You who loved the French,
spoke their language,
what did you think
when they went past you like that?
You didn't want to come back here.
You were afraid of the streets
because they were so full
of these memories.
France, 1940.
Germany, 1945.
As if history could have a conscience.
As if there could be revenge.
And it is still easier to talk
about roses than about people.
- Good day, madam.
- Good day, sir.
- Come in.
- May I?
- Yes.
- I see you have red roses.
In my garden in Germany
I have roses too.
- You are German?
- Yes, I am German.
I was here in Bagnoles
in 1940 and 1941.
- Very good.
- For six months.
I think I recognise you.
- That's possible.
- Yes.
- Did you have a laboratory?
- Yes.
And a photography shop.
Photography, perfumes.
So you are Mrs...
- Mrs Chef.
- I am Mrs Chef, yes.
- We always called you that.
- Always Mrs Chef.
- So you left Bagnoles for Russia.
- Yes, Russia.
- In 1941.
- Yes, yes.
- I went to Russia.
- You did.
When you left for Russia
some soldiers came to my shop
to get their photographs
because they were leaving for Russia
and they took lots of blankets
because they were worried
about the cold.
What did you do at the Grand Htel?
What was your role?
Your daughter said you had a car.
I had a car, a Buick,
and I used a truck
to buy beer and food.
- Provisions.
- Yes.
I'm trying to imagine you
as a German soldier
with your uniform.
- Did you wear a cap?
- Did you bring any photos?
Did you bring a photo of that?
- A lot of your fellow soldiers died.
- In Russia.
- A lot of soldiers.
- A lot of soldiers, yes.
In your regiment, the 39th?
You were in the 39th regiment?
- I don't know.
- I think you were.
There were 500 soldiers with me.
- That's right.
- One regiment.
- There were between 400 and 500.
- 500 soldiers.
- And when you came back from Russia?
- Three companies.
And how many of you
came back from Russia?
Only me.
- Only you?
- And one other comrade.
- Only two?
- From Thessaloniki to Berlin.
- I see.
- You were lucky to get away.
You were young.
How old were you then?
I was 30.
My husband was called up
in June 1940.
In June 1940?
He was called up in June.
He had already fought
in World War I.
World War I?
He left for the front in 1914,
at the age of 17.
He died on the 11th June 1940.
I had a car then.
I went to the hospital
to see about burying my husband.
And...there were military convoys,
refugees on all sides.
I'd never seen anything quite like it.
I don't know how I got through,
the roads were so busy.
There were military trucks.
There were refugees.
There were the poor children
who were lost.
- I saw a little girl.
- They were all evacuated.
This little girl was looking
for her mummy and daddy.
I said to her, "What are you doing?
Where is your mummy and daddy?"
"I don't know.
I want them. I want them!"
That was the war for you.
Of course I was on my own.
With my daughter.
My daughter was only 11 then.
This is what France looked like in 1940.
Worse still, Russia in 1942.
Every country you invaded
looked like that.
A father, a child from a people
that these countries
have since recognised as murderers.
That's what we are.
You say nothing.
You don't want to speak.
You want to forget.
To grow old, be kind. To forgive.
We are helpless.
- Ah, hello.
- Hello.
How are you?
Did you sleep well?
Yes, I slept well, very well.
- Yes, ten hours.
- Ten hours!
That's a lot. Yes!
The schoolchildren of Bagnoles
are going to recite a poem for you:
"I Salute You, My France"
by Louis Aragon.
"I salute you, my France."
"I Salute You, My France,
with your soft grey eyes
"However great my torment,
my love is undiminished
"My France, my cause,
both old and new
"Soil sewn with heroes,
sky full of sparrows
"I salute you, my France,
where the winds have calmed
"My France of forever,
whose geography
"Opens up like a palm
in the sea breeze
"So the sea birds
can alight safely
"Home to both dove and eagle
"inhabited by valour and song alike
"I salute you, my France,
where the wheat and the rye
"Ripen in the sunshine of diversity
"I salute you, my France,
where the people are skilled
"At jobs which brighten up our days
"People will come from afar
to salute you in your city
"My beloved Paris,
besieged in vain for three years
"Now happy and strong again
and wearing, as a scarf
"This rainbow as a sign
there will be no more thunder
"This freedom
with which the silent harps quiver
"My France from beyond the deluge,
I salute you"
Louis Aragon.
We will now list the dead.
1914 to 1918.
- Gigot.
- Died for France.
- Legeay.
- Died for France.
- Nugues.
- Died for France.
- Vittecocq.
- Died for France.
- Brancherie.
- Died for France.
- Allard.
- Died for France.
- Jardin.
- Died for France.
- Vaugon.
- Died for France.
- Chauvire.
- Died for France.
1939 to 1945.
- Tournelier.
- Died for France.
1948 to 1949.
- Brillant.
- Died for France.
In their memory, we will now observe
a minute's silence.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends.
There are no words
moving enough
to express how happy I am
to be among you today.
I would like to thank the mayor
and all those who have contributed
to the success of this day.
My compliments, too,
to all the ladies
who have embellished,
with their charm and their smiles,
this most enjoyable day.
I raise my glass to friendship,
to the brotherhood of all
and to peace.
One of them was in the resistance
and a prisoner of war in Germany,
the other was part
of the German occupation in France.
That's me in civvies.
Whenever I got a fortnight's leave,
my uniform...
This gentleman says he was working
at the Grand Htel when you were there.
Oh, yes.
- Perhaps you recognise him.
- We transported...
- Food?
- Food.
Yes, that was me.
Full of life.
And I bought the kitchens
at the Grand Htel.
- Yes, yes.
- I live there now.
- You live there?
- Yes.
- My father is delighted to see you.
- This is the lady I told you about.
- She still has her bar.
- We meet at last.
I'm very happy
to see you again.
Me too.
- So you remember him fondly?
- Yes.
- He wasn't a bad man?
- They were no bad men here.
I've told her all about you.
I'm still at the caf.
I'm still running my caf.
We'll come and visit you.
- Tomorrow.
- I'll bring him in.
- Will you be open tomorrow?
- Yes, yes. Just knock.
- Cheers.
- Cheers.
- Hello.
- Good evening.
- Are you well?
- Yes.
- How are you?
- Very well.
- And you?
- Me too.
- Will you have a drink with us?
- Yes.
You departed from Bagnoles
on these tracks.
On your way to Russia.
You told me very little.
I want to believe you.
It is better for me.
All the same,
I want to be able to love you.