Director: Compton Bennett
Writers: Noëlle Henry, John Cresswell
(from the novel Je ne suis pas une héroïne
also known as Der Abend in der Oper by Noëlle Henry)
Rôle: Colonel Günther von Hohensee
Release Date: 18 April 1952
Synopsis: In Belgium, during World War II, a young music student and her mother are the only ones left of a large family, the men having all been lost in the war against Germany. Their château is partially taken over by the German Military Commandant. The girl, Nicole, has an intense hatred for the Germans and tells the Commandant, Colonel von Hohensee, so. When they discover they have a mutual interest in music, especially the piano, they come to know each other better and fall in love. They know it is an impossible situation - especially the girl who is forced by the underground to steal documents and information from him - and realise their romance can only end in tragedy.
Comment: The film was made at Elstree studios but a unit went out to Belgium to film various outdoor scenes. The film unit based themselves in the town of Léau, a small town with a population of 2,000 about 45 miles east of Brussels. Some of the scenes were at the Château de Sterrebeek, just outside Brussels, which stood in for the Château de Malvines in the film. The Château de Sterrebeek, built in 1761 by Jean-Antoine Ories in a classicist style was rebuilt in 1908 by Maurice Despret in a neoclassical style. The castle and the gatehouse are protected as a monument and the entire park protected as a landscape in 1958.
Château de Sterrebeek/Kasteel van Sterrebeek today
Behind the scenes photos of filming in England and Belgium
Marius Goring said that other than the Powell and Pressburger films, this one was his favourite."A touching little film," said Goring, "my favourite apart from the Powell films. Maria Schell was beautiful and extremely good. It was too soon after the war and people thought every German was a horror...its timing was wrong. A year later, and it would have been all right".
Availability: DVD (Network) Release Date: 9 November 2015.
Background: I was able recently (December 2020) to obtain a 1954 edition in German of the book upon which this film is based, under the title ‘Der Abend in der Oper'. The Swiss author, Noëlle Henry wrote this novel in 1937. But it was not published until 1942, and several editions were out of print in Switzerland in quick succession. Due to the circumstances, the book remained virtually unknown in Germany.
A few changes were made from the novel to the film version. It was set in WWI not WWII and in France not Belgium. Nicole’s name in the book is Erica de Bois-Dauphin, Günther’s first name is Dietrich and he is a major, not a colonel. Gerard’s name was originally Olivier and the housekeeper is called Céline. The character of cousin Philipe is Nicole/Erica’s uncle Gilles.
It took a few days to translate but it was well worth the effort. Beautifully written and very touching.
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on a ribbon around his neck
Silver Wound Badge (Verwundetenabzeichen in Silber) on the lower left breast of his uniform tunic
On the Ribbon Bar - the medals run from left to right
1. Eastern Front Campaign Medal (Medaille Winterschlacht im Osten 1941/42)
2. West Wall Medal (Deutsches Schutzwall-Ehrenzeichen)
3. Sudetenland Medal (Die Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 1. Oktober 1938)
4. War Merit Medal (Kriegsverdienstmedaille)
Thanks to Michael from eMedals for identifying the medals on the ribbon bar