Sometime after World War II, a small group of people make a pact to develop their telepathic abilities as a means of communicating, foregoing any type of oral communication. One couple, the Nielsens, announce that they are migrating to a small town in the USA, German Corners, Pa. After a tragic fire at their house 10 years later, Sheriff Harry Wheeler and his wife Cora take in the only survivor, the now orphaned Ilsa Nielsen. The young girl has never learned to speak, always using telepathy to communicate with her parents. They don't quite understand why Ilsa won't speak to them and Cora sees her as a replacement for the daughter she lost in an accident some years ago. When they enroll Ilsa in school, her teacher is determined to make her act like all the other children. Written by
This episode takes place in Düsseldorf, West Germany in 1953 and German Corners, Pennsylvania from August to November 1963. See more »
What you're witnessing is the curtain-raiser to a most extraordinary play; to wit, the signing of a pact, the commencement of a project. The play itself will be performed almost entirely offstage. The final scenes are to be enacted a decade hence and with a different cast. The main character of these final scenes is Ilse, the daughter of Professor and Mrs. Nielsen, age two. At the moment she lies sleeping in her crib, unaware of the singular drama in which she is to be ...
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While watching this episode about how a young girl's remarkable gift is overlooked, misinterpreted and ultimately psychologically bullied out of her, if you'd asked me what the moral was supposed to be, I would have guessed that it had to do with how society tends to destroy anything it doesn't understand. I suppose the actual message is meant to be "love is better than psychic powers." That's as may be, but this episode failed to set the right tone to deliver such a message. Everyone might have had Ilse's best interests at heart, but I was far from convinced that their idea of what was was best for Ilse was correct, or that their actions were appropriate.
Another reviewer excuses the teacher's behavior as simply being a product of that era. I don't know how you could see this woman's actions and attitudes as anything less than sinister, particularly her line about making Ilse just like everyone else. As for Cora Wheeler, I have my doubts that she truly loved Ilse and find it plausible she saw her more as a substitute for her dead daughter. The underhanded way in which she sabotaged Ilse's chances at being reunited with people like herself did little to endear me to her, nor did the hysterical way she clung to the confused Ilse in the end, screaming about how Ilse needed her, when the case seemed to be more the other way around.
All this is not to necessarily say that I wholeheartedly approve of child rearing techniques of Ilse's biological parents, but frankly, if a line hadn't been shoehorned in at the end that explains that the Nielsens viewed Ilse as a science experiment more than a daughter, it would be harder to condemn them as parents simply because they were a tad unorthodox. When Ilse begins speaking her name out loud for the first time, it didn't register as an uplifting moment for me, like Helen Keller saying "water" in "The Miracle Worker," but rather it had the extremely uncomfortable feel of watching someone break under the strain of mental torture. What was intended as a hopeful ending instead left me feeling saddened that something special had been lost in order to force Ilse to conform to the rest of "normal" society.
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