Based on a short story by Stefan Zweig, set in post-World War I Austria. Asthmatic Edmund (Eberts) is the 12-year-old son of an American diplomat. In an attempt to cure his wheezing, his mother (Dunaway) takes him to stay in a remote mountain spa where he falls under the spell of the Baron (Brandauer), who fills his head with stories of his war exploits. What Edmund doesn't know is that the Baron is only using him to reach his mother. Of course, it all ends in tears. Snowbound Marienbad looks splendid, Brandauer oozes his usual sinister charm, and Dunaway is at her most haughtily haunted. The well-meaning sensitivity is seriously weakened, though, by the way Edmund's asthma appears to be caused by telepathy: before his mother has had a chance to become breathless in the Baron's bed, the boy's lungs have already collapsed in sympathy, leaving the audience gasping for air. It isn't meant to be funny - this is a tale about adult cruelty and the tragic loss of childhood innocence - but the end quotation from Goethe's Erl King has all the crashing finality of a coffin-lid.
Cast and crew
Klaus Maria Brandauer