Broken Lullaby

Synopsis: A young French soldier in World War I is overcome with guilt when he kills a German soldier who, like himself, is a musically gifted conscript, each having attended the same musical conservatory in France. The fact that the incident occurred in war does not assuage his guilt. He travels to Germany to meet the man's family.
Genre: Drama
Director(s): Ernst Lubitsch
Production: Paramount Pictures
  1 nomination.
76 min


This is a day of joy and happiness for all of us.

Let us be thankful that peace has come.

Peace. Let us look to our tomorrows

and forget our yesterdays.

Peace on earth to men of goodwill.

Father, help me.

I can't get away from his eyes!

I killed a man.




I am waiting for your confession, my son.

Father, I wasn't born to be a murderer.

I was a musician,

I played in an orchestra, first violin.

Oh, I used to be so happy!

My whole life was devoted to music.

I wanted to bring beauty to this world.

And I brought... murder.

There's no music left.

Nothing in my ears,

but the sound of a dying man.

You killed a man.

Why did you kill?

Why? Why? I don't know.

For no reason, for no reason at all

And he didn't even raise a hand

to defend himself

He just looked at me,

looked at me...

I opened his coat

I found more letters.

They were in German.

I could read them.

They make German boys learn French

and French boys learn German

and when we grow up

they make us kill each other.

Walter Holderlin, 22 years old.

Fallsburgenbahn, Berg Street, number 64.

The man I killed.

My son,

the agony of your soul

is quite unnecessary.

You may go forth cleared

in a conscience without a stain.

You are free from crime

Oh, father,

how could I have done it?

You have done nothing but your duty.



Duty to kill!

Duty to kill!

Is this the only answer

I can get in the house of God?

I give you absolution.

Not only for your sins,

but for your blasphemy.

Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis

in nomine Patris, et Filii

et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

I came here to find peace

and you haven't given it to me.

She lost her Son.

And she forgave the murderers.

And God will help you, my boy.

Come with me.

Come, my son.

Son! Son!

Yes, he was somebody's son.

He had a mother, too.

You must forget, you must calm down.

You think his mother,

if I came to her on my knees...

Quiet, boy, quiet, quiet. you think she could forgive me?

Why, of course she could,

but now you must forget.

Father, I know his name,

I know where he comes from.

I could go there!

We'll talk about that tomorrow.

No, no, Father,

I'm going to his country!

Yes, yes...

I'll see his people.

Yes, yes...

Father, you think I'm mad. Am I?

Nine million people got slaughtered,

and they're already talking about another war

and the next time there'll be ninety million

and the world calls that sane.

Well, then I want to be insane.

I killed one man,

Walter Holderlin,

and I can't escape.

And God knows I'm not a madman!

Go there, my boy,

to his country.

Go to his people.

God is with you.


Now, Fritz, you be a good boy.

Behave yourself. No more fighting.

I didn't want to fight him. He was bigger than me.

But what shall I do,

when he calls me a Frenchman?

Then you give him a good...

No, no, don't do it, don't do it, Fritz.

Hold yourself in,

and save it up for a real Frenchman.

You understand?

No, father

You will, my son, you will.

Goodbye, young man.

But nobody's gonna call me a Frenchman!

Great boy, he'll do.

I hope so.



How do you do, Frulein Elsa?

Herr Schultz,

how many times have I told you?

Don't scold me, Frulein Elsa,

I didn't come here to see you.

I want to consult the doctor.

I'm a sick man, very sick!

Heart trouble.

Well, Herr Schultz, what's your trouble?

Doctor Holderlin,

I'm afraid I have to disappoint you.

I'm not a sick man.

On the contrary,

I wouldn't be here if I weren't

in perfect physical condition.

Doctor Holderlin, I came here to talk with you about Elsa.


I, I don't...

I know.

A delicate matter, doctor.


We must trace the facts.

What are the facts?

She was a young girl,

she was engaged to a young man

who died bravely on the field of battle.

May I take this opportunity

to express my heartfelt sympathies?

Your son was a hero, a hero.

But I'm sure this is the reason

that must be extremly painful.

Let's not discuss it, please

Quite right, let's not talk about it,

let's forget it.

War is over, life must go on.

To make a long story short,

I wish to marry Elsa.

Is she in love with you?


Considering my business and social standing

I hardly think there will be

any objection from the young lady...

Did you say something, doctor Holderlin?

Not yet.

And, doctor, let me assure you:

I'll do everything that I can

to help you forget the load... loss of...

What was the name of your son?


What a coincidence!

My name's Walter too.

You are absolutely right, Herr Schultz.

Life must go on.

That's exactly what Walter said

before he left.

Now remember the date

given in his last letter.

Elsa, promise me this:

if anything should happen to me,

if I thought your happiness would be ruined,

then indeed death would be better.

Very touching.

I know exactly how you feel.

No, you don't.

If you did, Herr Schultz,

you wouldn't be here.

I wonder if I can have a minute with Frau Holderlin.

Don't you dare!

Herr Schultz, leave those two people alone.

Leave me alone.

Leave the four of us alone.

Goodbye, Herr Schultz.

I only want to be with him a few moments.

He was so young. So young.

A fine boy.

He would have been twenty today.


Doesn't seem possible.

How time flies!

It only seems like yesterday

since I put 17 candles on his birthday cake.

He was such a tall boy!

Nearly six feet.

But he was such a puppy!

Prancing round, always falling over things.

And always hungry.

It's a wonderful thing

to watch a growing boy eat.

How he liked cinnamon cake!

How did you know?

He was always around my kitchen

Saturdays when I baked.

He never told me.

He loved it.

How do you make cinnamon cake?

Well, you take a cup of flour

and a half a cup of shortening

and a dash of baking powder

and two cups of sugar...

Two? Ah... I always use one.

Oh, well...

I'll know better next time.

Don't cry anymore, my dear.

They must be somewhere,

our boys,

and I'm sure they can see us.

I don't think they'd like us

to be crying all the time.

We must learn not to weep

and to love what we have left.

There are so many years ahead of us.

Father, you had a hard day today?

No, no, no. Wonderful day.

Everything was fine. Great day.

Marvelous soup.

You know?

I think good times are coming back again.

Why, the whole town

is beginning to look different!

You should see the things in the shops now!

Why, yes, you'd hardly believe

there was ever a war!

That's the truth, isn't it?


Good evening

Want to see the doctor?


Someone to see the doctor.

I told him, "The doctor is having dinner".

You shouldn't send pople away

I didn't. I just said,

"The doctor is having dinner".

However, I said,

"I can talk with the doctor, and, maybe..."

but he said, "No".

He'll come back some other time.


Coming here to see the doctor

and then doesn't want to see the doctor.

Seemed to be rather relieved.


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Samson Raphaelson

Samson Raphaelson (1894–1983) was a leading American playwright, screenwriter and fiction writer. While working as an advertising executive in New York, he wrote a short story based on the early life of Al Jolson, called The Day of Atonement, which he then converted into a play, The Jazz Singer. This would become the first talking picture, with Jolson as its star. He then worked as a screenwriter with Ernst Lubitsch on sophisticated comedies like Trouble in Paradise, The Shop Around the Corner, and Heaven Can Wait, and with Alfred Hitchcock on Suspicion. His short stories appeared in The Saturday Evening Post and other leading magazines, and he taught creative writing at the University of Illinois. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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