A city in the eastern territories of Germany at the end of the Second World War. The residents flee, only a doctor and his three daughters remain. And end up in the middle of the battles with the advancing Soviet and Polish soldiers in Aleksander Ford's magnificent drama that deals with guilt, responsibility and atonement; a parable about humanity in dark times.
For Inga, a young German, peacetime begins with a rape committed by former Polish forced labourers. With her father, a doctor, and two younger sisters, they are almost the only Germans who did not flee from the advancing Red Army. A pair of Polish officers, both recently escaped from prisoner-of-war camps, also stop at their house. And Jan, the Pole, defends Inga from further attacks. At which point Inga's fiancé, an SS officer, returns to town. And the showdown begins ... Based on the stage play by Leon Kruczkowski, grand old master Aleksander Ford filmed a chamber-drama-like parable about guilt and revenge, atonement and forgiveness. Inclusive of captivating moral debates about the brutality caused by war and the possibility of peaceful coexistence in the future. The nuanced views of the German and Polish characters point to the humanistic credo of the author and director: the preservation of human dignity even at the gates of hell. RS