From: "Ivan Mansley" <ivanman dsl.pipex.com>
Sent: Friday, September 17, 2004 8:00 AM +0100
DIE ZWEITE HEIMAT: PART 9: THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER; FRAULEIN CERPHAL, 1965
I read somewhere that Parts 9-13 of Die Zweite Heimat were only written after Parts 1-8 had been filmed and that there is a change of mood beginning with this episode. Of course, the stories are all interesting and we want to see how different characters develop and how the different plots and threads unfold, but this episode seemed flatter than the preceding 8, or was it just me? I was less emotionally involved; less moved, perhaps.
Fraulein Cerphal's "story" was less than compelling and somehow her "twenty missing years" were never very plausible to me. There is sadness and melancholy, but I wonder whether these feelings were fully conveyed to the viewer; whether these emotions were felt through the images. The title of the episode is taken from a piece of actual dialogue. Juan purports to read Fraulein Cerphal's character and her past from a pack of cards which he has asked her to cut. Having turned up the Queen of Diamonds he tells her, "You are the eternal daughter", and whilst admitting he has gained his information from observation and questioning, not the cards, he goes on to accuse her of knowing that Herr Gattinger had betrayed Edith [Goldblaum's daughter] and that she had allowed this because she was in love with Gattinger. [Edith was taken to Dachau concentration camp, only 20 kilometres away, where she died.] He adds, "You know to whom your house belongs" and we have already seen her dying father's concern about this. It does not belong to her. However, even if faintly reluctant, by the end of the episode she has arranged to sell the villa to a property development company who are
planning to build 150 flats on the site, making her a very rich woman. Assets are seized and sold off! Reitz is depicting through the Cerphal story the history of Germany. There is a skeleton in the Cerphal past. There is a darkness in Germany's twentieth century history which many people try or tried to suppress. It does feel unduly schematic to me.
I was more interested in the way Reitz links scenes and episodes. Elisabeth Cerphal is asked by Juan to cut the cards with her left hand. Her dying father has something wrong with his right hand. It looks like a claw, and in the scene where he begins to write his last will and testament he writes uncertainly with his left hand, whilst the camera has focussed on his useless right hand with all its raised veins showing. Volker brilliantly plays Ravel's Piano Concerto in D major for the left hand only. Perhaps others might like to discuss the significance of this. When Hermann leaves the Conservatoire with his diploma he uses it as a makeshift umbrella. [I noticed a reflection in the piano lid again/see his entrance examination but there was no cheating this time]. In the very next scene we see Fraulein
Cerphal on her way to Cerphal Verlag with an umbrella which refuses to close and is abandoned on a road bridge.
When Alex finds Juan engaged in origami he exclaims, "From a philosophical point of view you're going mad, Juan." Juan certainly becomes the invisible man, as well as the obsessive man. He goes to visit Hermann, sees him engaged in bathing the baby, and vanishes. Hermann only sees a shadow on the wall of the stair-well. He approaches the restaurant where Volker and Clarissa are celebrating the former's concert success with champagne. Mrs.Lichtblau notices him through the window but then he is gone. He is the eternal outsider and loner! One notices how the episode begins and ends with Juan constructing his mosaic of an Indian/Aztec god in the garden [in place of the clef?] whilst wearing his funny, boat-shaped paper hat. He knows that the villa will be torn down but he wishes to finish. There is something pathetic about him. Earlier we had seen him in the foyer of the theatre where Volker is playing. He witnesses Volker's triumph through pushing a door ajar, but then walks disconsolately away. He senses his own failure and his own loneliness.
Hermann has retreated into domesticity but bemoans the fact that no one ever visits him anymore. One senses that things are not quite right between Hermann and his wife, Schnusschen. Three times she asks him whether she and the baby are in his way, and three times he does not answer. She promises to ask again for a fourth time the following day. Hermann does seem, however, perhaps surprisingly, to be quite a good father. As a husband he is less convincing. "Don't worry, I'm fond of you", is a pretty feeble declaration of love.
What of Clarissa meantime? She returns from America where she has had some success in a recording studio and invitations to perform in concerts in Boston and San Francisco, as she corrects her mother. Her hysterical anguish about the damage to her cello in the baggage hold of the plane is moving. The cello "waited 200 years for me." She is still a tortured soul. Her other's open hypocrisy is almost amusing. Volker, the one-time sex-fiend has become a great pianist and that in her words "changes your feelings". He can stay in her home, and, like Juan before him, is presented with a toothbrush. Volker and Clarissa are presented by Reitz as a very attractive couple, and one wonders whether she will find happiness here. There is an underthread about Dr. Kirchmeier's love for her [present of pearl ear-rings; "You've grown even lovelier in America".] but this must be doomed, even if she does lead the old man on a little.
It is amazing how one can miss things of significance on first or even second viewing. I will return to this in a moment. Part of the plot concerns Fraulein Cerphal's visits to her father's publishing company, now in public hands, in order to retrieve, on her dying father's instructions, a brown envelope and other items from the safe in his locked office, which no one else is allowed to enter, as it turns out. Her first visit is at dead of night, when she manages to set off a burglar alarm and is arrested as a suspected criminal. There is a certain amount of suspense here. What will she find? Will she be discovered? On her second visit she is treated as an honoured guest. There is apparently a contract in existence, granting her father access to his old office for life and also to other members of the family. The present management are "astonished" but showing true Germanic discipline <vbg> they are supposed never to have gone in to the office. There is some nice by-play where they show themselves to be desperately curious about the contents of the office and its secrets, but pretend not to be so. She opens a photograph album where she upturns a picture of her father in Nazi uniform. We are only given a glimpse as she moves hastily on. There are secrets locked away in German history. It is "a sacrosanct office". Reitz is telling us this. Throughout the episode there is great stress on locked entrances, master keys, keys dropped in puddles [Juan], forced entries and so on. The past, however, cannot help Elisabeth Cerphal. She begs, "Say something father", and then we have a camera shot of her father's empty leather chair. I shall return to that chair, as the film does!!
On her third visit, at night as was the first, she finds her father's war-time pistol wrapped in a cloth. She accidentally discharges it and the bullet would have killed anyone sitting in the chair. The camera hones in on the bullet hole in the back of the chair. I have written in my notes, "She has symbolically killed her father?!" We are given the exact time of this event, because she asks one of the security guards who have rushed to the scene, for the time. She is told 12.30 a.m. I had not realised the significance of this detail, nor had I understood the significance of Frau Ries giving the time of Elisabeth's father's death as 12.25 a.m. Exactly the same time as she fired the pistol!! Elisabeth Cerphal sees the symbolic significance, doesn't she? Watch her face! It was only on my 3rd note-taking viewing that I registered this.
Helga is at the head of the spouting left-wing student protestors who invade the villa. She has continued to torment Stefan by declaring she is pregnant but that the baby is not his. Olga is worried by dreams and female anxieties. Renate descends ever further into cheerful vulgarity!
Now 5 questions:-
1. Immediately after the picture of Elisabeth Cerphal's grandmother is unwrapped on the gravel outside the sanatorium there is a single shot of a boat on a lake under the setting sun. There is no explanation. Has it something to do with the painting? Or is it pointing to some future event? The death of Reinhardt, for instance. Or is it just a shot of a location at the bottom of the neighbouring parkland with no immediate relevance at all?
2. Elisabeth Cerphal mentions to her father on his death-bed that Evelyne will sing at the Paris Opera. Is that our Evelyne, the beloved friend of Ansgar? Father Cerphal appears to understand. We did not know he knew her, did we? Perhaps it suggests the interwoven nature of all the lives we have participated in or is a remnant of an old script?
3. Father Cerphal wants the landscape picture on the wall facing him to be replaced by a picture of Elisabeth's grandmother, his mother I take it! "I've looked my fill at it", he says [of the landscape]. There is a shape at the top left of the painting, which looked like a skull to me. Father Cerphal suddenly becomes terrified at the sight of it, cries out, and pulls the sheet over his head. Was he reminded of his own mortality by the sight of this shape? Does the enormity of death suddenly terrify him or have I misunderstood?
4. When Volker and Clarissa visit the shop where Clarissa's cello is being repaired he asks her about a photo on the wall of her old room. Which photo was it and what is the significance of the question?
5. I did not understand the final dialogue between the Professor and Elisabeth at the Conservatoire. She asks whether he will encourage her further studies. He answers both No and Yes! Can anyone explain?
I hope all the above will help fellow lovers of this film to enjoy, appreciate and understand this episode of the film. If not, the fault is my own.