Directed by Robert Siodmak (1955)
Maria Schell (Pauline Karka)
Curd Jürgens (Bruno Mechelke)
Heidemarie Hatheyer (Anna John)
Gustav Knuth (Karl John)
Ilse Steppat (Frau Knobbe)
Barbara Rose (Selma Knobbe)
Carl de Vogt (Document Forger)
This film was based upon Gerhard Hauptmann's 1910 play Die Ratten. Hauptmann won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1912 for what was then considered to be stark, hard hitting drama about the problems of everyday working people. Die Ratten was about two women and one baby. The material is very dated and quaint by today's standards.
The film opens with a young woman, Pauline Karka, trudging alone through gray, post-WWII Berlin. She is leaving the British Zone and is asked for her papers. Dazed, she gives the police her name, and when they ask her what she is holding under her coat, she pulls out a doll and then replies "my child". Her papers are soaked in blood, and the police take her away. We next see a young girl, Selma Knobbe, rushing to a bar while pushing a baby carriage. She informs people inside, Karl and Anna John, that they are wanted at the police station. They go to the police, and a disoriented Pauline sees Anna John and screams "Bruno".
The movie now shifts back in time. Pauline is checking forwarding addresses at a post office, looking for a Herr Brennermann. He has apparently left his things at a moving and storage company, and she goes there. At the Karl John moving company, they know nothing of Herr Brennermann, and Pauline faints. Mrs. John (Anna) attends to Pauline, and when she awakes, Pauline tells Anna that she has been seduced and abandoned by Brennermann. Anna offers to buy Pauline's child as her husband has been wanting a child and she can afford to give the baby the best care. Also, Pauline can use the money to get forged papers and move to the west. Paulina reluctantly agrees.
Anna talks with Frau Knobbe, who has a sickly infant. Selma, her teenage daughter, looks after the baby and then visits Anna's brother Bruno. Bruno is a womanizing, amoral petty thief.
Karl John returns and finds out that he is a father. He is surprised that his wife had the baby at home, and she tells him that Bruno has been helping her. He is furious as he hates Bruno and has told him to leave. Meanwhile, Bruno quietly escorts Pauline away from the building. He suddenly remembers that her bed has not been stripped, and he races back to the warehouse only to be confronted by Karl John who accuses him of bringing in prostitutes to the warehouse. He orders Bruno to clear out. Anna, Bruno and Pauline go to the city hall and register the baby as Anna's. Outside, Pauline wants to see the baby, but Anna tells her it's best that she doesn't see him.
Bruno takes Pauline to get her picture taken for a passport. He tells Pauline that she can have other children later. They go to a Christmas carnival, and Bruno wins a prize. Pauline picks out a teddy bar. Afterwards they to to to Anna's apartment. She hides the baby and won't let Pauline give the baby the teddy bear. Pauline tells her it is Christmas, and as she is the baby's mother, seeing him is her right. Anna tells her that she has sold her baby; and as she has no papers, she has no "right" to him any longer. Anna threatens to call the police and slaps Pauline. Bruno yells at Anna who then apologizes. Pauline stomps out. Anna gives Bruno 600 marks to get Pauline new papers so that she'll go. Karl John comes in and wishes Bruno a merry Christmas as Bruno leaves. Bruno goes to Pauline's room and takes her money and tells her to keep away from the child.
Later Bruno see Karl John at the warehouse where he is told that is no longer welcome. Karl tells him that as a new father he will no longer be going away on long trips hauling furniture. Pauline goes back to the John's apartment. They are away at the baby's christening, and in desperation Pauline snatches a baby in a baby carriage, apparently unaware that this is Frau Knobbe's child. Meanwhile, Bruno sees a forger and arranges to get papers for Pauline and some for himself in the name of "Willi Koslovsky".
Pauline is at a train station, and another woman notices how sick Pauline's baby looks. They take the baby to the station's medical office, where worried nurses immediately summon a doctor. Pauline tells them the baby is hers and that he is two weeks old. She flees, but she leaves her things behind, and the medical office is able to trace the baby's parents. We next see the baby's funeral where Frau Knobbe is weeping over the death of her baby. Pauline shows up, and Anna tells Bruno that they would be better off if Pauline were dead.
Pauline leaves with Bruno, and they get drunk at a bar. He invites her to go to the west with him, and she tells him he's a coward and she's not going anywhere without her child. She dances crazily with another drunken man, and everyone greets the New Year. Bruno pulls a switchblade on some people who are annoying him at the bar. He then goes looking for Pauline. He finds her asleep at one of the tables and tells her they are going to visit his sister and see Pauline's child. She leaves with him. Outside the bar, Bruno accidentally drops his switchblade. Pauline realizes he is going to kill her, and she runs away. Bruno catches her, and in the ensuing struggle, Pauline picks up a rock and kills Bruno.
In a daze, Pauline walks off, and the scene shifts back to the opening scene at the police station at the beginning of the film. Anna and Karl John are there, and Anna opens a window and looks as if she is going to jump out as she watches Selma far below watching a baby carriage with Pauline's baby. Pauline stops Anna from jumping, and Anna angrily tells her that she was not trying to jump. She tells Pauline that she should just go away and leave her and Karl to live their lives with their baby. Karl John says "our?" and Anna realizes that her husband now knows the truth. Karl John tells the police to let Pauline go, and she runs out and goes to Selma and has a happy reunion with her baby.
In Hauptmann's original play, Anna kills herself by jumping out the window. The question of Bruno's attempted murder and Anna's role in that attempt are conveniently left unanswered, just as the happy ending has a woman reunited with her baby whom she didn't recognize a few days before! Apparently the filmmakers wanted "stark realism", but nothing too stark and settled for a sappy "Hollywood ending".
This is the only film that Carl made with Robert Siodmak and the rest of this cast.
This film has been shown on various German television stations.