Pedestrian, The (1973)

“I have something on my mind; I may have made a mistake.”

Journalists investigate an aging German industrialist (Gustav Rudolf Sellner) who may have been responsible for the massacre of a Greek village during World War II.


In his second directorial effort, Maximilian Schell tackled the enormous, daunting topic of post-war German guilt. The story itself isn’t entirely successful: it wanders off into too many disparate, didactic directions, and Schell relies too heavily on stylized flashbacks. Yet there are many quietly powerful moments — as when Sellner suddenly begins to reflect on the potential folly of his wartime acts, and tells a bedtime story to his grandson:

“Where must I go to find happiness?” the boy said.
“Happiness?” Death said. “Come with me.”

While Sellner’s grandson goes happily to sleep at the end of the story, it’s evident that Sellner himself — regardless of his sense of guilt — will never be quite the same. Ultimately, The Pedestrian comes to the sticky conclusion, voiced by a journalist towards the end of the film, that while “there may not be collective guilt, there should be collective shame.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Gustav Rudolf Sellner as Heinz Giese
    Pedestrian Sellner
  • Giese explaining to his grandson that “some mistakes are final”
    Pedestrian Grandson

Must See?
No, but film fanatics will probably be curious to check it out.


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