7 May 1999 | wilt
An excellent examination of post-war Germany's remorse over how militarism plunged the country into a war that killed so many of its sons, and how a former enemy become one of those "sons."
This early-sound film appeared fourteen years after the end of the "Great War." Lionel Barrymore, as Dr. Holderlin, the father of Walter, a German soldier killed in that war, provides a stirring metaphorical introspection into the militaristic bravado that inspired so many young Germans to march, and caused so many to die. Dr. Holderlin's comments at his "Stammtisch" (a cafe table reserved for town notables) are, for the time, surprisingly deep and revealing. He confesses he was caught up in the romance and pageantry of flags, trumpets and columns of uniformed young men marching off to meet the enemy. He believes he, together with others who shared those views, was as much responsible for his son's death as the enemy.
But it turns out the enemy, in the form of Paul, the French soldier who killed Barrymore's son, is as remorseful as the good doctor. Paul and Walter knew each other before the War. Paul's guilt that he was the cause of Walter's death drove Paul to Germany in an attempt at closure. There he met Walter's family and Elsa, Walter's sweetheart. Everyone's guilt and grief create in Paul a kind of eerie substitute for Walter. The film ends with Paul playing on the violin a lullaby similar to those Walter had played before the War.
*Broken Lullaby* is an excellent anti-war film, much in the *All Quiet on the Western Front* genre. It is unfortunate that it has not over the years received the critical attention it deserves.