SERVANT

LETTERBOX FILMS - as PROD

Jewish - Development 2016

England, 1939. A Jewish Servant is blackmailed by her employer's 12-year-old grandson, after he catches her stealing from the Lady's dressing table. Now, if she wants to grant her family a working visa, she must take part in his games of sexual discovery.

    • Year of production
    • 2016
    • Genres
    • Jewish, Historical, Drama
    • Countries
    • UNITED KINGDOM
    • Languages
    • ENGLISH, GERMAN
    • Writer(s)
    • Julian GRASS
    • Synopsis
    • It’s 1999 and Roslington Court is in a state of tragic neglect. A member of the National Trust lets its would-be owners, Tobias Townsend and his wife Gwen, visit the derelict manor house. He tells them the building needs an investor or it will collapse, so Gwen comes up with the plan to contact Anja. Tobias does not want to hear that name and insists that he’d rather see the house collapse…
      A flashback brings us to the summer of 1939, when Anja first arrived at Roslington Court. We quickly learn she has been employed for service in the house, but Anja does not look like any other servant: she is in a fur coat and is carrying a flamboyant trunk boasting the name “Von Dahlen.” Anja is in fact a Jewish refugee and has only one thought on her mind: saving her family.
      The days go by and Anja quickly learns that despite Lady Roslington’s kindness and hospitality, she will not agree to employ the rest of her family. In fact, it becomes clear to Anja that Roslington Court is falling into bankruptcy and it has become every member’s mission to survive in whatever way they can.
      Here Anja meets every member of the house: the polite and elegant Lady Roslington, the quiet and sophisticated Lord Roslington, the fascist-sympathising daughter Rebecca, and the young and innocent 12-year-old grandson Tobias. But only in the last one mentioned, does Anja find a friend and a distraction from the anguish looming over her.
      One day Anja decides to steal a sapphire ring belonging to Lady Roslington in a pointless attempt to pay for her family’s visa, but as soon as her employer notices the jewel is missing Tobias takes the blame. This narrow miss convinces Anja to go for another strategy and indirectly suggests Lady Roslington a tempting plan: set-up a series of charity events with the aim of funding more visas for Jewish refugees, whilst putting a percentage of the money raised towards Roslington Court. In return, Lady Roslington can fire the rest of her staff and employ Anja’s family to work for free.
      The two women go ahead with their plan, but Tobias now finds a way of getting what he wants. A simple request snowballs into a dangerous web of sexual games, when the boy demands Anja give him a kiss in return for the secret he’s keeping Lady Roslington in the dark about. Now that she’s closer than ever to saving her family, Anja fears for the worst and complies with every demand.
      Back in 1999, we learn that Tobias and Gwen have decided to turn Roslington Court into a museum of Jewish Refugees, in hopes that the Jewish Refugee Trust will put forward the donation necessary to save the manor house. But without Gwen knowing, Tobias enquires about Anja and gets her contact details…
      December, 1939. Lord and Lady Roslington organise the first charity events and begin to raise money for the Jewish cause on one side and their own survival on the other. They are surprised by their son Samuel’s unexpected visit, when he returns home to ask Rebecca for a favour only she can know about. His lover Oliver has been called by the RAF, so now Samuel needs Rebecca to ask her husband to pull strings and secure Oliver an office job safe from enemy fire. Rebecca however disapproves of Samuel’s relationship with Oliver and avoids asking her husband this favour, causing tension with her brother to grow. When Rebecca’s husband is reported killed by enemy fire, Rebecca accuses Samuel of being an opportunist and reveals his homosexuality to her parents, who in response exile him from Roslington Court.
      Meanwhile, Toby’s blackmail have forced Anja into a domino-effect where every sexual act is in exchange for Toby’s silence on the previous one committed.
      May 1940. News that the Nazis may have invaded the Netherlands thanks to blackmailed Jewish refugees send Britain into a frenzy of anti-Semitism. Suddenly, Lady Roslington fears the effect the employment of a Jewish family would have on her reputation, and slowly begins to alienate Anja in an attempt to find an excuse to fire her. Eventually she discovers about her and Toby’s affair and uses it as an excuse to free herself from the deal the two women had. She supports Rebecca reporting Anja to the police, counting on the fact that nobody would ever believe a Jewish refugee should the servant spill the beans. So now Anja ends up in prison and all her attempts to find a sponsor to save her family fail miserably. Soon she receives a telegraph from the Red Cross informing her that her family have been arrested by the Nazis and transported to an unknown location.
      1999. Toby receives a call from Anja’s daughter reporting that Anja is still alive but is too old to take part in his project to turn Roslington Court into a museum. Regardless, she informs him Anja would very much like to meet him, but does not tell him the reason why…
      1940. Anja receives a surprise visit by Samuel in prison, who comes to ask her exactly how much money his parents have stolen from the charity baskets. He convinces her to take revenge for all the lies they have spread and all the false hope Lady Roslington instilled in Anja. The refugee falls into temptation and provides him with all information necessary to report the Roslingtons to the police and make them lose Roslington Court.
      We leave all our characters in a tragic aftermath with no winners, and return to the year 1999 to follow Tobias in the final path of his journey. He goes to visit Anja at her house in Golders Green and meets her again for the first time in almost 60 years. Here, he finds a woman who seems surprisingly pleased to see him and almost oblivious to everything they’ve been through together. Anja asks him to talk about his project, but Toby confesses it is just an excuse it took him sixty years to find to come and tell her he is sorry. Anja confesses to have already forgiven him long ago and, when asked why she wanted to see him, admits she too is sorry. Now Tobias’ journey can finally come to an end and the old man finally feels ready to say goodbye to his servant. But before he leaves, Anja warns him on the importance to save Roslington Court: “It must never collapse, or people will forget”.
      Now, with the support of Jewish Refugee Trust, Tobias can see works commence on the manor house and for a moment imagine how it would have looked had the family never lost it because of him.
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