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Film / Die Reise nach Tilsit

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Die Reise nach Tilsit (The Trip to Tilsit) is a 1939 film from Germany directed by Veit Harlan.

Endrik is a fisherman on the Baltic coast of East Prussia. He has an angelic, beautiful blonde wife, Elske, and an apple-cheeked son, Jons. But trouble has entered into this happy home in the person of Madlyn, a Polish tourist. Endrik and Madlyn are engaging in a passionate love affair, which not only Elske but everyone in their little fishing village knows about.

Elske considers divorce, but refuses to hand over custody of Jons to Endrik. Meanwhile, Madlyn demands that Endrik separate from his wife once and for all. Elske's father for his part is so incensed by the affair that he attacks Madlyn with a whip. This brings matters to a head, as Endrik decides that the only way to get out of his marriage and keep custody of his son is to kill his wife.


Note how in this movie, made in Nazi Germany shortly before the Germans started World War II by invading Poland, the scheming seductress villain is Polish. Die Riese Nach Tilsit is an adaptation of a German short story of the same name. Twelve years earlier, the same story was adapted into an Oscar-winning American film, Sunrise.


  • Amusement Park: Endrik takes Elske to one as they renew their love after the almost-murder incident.
  • Answer Cut: Endrik says "I believe Elske has a life preserver," the life preserver from their little boat. Cut to the life preserver floating in the water with Elske nowhere in sight.
  • As You Know: Madlyn's flirty comment about how they have to skulk around the village to have sex is answered by Endrik saying "I would want to live in your Warsaw even less," letting the audience know that his mistress is from Poland.
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  • Betty and Veronica: Endrik has his virtuous, loving, loyal wife, and his exciting, seductive mistress.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The horse! Endrik takes Lise the horse along to Tilsit, intending to sell her because he needs money to move to Konigsberg with Madlyn. After reconciling with his wife he doesn't sell the horse...and Lise winds up saving Elske when the boat capsizes, pulling her to safety on the beach.
  • City Mouse: Madlyn, who complains about being stuck in a backwater village when Endrik leaves her to go back to his wife, and pushes him to get divorced and come to Konigsberg with her. This fit in well with Nazi propaganda that praised simple rural life.
  • Dramatic Sit-Down: Elske sits down heavily when Jons's reference to "Aunt Madlyn" makes her realize that not only is Endrik's mistress back in town, Jons knows her and has spent time with her.
  • Easily Forgiven: Elske sure is awfully quick to forgive Endrik for not only cheating on her, and humiliating her in front of the entire town, but almost murdering her. Of course, that fits with the Nazi ideal of womanhood.
  • Foreshadowing: There's an entire scene in which Endrik has to rescue a foolish boy, who capsized after taking his rowboat out into the "Windenburg area", where the current from Memel makes for extremely rough seas and often leads to people drowning. Guess where Endrik's boat capsizes at the climax?
  • The Glomp: Elske leaves the ground and leaps into her husband's arms when he comes home, because she's that darn happy to see him.
  • Gossipy Hens: All the townsfolk who seem to find Elske and Endrik's crumbling marriage endlessly fascinating. Mrs. Wittekuhn infuriates Elske by coming to her home and telling Elske directly about how her husband is gallivanting around.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Angelic, impossibly noble Elske has golden blonde hair. Although this aspect of the film is the same as in Sunrise, it also fits with Nazi ideas about Aryan pureness.
  • Hostile Weather: An epic storm blows up as Elske and Endrik take the boat back home. It nearly kills them.
  • Impairment Shot: Elske is not happy, when she's coming back to consciousness on the beach, to see the blurry face of Madlyn hovering over her.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Apparently. It's hard to say for sure as it happens offscreen, but a villager tells Elske that Madlyn left town immediately after telling the townsfolk that Elske was alive and on the beach. It seems that Madlyn has decided to stop meddling in Elske and Endrik's marriage.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Just as in Sunrise, the loving, angelic wife is blonde, and the scheming, slutty mistress is a brunette.
  • Love Martyr: Unlike in Sunrise where the wife gets into the boat blissfully unaware, in this version Elske has actually figured out that Endrik will kill her on the trip to Tilsit. She goes anyway, even after telling a neighbor what to do if she disappears. When the astonished neighbor asks why she's going on a boat ride if she thinks her husband will murder her, she says that threats didn't work to keep him faithful, so she's going to stick by him and hope that she can win him back.
  • Match Cut: A cut from a Christmas tree festooned with decoration to a cherry tree in bloom indicates a Time Skip from New Year's to spring.
  • The Mistress: Madlyn, Endrik's mistress. They first became lovers when Madlyn the tourist came to the coast and rented a room in Endrik's house. She's come back and she is determined to take Endrik away from his wife.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Almost. Endrik comes to his senses at the last second and recoils from murdering his wife.
  • New Year Has Come: The first act ends at a New Year's celebration. Madlyn is pissed that Endrik ditches her at the local club in order to go home and see in the new year with his wife.
  • Papa Wolf: Elske's father Erwin, who is very angry about his wife being dishonored, comes to town and confronts Madlyn directly. Then he assaults her with a whip. This proves counterproductive as an angry Endrik decides to kill his wife to be with Madlyn.
  • Pretty in Mink: Madlyn's fancy mink coat marks her off as a rich sophisticated city girl, and thus the villain—indeed this is almost an Unborn Trope version of Fur and Loathing. Later, after Elske and Endrik reconcile, he buys her a beaver coat (cheaper).
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the original short story the husband drowns when the boat sinks in the storm. This film follows the ending from Sunrise, in which both the husband and wife survive the storm and have a Happy Ending.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: Used for a scene in which Endrik calls Madlyn and talks about leaving his wife and coming to Konigsberg. (She does not know that he is planning to murder Elske.)
  • A Taste of the Lash: Offscreen. Erwin's angry confrontation with Madlyn about dishonoring his daughter is followed by a cut to the next scene, when two townsfolk talk about how Erwin was seen chasing Madlyn with a dog whip before striking her across the face with it.