Clemens Forell promising his daughter he will be back in time for Christmas.
As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me (So weit die FuBe tragen) is a German film based on the best selling 1956 novel by Josef Martin Bauer. In 1959 it was made into an extremely popular television series in Germany. It tells the true story of a German soldier, Cornelius Rost, who was captured by the Russians at the end of World War II and sent, along with many other German soldiers, to work in a Siberian mine. The movie changes Rost’s name to Clemens Forell. He feared, at the time, that the KGB might still be after him. The story struck a cord with Germans in the 1950s as so many had lost husbands and sons to the war, and a story such as this was food for the heart.
Considering it’s frigid location, there were no watch towers or fences at the mine. The elements were the camps best guards. Forell’s nemesis was the camp commander, Colonel Kamenev. He thought nothing of treating the prisoners likes Jews in a concentration camp. Upon the soldiers arrival, he left one young German naked in the snow, because he had a letter from his mother.
Forell's spent several years in the camp. Through his attempts at escape and his loyalty to his men, Kamenev came to admire Forell. Wanting nothing more than to get home to his wife and children, Forell eventually escaped with the help of the camp doctor. This began a three year journey across Russia, with the Colonel never seeming too far behind.
According to what I have read online, this is a true story in that he really did escape from a prison and travel the 9,000 miles. The movie has him meet up with some gold miners/killers. He spends time with some folks who seem very much like American Indians/Eskimos. They wear fur and live in teepees. The hottest girl in the tribe takes to him right away and they end up having sex. He has several close calls with the Colonel. Although I am a bit curious about what is, and what is not true, the movie has another point to make.
Forell was in fact a Nazi soldier. Depending on your view, you may not feel any sympathy for him. The story is set up for you to like, and root for him. The film never says what his job in the Army actually entailed. If the movie had shown him committing heinous acts against the enemy or Jews, I would have felt differently. Forell did not see his family for seven years. His wife was pregnant when he left and his daughter a child. You want him to make it, much as you want Anne Frank to not be discovered in the attic.
Perhaps you think he deserved what he got. Perhaps you think he deserved more. Forell, as portrayed in this film, is just another POW who wants to get home and start a new life with his family. Within minutes of the movie starting, you forget he was a soldier and see him simply as a man who wants nothing more than any of us would in his situation. As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me puts a very human face on what Hollywood almost always show us to be a cold, heartless villain.
Photos © Copyright B & C Filmproduktion GmbH (2001)