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(French, German 1931 b 86')

En: 5 Ed: 6)

A border between France and German divides mine workers until an accident causes them to help each other despite their national enmity.

            Two boys are playing with marbles and argue over who won. At a checkpoint an officer tells two men that the French are not letting in any unemployed. They decide to try anyway and walk by. The boys are about to fight and draw a line on the ground, but two officers intervene.

            At the other checkpoint French officers tell the men that the unemployed cannot enter. Workers pass through. The unemployed are not welcome. A guard closes a gate to keep them out of the factory. Germans look at the coal that needs workers.

            In a mine men work gathering coal in carts. A man discovers a problem, and another says they are afraid the fire will come through from the French side. Two men examine and find no gas coming through.

            Fires are burning in part of a mine near a brick wall. French workers say they must rebuild the wall, and one objects to explosions now. A worker tells a man with a lantern that they must stop blasting while they rebuild the wall, and he passes the word not to blast because of the fires. Workers need to finish the wall before morning. Three men build the wall on Sunday.

            Kaspar (Alexander Granach) and two other German men get tickets to go into a dance hall and have their hands stamped. They see the band playing and sit at a bar and order three beers and a cabbage for a rabbit in a cage.  Couples are dancing. The German men discuss what the French words are for dancing. The French couples sit and talk, and a woman declines to dance with the German. He says Germans dance as well as the French. The French stand up, and another German pulls his friend back to the bar. A French couple leaves. The three Germans go out.

            The French couple hear the workers talking about the new wall. She asks the man about that, and he says there is a fire. She asks why he has to be a miner, and he says it is his job. She runs off.

            The next day Jean Leclerc (Daniel Mendaille) comes down stairs with a trunk, and Emile (Georges Charlia) says hello to him. Françoise (Andrée Ducret) asks Emile if he slept well. She tells her mother that the luggage is ready. Françoise says goodbye to Jean who says he is late for his train. She cries on his shoulder, and he asks her to stay with them and leaves. Her mother says he is a good worker.

            Outside an older man asks Jean and Emile about the fire and gas. Jean says they have no order to stay home. Françoise waits for the train and urges the mother to come to France.

            In the mine a worker makes a hole for a blast, and workers leave the area. The explosion spreads dust to where they wait. A worker sees flames burst forth from the wall that continue to burn and spread. Men shout, “Fire!” and run away.

            Françoise on the train shouts goodbye to her mother. News is passed about the fire in the mine. People run in the streets and out of town. Fire is seen on the French side. The people stop outside the fence of the factory. Guards open the gate for a truck and then close it again. An old man (Alex Bernard) sneaks in with the truck. He learns that the elevator is not working. He steals a lantern.

            Men are lowering a cable into a hole.

            Women at the gate ask the guards to let them in. They demand to know what is happening.

            The old man goes down a ladder in the smoky mine. The mine caves in and traps a man. Others try to help him, but a worse cave-in occurs. The old man goes down the ladder.

            The train stops, and Françoise gets off, leaving her suitcase a man puts on the ground.

            Workers are taking showers and getting dressed. They talk about what they will do now. A foreman said that six hundred men are trapped. Some Germans do not want to rely on the French to get them out, and others doubt the French will pay their pensions. The rescue squad is getting ready, but some advise thinking of their families. The Germans are glad that on the French side the gas connections are sealed off so that the fire will not spread.

            The pit foreman tells the director that the rescue squad wants to help the French. Wittkopp (Ernst Busch) asks for the rescue equipment. They are volunteering and say they are needed. The director tells another foreman that they can get there faster than the French. Then he tells the pit foreman to distribute the equipment and take charge.

            Workers going into the mine and seeing them going over to the French side. Trucks pick up men with their equipment, and the pit foreman sits in the front. Two trucks drive off. The German manager calls Mr. Berteut and tells him their rescue teams have left. They are happy to help. The trucks enter a gate, and people watch from the street. A woman hands them some food. A miner tells Anna that half the miners are trapped, and he kisses their child.

            Françoise asks a nun to drive her to the Thibaut mine, and she agrees.

            In the mine a miner lifts an unconscious miner out of the water and carries him away from the caving. The old man sees buried miners and calls, “George” as he searches.

            Rescue workers use an elevator to enter the mine.

            The old man finds a body, listens to his heart, and cries.

            At the border the two trucks drive through the checkpoint without stopping. The French guards are ordered not to shoot. The officer reports on the phone.

            Rescue workers wade through water in the mine with lamps.

            Françoise arrives where people are watching and embraces her mother. They see Albert carried on a stretcher. His wife Rose (Héléna Manson) joins him in the ambulance, and he says that all down there are dead. Françoise says it is not true because he is alive. Others may be alive also, and she urges them to force the gates and rescue them. The women surge forward and argue with the guards. A policeman calls for reinforcements. The two trucks arrive and stop at the gate. The foreman tells them to open the gates for the Germans, and they do. The trucks drive in, and the men get out and run to the mine. A manager thanks them for coming, and the foreman leads them into the elevator.

            In the mind the three Germans are eating lunch. Kaspar (Alexander Granach) walks back into the mine with a lamp and pick, and the other two follow him.

            The old man is carrying the miner and puts him down on straw in a stable with a horse. He moves the man’s arms.

            Kaspar shows them the wall to the French side. He says it is one mine and uses his pick. He says they can stay or go. Another man says the French insulted them.

            The leader of a German rescue team with oxygen masks meet a French worker, and they shake hands.

            The three Germans see a sign that indicates they are 2,000 feet below the surface.

            In the mine Emile is carrying Jean who asks about Françoise.

            Kaspar knocks down a barred fence in the mine and proceeds.

            At night people are waiting outside the gates.

            French workers find a man who is dead by a horse. The old man sees that George is breathing, and he opens his eyes.

            A horse pulls a cart, and Kaspar says horses are smart. The three Germans find the old man who says that his grandson is alive. They see a water pipe leaking, and then it collapses, causing a cave-in. The mine is flooded, and Kaspar says they cannot get out. A miner pounds on a pipe with a wrench and listens for a response. A rescue worker with a mask shouts as he searches. He hears the tapping.

            During the great war Germans are fighting French soldiers. A man with a gas mask is being strangled. The man who tapped tears off the mask of the rescue worker who slaps him. Then he tries to revive him. A man grabs a cart careening down a rail. The others hear him scream. The rescue workers lift up the miner.

            The three Germans are using a battering ram against the brick wall and make a hole they can climb through. The first one through says the air is better there.

            A miner comes out of the elevator and collapses. Others carry a miner on a stretcher. Rescue workers return to the surface. Medics try to revive a miner with oxygen. The rescue workers report that none of them is missing.

            The three Germans have come to the old man and his grandson. They hear a phone ringing and search for it. The phone operator says they are all dead down there. After it stopped ringing, they find the phone and tell them that five men are trapped in the railcar room.

            The telephone operator passes the word that they are in tunnel eight. Rescue workers go back into the mine. The reporters are notified about the five men.

            The rescue workers hear tapping by Kaspar. The Germans hear the rescue workers tapping too and find the place near the sound. They hear the equipment working and laugh.

            The next day a military band is playing as a man tells others what Kaspar said to the director. A truck arrives with men who are cheered. Kaspar is welcomed. Jean is asked to make a speech and praises Kaspar for the rescue. Jean says they are all united as comrades because they are all miners. A German with his arm in a sling expresses similar sentiments because they are all workers.

            This drama depicts a mining accident and rescue operation, showing that working men can help each other even though their governments may be hostile.

Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

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