Der brennende Acker/The Burning Soil (F.W. Murnau, 1922) (German/English)


THE BURNING FIELD THE DRAMA OF AN AMBITIOUS MAN
IN SIX ACTS FIRST ACT God help us! This is a night as if
the old man from the field was haunting again! God give him peace. Don’t
talk about such tales in this house. So he was worried day and night,
that he could not disengage his thoughts from the wasteland –
as if the devil in person fooled him, and he ordered his peasants and servants
to hard soccage, to dig a shaft, for he fancied, a treasure lay… The old man Rog is on his deathbed.
Shall I look in on him? I don’t want you to walk out of
the house in such a night… Has Johannes still not arrived? Gerda, for two months
not a single word from you! Anxiety and longing
is nearly killing me. Johannes travels to
his seriously ill father. I’ll accompanying him to meet you.
Lellewel Don’t you want to come with me
downstairs to the spinning room? To hear the fairy tale about the
Devil’s Field for the umpteenth time? Johannes still hasn’t arrived. Could you get the priest, Maria?
The end is not far off… Why the hell don’t you
take the direct route? At night, not even ten horses
make me move past the damned chapel. You will drive the straight way.
My father dies…! No, I won’t tell it,
the count has forbidden it. Tell it, Mary! I like to hear
those old tales! On the spot where the
expiatory chapel is today… …him Satan in person, and he ordered his peasants and servants
to hard soccage to dig a shaft, for he fancied,
a treasure lay under the field, and he would not find peace
until he had found it. Lord, don’t dare too much.
Soil that bears no fruit is accursed. While the flames were put out
and, in expiation, a chapel was built, no grass, no tree has ever grown on the Devil’s Field. And whoever has to pass by
crosses himself. Take care of Johannes. I think
he’s too ambitious for a peasant. He shall stay on the farm
and marry Maria. Too late… The pastor is on his way. The peasant is dead. Then Johannes has arrived
too late after all. Why do the dogs howl so loud
in the village? Death is passing by. And if I do not succeed to get
on the secret, my heirs shall not pause with searching and digging
until they have found the treasure of Devil’s Field and be
blessed with its benefit for humanity. Still nothing… END OF THE FIRST ACT SECOND ACT Excuse me for bothering you so early.
I’ve just arrived from the city… Gerda’s last letters unsettle me a lot. You sent for me, father? Lellewel has come. How much longer do you want
to put him off with your whims? I can’t stand this any longer. You have to decide whether
you want to marry him or not… Pardon me, my horse is waiting. For the peasant, bread is sacred.
Johannes, don’t play with it. I want to talk with you, Johannes. Neither to work nor to meals
you come on time. You were born on this soil,
but you care less for it than a stranger. …or maybe you grudge me the farm? I flout the Rog farm. Aren’t you ashamed to scoff at
the soil where you were born? I have breathed the big world’s air. I cannot live as a peasant anymore,
in low rooms crushing me, among people as dull
as their own cattle. Master, shall I hook up
the sorrel or the white horse? You will have to be satisfied with
my company for now, Ludwig. Gerda has ridden out. If you don’t want to stay on the
Rog farm, call on my father. You always got along well with him. Will you like to tell us
about your trip? My new secretary. I am here, ’cause I can’t bear
the uncertainty any longer, Gerda. When will you finally become my wife? I don’t know! END OF THE SECOND ACT THIRD ACT Are you going to ride out with
Johannes every day? Do you mind it? Johannes knows how to do it, doesn’t he? They are riding together again! Jealous – that little bride? I’d like to ask you, Peter, if you could need me
as a housemaid on the Rog farm. That way I could still believe
that Johannes will return some day. If you can spare a moment for me, Gerda,
I want to talk a few words with you. But you are convinced, too, that under the so-called Devil’s Field
a potent petroleum well is buried? Unless all our calculations and
investigations are mistaken… yes! Are you convinced, Gerda, that your
fiancé will have no objections against your daily
pleasure rides with Johannes? I must have set up my last will,
Johannes. I have no time to lose! I won’t be tyrannised
and if Ludwig wants it… I, Josef Emanuel, Count of Rudenburg,
state in full possession of my free will and mental power: In case of my death, my daughter Gerda, being born in my first marriage with
Clarisse Rudenburg, née Countess Calas, is to inherit my entire estate including
all my properties, manors and castles, to dispose with it at her own will. To my wife Helga I bequeath the plot
of ground known as the “Devil’s Field”. Furthermore I decide that for
lifetime she shall retain the right to live in Castle Rudenburg.
Josef von Rudenburg As the wife of your father I forbid you to further expose yourself with Johannes
to the ramblings of people! Would you care about the
honour of this house so much if Johannes preferred
riding out with you? That would be an aim… Even if I loved you more
than my life, Johannes, and if I perish from solitude
and need of my heart…! Nothing in the world could bring me
to betray my husband’s honour. So you love him? Yes, I love him! And you, Johannes?
Do you love Helga? After you wrote with your own hand
how miserly I remembered Helga in my testament, your “Yes”
must come from a sincere heart. According to the doctor I will live only
a few more weeks. Your patience will not be put to a very heavy test. From now on, you can marry me off
at any time and to whom you want. It is all the same to me. END OF THE THIRD ACT FOURTH ACT The second matrimony. If this amount is gained within 24 hours, we are willing to enter into
further negotiations with you. At last! The Devil’s Field…
I must go to the city… And the immense treasure that
lies in the soil of the Devil’s Field only needs to be dug up! One day like the other.
One night like the other. Shall my life perish from the burden
of this inheritance? What can I do for you, Countess? Why don’t you call me Helga. After
all, you are my brother-in-law! Peter, you are the most respected
peasant of the village. They all come to you with
their worries and desires. Don’t you know anybody in this region
who would buy the Devil’s Field from me? Hardly anybody of this region
will buy the Devil’s Field. It brings bad luck. And what use
would a peasant have for it. Our company offers you
the sum of twenty millions for abandoning your rights
to the Devil’s Field. Then I must try to find a buyer
in the town. How much would the lot cost? Twelve thousand marks? That’s quite a plenty of money for
barren soil. Would you accept a purchase price
of 25 million marks? As for me, I have no intention at all
to sell the Devil’s Field. For me the only point is
to exploit the petroleum field with your financial help. But twelve thousand marks are
worth doing for me if I can forestall the town people. We’re going to put the deal into
writing… for better or for worse! I confirm herewith that I have sold my
lot called the Devil’s Field to Peter Rog for the sum of twelve thousand marks.
Helga Rog widowed countess Rudenberg. I have the honour of telling you that the Minister of Trade would be
pleased to receive you this afternoon. The government expresses its gratitude
and recognition to you. By tapping this immense treasure you render
a great service to the whole country. END OF THE FOURTH ACT FIFTH ACT The next day Johannes drove back
to Castle Rudenberg – a lucky man! He believed now to possess all that
he had ever dreamed of: Power and money. Where does this money come from? It is what the Devil’s
Field yielded for me… I have sold Devil’s Field for
twelve thousand marks to Peter! Do you know what you have done? You have sold for this paltry sum
a lot worth millions and millions! A petroleum field lies
below that soil! So you already knew at that time
that I had gained an inheritance worth millions
with the Devil’s Field? So then, you never loved me! You must annul that thing –
either way! Maria, do you want to become my wife? I became a housemaid on the Rog farm
because Johannes grew up here. Forget your question, Peter,
as I will do it, too. Otherwise you will drive me
out of this house. It seems that one has to suffer about
him. I could not suffer about you, Peter. Maybe that’s it why I am not fond of you. I beg you, Peter, for God’s sake,
take the money back and return the slip of paper to me. Peter, if you don’t want making
me desperate! I have to talk with you, Peter! The tureen is not empty.
Take a seat and eat! After that there is still time left
for talking. My wife has contracted a sale with you
that must be annuled. As far as I know, your wife is of age, and she may dispose with
her inheritance as she pleases! But she didn’t know what she sold
to you with the Devil’s Field. But how do you know that under the
Devil’s Field there is a petroleum well? Is someone missing in your village? Here you have your field back!
I’ll have no truck with you ever again! Get out, everyone! That man must
sort out himself what happened here. END OF THE FIFTH ACT SIXTH ACT The general manager Rog is expecting
a business visitor. He has ordered to reject every other
visitor without exception. Is it true, Johannes,
that Helga committed suicide because you didn’t love her? Confess it to me, Johannes…
it wasn’t Helga, you loved… it was only – her millions! I love you, Johannes! Say to me
that you never loved her… I didn’t love either you or her!
It was only ambition… Take this note to Lellewel Castle
as fast as you can. The tests with the drill derrick
surpass all expectations. Further exploitation
of the petroleum well can be started immediately. Forgive me, Ludwig! I was playing
with your love. But my love has also been repelled. Your
kindness will forgive – but I cannot do so! I’ll revenge myself
– and atone at the same time. Gerda. Our Father which art in heaven. Thy will be done, as in heaven,
so in earth. And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors. The Devil’s Field is on fire! Nevermore… nevermore will the
hellish fire go out in me! Good news, sir!
Help has come from everybody. The fire is getting under control! Now they are all assembled.
I’m going to speak with them. Brother, I’m not worthy of
the hand that you offer me. Forgive me, Peter,
I have sinned against you, because I reviled you and the
soil where I was born. Forgive me, Mary! I have sinned against
you, because I despised your love. Forgive me, all of you! I have sinned against you
because I wanted to be superior to you! Did you know by any chance
that I would get home today? We were waiting for you every day.
Your room has always been ready for you. THE END

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