I came as a stranger and I’ll go as a stranger… the theme of Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise” (Winter Journey) accommpanies the itinerant photographer Friedrich Pöhler through a dramatic phase of his life as his attempt in 1909 to settle in the pietistic brotherhood community of Wilhelmsdorf in Oberschwaben fails. The film relates the life of the devout Wilhelmsdorf community and the farmers and tradesmen of the neighboring Catholic villages as a conflict between the strict pietistic moral code and the rough village reality which comes to a climax in the doomed love affair between the tired, lonely photographer and the pub waitress, Anna Limpert, who had been cast out of Wilhelmsdorf.
The semi-documentary film was developed and created under the direction of Klaus Armbrusher from a book by Thomas Tielsch. The film is based around a find of 350 glass negatives from Friedrich Pöhlers studio in Wilhelmsdorf which were discovered in 1993 in a storeroom and brought the work of the itinerant photographer into public interest. On the initiative of the finder, Claudio Hils, who was also the motivation behind the film project, Pöhler’s work has been honoured in exhibitions and in a comprehensive book. Only a few facts are known about Pöhler’s time in Wilhelmsdorf, however, the places and people in his photographs were thoroughly researched and the minutes of the Brother’s Council which held strict judgement over members of the community and meticulously noted the often desolate village life and the punishments meted out. Thomas Tielsch writes of an “invented story” which expands on the research to give it a reality. Correspondingly exciting and multifaceted is the script and dramatic construction of Klaus Armbrusher’s film, which brings the story into a flow of time moving between the year 1909 and the present and diversely weaving fiction and historical facts.