The Old Lady's Visit (1959)

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Original title The visit of the old lady
Country of production Germany
original language German
Publishing year 1959
length 115 minutes
Director Ludwig Cremer
script Friedrich Dürrenmatt
music Johannes Aschenbrenner

The visit of the old lady is a German TV film from 1959 in the production of the Südwestfunk . It is a film adaptation of the tragic comedy The Visit of the Old Lady by the Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt .


The once wealthy, but now impoverished cultural city of Güllen, where Johann Wolfgang von Goethe stayed overnight, Johannes Brahms composed a quartet and Berthold Schwarz invented gunpowder, awaits a visit from Güllen billionaire Claire Zachanassian, nee. Washer. In the hope of a donation, the residents of the town have great hopes for Alfred Ill, their former childhood friend.

When Claire Zachanassian and her future husband and servants arrived at the Güllener train station, the former stopover for the “Rasender Roland” on the Venice – Stockholm route, the billionaire made hints that the doctor from Güllen might soon find a “heartbeat” as the cause of death the pastor of the village comforted the bereaved after a death sentence. She also brought a coffin with her because she might need one.

At the ceremony for her reception, Claire Zachanassian Güllen promises a billion, with one half going to the city and the other half being distributed among the families living in the village. As a condition, she demands the death of Alfred Ill. He had once left the pregnant Claire Zachanassian and denied paternity. Ill gave as false witnesses Koby (formerly Jakob Hühnlein) and Loby (formerly Ludwig Sparr) who stated that they had slept with Claire. The child died at the age of one, Claire prostituted herself. At Claire's instigation, Koby and Loby were "castrated and blinded" for their false statement.

Initially, the citizens of Güllen were outraged and rejected the offer. But Ill soon notices a change in mood. His children no longer want to have breakfast with him and pursue other activities; customers buy expensive goods in his grocery store and have them written to. Surprised, the local inspector refuses Ill's request to arrest Claire for inciting murder, since her offer cannot be taken seriously due to the large amount of money. The mayor also rejects Ill's request.

Even the pastor, who bought a new bell for the church, does not take Ill seriously at first, but asks him in an honest moment to flee so as not to tempt the people of Güll. When Ill wants to leave the place by train, he is stopped by the citizens of Güllen. Ill refuses an offer from a passing driver to take him along.

When the Güllener asked Claire Zachanassian to help the place in another way and without revenge, she remembers the shame she experienced and refused. The teacher would like to make the case public and beg Ill to fight for his life. Ill, however, resigned and feels guilty for what he caused to Claire by his act at the time. The mayor wants to have Ill's fate decided in a town meeting and suggests that Ill commit an honorable suicide beforehand. Ill, however, insists on a judgment by the town hall, which he wants to bow to.

The citizens' assembly decided unanimously to accept the foundation offered by Claire Zachanassian, and that, as they say, not for the money, but for the sake of justice. After the execution of the order, the doctor diagnoses a heartbeat. Claire Zachanassian has Ill buried in a mausoleum on Capri.


TV-cult remarks: “You can tell that Flickenschildt is in her element here. She shows an unbelievable presence in her role and ensures that after enjoying this film, no other person can be introduced than Claire Zachanassian. In addition, as already mentioned, there are all the other actors in this play. Rolf Wanka, Hans Mahnke and Robert Taube also leave a lasting impression. That the texts in this TV recording differ a little from the original is hardly disturbing and to this extent absolutely legitimate. "

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The visit of the old lady at