A true story: an impoverished woman, born out of wedlock, finally finds security in marriage only to lose it all when she suddenly becomes a WWII refugee. She defies common sense by following unconventional routes to confront the perils that threaten her very survival, and late in life, she frees her conscience by revealing long-held secrets kept from her daughter.
On January 21, 1945, Ruth, a young Silesian mother, flees her hometown of Neisse with her family and joins tens of thousands of refugees in the Frostbite March of WWII. At first, they mindlessly walk among the endless moving mass of refugees, none of whom know where they are going. Then, to escape the slog through the snow, Ruth convinces a German army truck driver to take her fatigued family aboard the back of his truck. Later the family boards a passenger train that eventually stops at a rural, bombed out train depot somewhere in Silesia. Desperate to find water for her thirsty children, Ruth dares to leave the idling train and sprints through bomb debris with her empty thermos bottle only to learn that no water can be found. The train begins to pull out of the station without her. Ruth frantically races back to board the departing train. Then, Ruth and family stand shoulder to shoulder for hours with other refugees in the pitch dark of a cattle train car. Without warning, the train stops in the middle of nowhere. The engine is uncoupled from the cattle cars leaving the occupants stranded in sub-zero temperatures. To avoid freezing to death, the refugees work furiously together to break open the iced-over doors of the cattle car.
In the middle of Ruth’s long trek in the blizzard, we are taken back 33 years to meet a beautiful teenager named Erna Bartsch. Erna encounters the handsome Berthold Schwarzer who plays piano for a traveling theater troupe that is scheduled to perform in her village. Berthold forces the infatuated Erna into sex. She becomes pregnant, gives birth to her baby girl and names her Ruth.
Meanwhile back in January of 1945, Andi and Tibor, two Hungarian army defectors, use deceit to avoid discovery by the Soviet Red Belts and the German Gestapo. They make a daring crossing of the Garam River by carefully guiding a stolen car over a bridge made of two wooden beams from debris retrieved from a bombed-out bridge.
After walking on the road since January 21, 1945, Ruth’s family finally arrives at the Dresden train depot on February 13. She has an ominous premonition. Amid the incessant frightening wail of air raid sirens, she urgently works to get her family immediately out of Dresden. Kneeling on the gravel next to a Red Cross train, Ruth pleads for wounded soldiers to bring her family aboard the last train departing from Dresden that night. Ruth and family are lifted through the windows of the moving train. The immense glass dome of the Dresden depot explodes behind them, and the infamous Firebombing of Dresden begins its conflagration of the city.
After arriving in Munich, Ruth is assigned a place to live in a small Bavarian village. Ruth and her sister, Big Inge, decide to return to Neisse to recover valuables left behind in their rush to evacuate. The women stop in Prague and befriend Andi and Tibor at the Alcron Hotel coffee house. Before the night is over, the women become sexually involved with Andi and Tibor.
While Ruth is being unfaithful in Prague, her husband, Alfred, fights on the Russian front. With the defeat of his German army unit imminent, he deserts his post and begins a long arduous journey on foot from the Eastern Front to Bavaria to reunite with his family. His trek through the forests is not without great peril. He struggles valiantly to survive the elements and possible starvation while hiding from pursuing Red Army soldiers.
Upon his arrival at Ruth’s Bavarian residence, Alfred’s exhausted, emaciated heart is broken when he sees that his beloved Ruth is pregnant. She begs for his forgiveness. In deep despair, Alfred walks to the nearby dirt road, falls to his knees and weeps despondently.
Ruth stands at the floor’s edge of the second-story hayloft and considers killing herself. Just when she decides not to jump to her death, she slips, loses her footing, and falls to the ground below. Hearing Ruth’s harrowing scream, Alfred runs to her side and cradles her motionless body in his arms.
From the beginning of the screenplay, Old Ruth, age 68, shares the above story via tape recordings with Sylvi (36), Ruth’s daughter. Just when Sylvi thinks she’s heard it all, Ruth informs her that there is still something else. Believing that Ruth lost her baby when she fell, Sylvi learns that the baby survived the fall. The clincher: Sylvi is the baby. Her natural father is not Alfred, the man who raised her, but Andi.
Ruth is a story that links music, artistry, and the supernatural. It tells its audience, without preaching, that beauty and inspiration do exist and are at least borderline supernatural. Very spiritual, we see the main theme as less abstract although the undercurrent of music, art, and spirituality runs throughout. It is a story about the emergence of counter-forces that arise when ordinary people are put under duress.
Ruth, whose life is immersed in the ordinary, reaches constantly beyond it. At 3 years old, she throws Holy Water on her dying mother's face, bringing her back to life. Ruth's prayers get her family out of a German army barracks in the safety of night after almost being raped. The angel, to whom she prayed in her desperation, told her to leave the Dresden train station. All of this reinforces in her a strong sense of something far beyond the poverty, harshness, and ordinariness of life all around her.
Ruth's future lover's omen both signaled a connection between their souls before they ever met, and, at the same time, made the same point to the audience. Something spiritual may be in, or from time to time, touching us.
But it is music and artistry that carry the theme forward in the screenplay in ways both touching and memorable. The panic to flee her home as her children are being herded to safety and Ruth's fear for her missing sister dominate the scene. What does Ruth do? She takes down her mother's music box, now hers, and pauses to listen once again to the music box. That particular song----that Ruth hummed along to at age three living in that humble shed with her mother----runs through the screenplay.
Playing the piano as part of a traveling show or making sketches of one's life experiences exerted power over both Ruth's mother and Ruth. Neither woman had any real control over their own lives or the ordinariness of life all around them. Both succumbed to men who stood out as artistic, Ruth's mother with the piano player, and Ruth to the free-spirited Errol Flynn-like artist. In so doing, each in her own way touched what for them was the supernatural.
A gasp leaves the audience spellbound.
Very moving and challenging.
I really found it to be a remarkable story.
This piece artfully captures and conveys something very difficult to communicate. Life has been upended by war. You pulled it off superbly.
What an amazing story! Ruth was the epitome of a survivor.
Ruth's daughter comes to life and gives the audience something uplifting to applaud as they have that "ah-ha" moment as the arc of the story sinks in.
Ruth is so stunning in every aspect that its beauty may reach a broad audience.
This screenplay is in a class by itself in terms of its themes as it revolves around music and art.
I marveled at how well written and engaging this screen play is.
There are literally thousands of screenplays written each year. As competitive as the film world is, this story is a "must-see"! Excellent screenplay writers and readers will study Ruth and agree that it stands above the rest in quality, scope and originality.
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