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I'm trying to remember a movie from Germany. The plot was something like this:

  • Young girl lives with her parents in a poor country (I think it was Romania)
  • Father is abusive
  • One night, mother and daughter try to get away with the family's horse-drawn carriage
  • Father finds them and beats mother to death in anger
  • The daughter has to watch the scene and gets mute due to the shock
  • Later in the movie a German buys the daughter
  • She starts to paint but still doesn't speak
  • She instead always writes letters and gives them to the postman
  • German man thinks at first she has an affair with the postman but learns that she is writing letters to her dead mother and the postman brings them to her grave (what is some kind of underground cave with many pictures of the mother and candles and stuff)

I can't remember much from the ending but I think the man buys a house with an artist's workshop for the girl and one day she falls in love with him and starts to talk again.

Does anyone know a movie like this?

Edit: I just remembered the end! They want to marry but then discover that the girl has terminal cancer. She dies of a brain tumor right before the wedding.

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I've got to say, that's one of the most descriptive plot summaries I've read in a question. Very well-organised, too. Good show! – rumandwrite Mar 16 '14 at 8:40
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Lea (1996) - Movie Poster

Lea (1996)

Lea - a modern fairy tale for adults - tells the story of an unusual and, in the end, tragic relationship between a traumatised girl from Slovakia and a former Foreign Legionnaire from Germany.

Here's the story in detail:

At the age of seven, Lea has already become accustomed to verbal and physical abuse from her father. But one fateful day, her father succeeds in beating Lea’s mother to death when she tries escaping with Lea.

The event traumatises her so severely that she's struck dumb.

A promise to her mother:

With her dying words, Lea's mother encourages her to write, and as she's raised by foster parents only marginally more compassionate than her father, Lea writes poems in her mother's memory and has built an underground shrine where she posts her work.

Lea (1996) - Pic 01

Another man enters her life:

When Lea turns 21, her stepfather is approached by Herbert Strehlow, a wealthy German who offers him a large amount of money for Lea's hand in marriage; the stepfather accepts without explaining the situation to his daughter.

Lea (1996) - Pic 02

Herbert proves to be as cruel as the other people in Lea's life. He keeps her chained inside his house and beats her when she refuses to obey his wishes.

Lea (1996) - Pic 04

The turning point in the story:

The marriage is a disaster until Herbert intercepts one of the letters that Lea tries to mail -- he suspects another lover -- and takes it to a translator in Munich who under stands Slovakian.

He thus finds out that the love poems that have been fueling his jealousy are all addressed to Lea’s mother.

As Herbert reads the poems he becomes aware of Lea's humanity, and her words reach a reserve of compassion that lurks deep below the surface. As a result, he becomes kind to Lea, and she responds.

Watch clips from the movie here and here.

~ Text edited from german films, allmovie, Dennis Grunes' blog and SFGate; Movie stills from

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