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Embezzled Heaven (1958)

Der veruntreute Himmel (original title)
This is a story of human struggle for eternal happiness. Teta Linek, a cook at a noble Austrian family Argan, thinks primarily of ways to achieve heavens in the afterlife. In the hope of ... See full summary »





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Cast overview, first billed only:
Teta Linek
Kaplan Seydel
Viktor de Kowa ...
Vilma Degischer ...
Livia Argan
Kai Fischer ...
Rudolf Vogel ...
Kurt Meisel ...
Lotte Lang ...
Frau Linek
Jane Tilden ...
Frau Fleissig
Edith Elmay ...
Ulla Moritz ...
Fred Liewehr ...
Leopold Argan
Kurt Heintel ...
Pfarrer von Hustopec
Minister a.D.


This is a story of human struggle for eternal happiness. Teta Linek, a cook at a noble Austrian family Argan, thinks primarily of ways to achieve heavens in the afterlife. In the hope of merciful acts, she helps her nephew, Mojmir, become a priest and sends him a lot of money for years. The problem is, however, that she does not meet him for a long time. But once, when he writes to her about his graduation in seminar, Teta, in her naiveness, travels to Hustopec to help him on his first parish. There, the truth is revealed - Mojmir is not a priest, lives in Prague, and spends the money on something entirely different. Teta starts to blame herself for naiveness and selfishness in heading for her personal happiness. In her despair, she pilgrims to Rome where she hopes to get a redeeming blessing from the Pope. To her relief, the whole group takes part in the audience at Pius XII. Soon after, Teta falls ill and having been rewarded by the Holy Father, she dies full of hope to get a ... Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

23 April 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Embezzled Heaven  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Perfectone Klangfilm)


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Version of Der veruntreute Himmel (1990) See more »

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User Reviews

The perils of simple faith
22 August 2013 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is a film of the novel DER VERUNTREUTE HIMMEL (EMBEZZLED HEAVEN) by one of my favourite writers, Franz Werfel. Alas, outside of the German-speaking world, Werfel is increasingly forgotten, but he was a master in the field of fiction and was incredibly famous in his day. Even today in Armenia he is probably still the most revered of all Western authors, because of his courageous depiction of the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks in his best-selling novel THE FORTY DAYS OF MUSA DAGH. And Werfel's novel THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (filmed by Henry King with Jennifer Jones in 1943) was one of the most successful novels of all time. (I have signed copies of both these novels which were given to me by Werfel's friend Han Koerner.) Long ago I was very friendly with Professor Adolph Klarmann, whose student I was. He was the editor of Werfel's collected works, and I heard countless amazing tales of Werfel and of his remarkable widow Alma, who was still living at that time and whom Klarmann visited regularly, struggling against her deafness to cheer up the old lady over cups of tea. He would have taken me to see her, but she was too old and deaf to converse with new people, he said. This film features one of the most outstanding performances ever by a German-speaking actress, although technically she was not German but Austrian: Annie Rosar (1888-1963). She was 70 when she made this film. Her performance as the cook in this story rates along with that of Emil Jannings as the hotel porter in DER LETZTE MANN (THE LAST LAUGH, 1924) as one of the triumphs of acting and the portrayal of pathos on the German screen. Rosar plays the character Teta Linek, the cook to the wealthy noble Austrian family of Argan. She is a simple soul, of simple faith, the Roman Catholic faith. One day her sister-in-law turns up unexpectedly at the grand house, bringing with her an oafish young boy who is her son, and Rosar's nephew. She says as the cook has so much money saved up from her wages, she should help her nephew. Rosar has no interest in the boy and no such inclination. But then the mother has the clever idea of saying that he intends to become a priest. Suddenly Rosar's ears prick up. A priest! A priest in the family, in short, her very own priest! Someone to pray for her specially and to get her her 'place in heaven', which has long been her sole obsession, for she has looked upon physical life as a mere preparation for the life beyond. And it is at this point that she is tempted to embezzle Heaven by paying for the boy's education so that he may become a priest and thus guarantee her her place in Heaven. This is where the story really begins. She sends money regularly, and often sends additional sums in response to the endless pleas for more. Many years go by and she sees nothing of this priest-to-be, but she receives a continuous stream of glowing letters full of gratitude and descriptions of piety. Then finally she receives in the post a photo of her nephew in priest's cassock saying that he was sorry that he did not invite her to his ordination, but he has now been made a priest, and describing his parish, which is her own former home town. So she goes to see him. She enters the home of the priest, thinking it must be her grown-up nephew, but he is not, and he has never heard of the nephew. She endures the tragic realization that she has been tricked all these years into sending every penny of her money to the nephew and he has not become a priest at all. She tracks him down in the town, where she finds that he is a photographer doubling as an astrologer, and a complete con-man and fantasist. He is brilliantly played by the Austrian actor Kurt Meisel, later to appear in A TIME TO LOVE AND A TIME TO DIE (1958) and THE ODESSA FILE (1974). Meisel combines self-pity, moaning, wheedling, coaxing, relentless bullying, begging for mercy and forgiveness, arrogant self-assertion, and manic delusional psychosis (reminding me of the swivel-eyed Tony Blair) to an astonishing degree, a triumph of acting. But Rosar rejects him and goes away, crushed and dejected. At last she realizes that she has tried to 'buy her place in Heaven' and that she has committed a great sin. Nothing can save her now but a Papal blessing, so she joins a pilgrimage to Rome to atone and suffer, and hopes to be redeemed. A kindly priest takes her under his wing when he realizes her dilemma, and assists her in attending a Papal blessing in Saint Peters. This is where the film really becomes astonishing, because Pope Pius XII is personally featured in the film, and a real Papal blessing is actually filmed at length and in incredibly eye-opening detail. I was all agog at the hubris and smugness of Pius XII, all decked in jewels and rich robes and carried aloft on a portable throne, and the sycophancy of the gathering. It was a truly sickening spectacle. The Catholic Church did not realize it, but Werfel's novel was a parallel story. On the one hand, it was the tale of a simple soul led astray in the cause of her pure faith, but on the other hand, the tale is the most savage attack imaginable upon the hypocrisy and falsity of the Roman Catholic enterprise in all its excesses and exploitations of 'the faithful'. I cannot discuss the ending to this film, but it is amazing. The entire film is breathtaking in its brilliance and subtlety, and cannot be recommended highly enough. Werfel's pathos, humanity, and satire are all there in their disturbing fullness.

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