1 January 2001
Enrico Sabatini, a 70-year-old Italian olive oil producer, has traveled to Baden-Baden to have his painful gout treated. While surveying the colorful bustle of the weekly market there he suddenly catches sight of an attractive woman aged about 60 cycling past him happily. He immediately sets off in pursuit of her in his car. At a traffic light he manages to throw a small message into her bicycle basket, then he zooms away. Klara Drost # the woman in question # starts off by thinking it's a letter bomb, since she is a high-ranking civil servant: a department head at the EU agriculture ministry in Brussels. She goes to the police, where she finally gets reassured. That it is only a small message from someone called Enrico... Then she suddenly realizes who the impudent Italian must have been # a former fellow student with whom she had a brief but turbulent affair 40 years previously. Enrico seems to have checked into the same hotel as Klara, and soon crosses her path again. Enrico finally manages to persuade her to have dinner with him # even though she actually has a date in Strasbourg with her fiancé. Gerhart Kogge, Klara's handsome and athletic 60-year-old colleague, wants to marry her now that both of them are on the verge of retirement age. Over dinner it's very much like the old days: they argue over the same old trivial things. But they also tell one another what has happened over the past 40 years. Both are now widowed, and Enrico now resorts to all his charm to win Klara over # not an easy matter, considering how temperamental, hot-blooded and argumentative the two of them are! Enrico then finds out about Klara's fiancé, Gerhart. Appalled, and shaken with jealousy, he tells her he cannot believe how anyone would choose to spend the rest of their life with such a tedious little bureaucrat, and insists that Gerhart is not the right person for her. Klara considers Enrico just as impudent as ever, but the two of them still look at one another with mingled yearning and regret, and we can sense that there's something irrevocable between them... The rather confused Klara now meets up with her Gerhart. He proudly shows her the photos of their last yachting trip together: gray sea, gray sky, flat land in the distance now and then, and Klara and Gerhart wrapped up in North German fur coats against the cold. The wedding is still eight days away, and the glossy photos # on which the gray seagulls can scarcely be made out against the gray sky # make it quite clear where the couple might be spending their honeymoon... Nevertheless, since her confusing encounter with Enrico, Klara is quite convinced that marrying Gerhart is the right thing, despite the fact that her unimaginative fiancé, of all people, finds "living in sin" rather to his taste. Just as the two of them are discussing the matter in the Euro-canteen in Strasbourg, who should suddenly appear on the scene but Enrico # in the company of Romano Prodi, the highest-ranking member of the Commission. Klara grabs the unwitting and consequently rather astonished Gerhart and makes a run for it, dragging him off to his apartment. There she tries to interest him in an amorous afternoon session, but duty-conscious civil servant that he is, he refuses to take the rest of the day off, saying surely they've both grown out of that stage... Back in the office, Gerhart tries to find out the identity of the man Prodi was having lunch with. He discreetly starts an investigation into Enrico. Meanwhile Klara has set off for Brussels, and in the plane she meets up with Enrico # who else. He seems to be pursuing her wherever she goes. Again he does everything in his power to persuade her to pick up where they left off 40 years previously. She tells him of course that their accidental meeting and empty relationship back then was nothing to base any hopes on, but at the same time she whispers to him, once the plane is on its way to Brussels, that the recent evening with him was the nicest one she'd had for years... Meanwhile Gerhart's investigations have borne fruit: Enrico appears to be embroiled in subsidy fraud! Gerhart has also just heard from Prodi's office that he is about to be promoted. Such a great opportunity, and just before retirement too! Gerhart certainly hadn't been expecting that! What Gerhart doesn't realize is that Enrico is behind this unexpected professional advancement. Enrico senses # quite rightly, as it turns out # that Klara won't be too pleased about the promotion... When Gerhart comes to see Klara in her office and tells his "little radish", as he affectionately calls her, about his new plans for the future she is offended. Once a person decides to do something they have to go through with it! Enrico bursts in on the middle of this discussion # he crept into the building secretly. The two men behave like rival stags fighting over a deer, and during the exchange of insults the Italian confronts the North German with the truth, telling him he engineered the whole things so that he could take Klara to Umbria with him. Heroically, Gerhart throws him out. The wedding date draws ever closer, and Klara gradually starts to get cold feet. Although Klara manages to get Gerhart to promise that he'll take her to Morocco for the honeymoon, it doesn't as if he actually will. A short while later Enrico's granddaughter Angela turns up at Klara's office to try to convince her to start over with Enrico again. She also furnishes a very good reason: Enrico's German mother would love nothing more than a good German wife for her son. If he finds one she'll move back to Germany again. Surely Klara could at least pretend... Klara just shakes her head. She can't believe it. Klara has also found out that Gerhart is in the process of proving Enrico's involvement in subsidy fraud. Appalled, she gets on the next plane for Italy to make a personal assessment of the situation on the spot. Almost the moment she sets foot in the country she is captivated by the magic of the Italian landscape. First she accidentally meets Enrico's mother, who is totally delighted that a German woman has finally arrived on the scene to look after her son. The old lady decides to make contact with Klara's mother in Vienna right away. So that problem solves itself without Klara having to contribute much herself. But what about all this alleged fraudulent use of subsidy money? When Klara finally tracks Enrico down, he confesses to everything, but explains to her that he is dong it for the good of his local district. Nearly all the people who live there are very poor, and have to live off something after all. Klara immediately starts working out a development plan for Enrico, of whom she is growing increasingly fond. Enrico follows her of course to her hotel in Assisi so he can continue to persuade her of his good intentions. Just as the two of them are kissing one another tenderly in the hotel foyer, Gerhart arrives on the scene # and realizes he has lost everything. Enrico and Klara are going to remain together from now on...
- Written by