Germany around 1910. After her mother's death the young girl Manuela von Meinhardis (Romy Schneider) has to enter a boarding school for aristocratic women, whose headmistress believes in strict Prussian education. Manuela - and some of the other students - adores the rather young and (for this time) unconventional governess Fräulein von Bernburg (Lilli Palmer), who tries to see the students as individuals. This believe goes straight against the education represented in this boarding school and sure enough soon there are big arguments between Fräulein von Bernburg and the headmistress.
Manuela admits her love to Fräulein von Bernburg after a theatre performance and under the influence of way too much alcohol. This leads to a big scandal which forces Manuela into isolation, followed from the feeling of being abandoned from her teacher. This finally results into a suicide attempt. Her classmates are able to save her just in time and the headmistress begins to understand that her lack of comprehension and her cruelty nearly resulted in the death of one of her students. Fräulein von Bernburg is asked to stay in the school, but she denies in favour of Manuela, feeling that Manuela needs to find her own way in life and that she would be a handicap for the young woman.
The book on which the movie is based ends entirely different: Manuela succeeds in her suicide attempt. Author Christa Winsloe (who had to leave Germany in 1933) wanted to show the destruction of Manuela. However, the film adaptation with Romy Schneider is brilliant and was a scandal in 1958, showing only one kiss between teacher and student, but one too much. And what a kiss... remember we are talking about Germany around 1910.
Therese Giehse (playing the headmistress) is outstanding and was a famous German character actor of her time. Romy Schneider and Lilli Palmer were some of the few international stars of German theatre and the other cast is just as good. But is sure is an older movie and some scenes feel a bit corny today.
Being a German I always have to smile listening to the educational believes and statements in this movie. But I know that this kind of Prussian education was reality way back in Germany. Which makes the movie even more interesting and depressing at the same time.
"Mädchen in Uniform" is actually one of my favourite movies and I was more than happy to be able to buy it on DVD.