This tragic movie's story is based on an Austrian folk-play, Totstellen (the title when properly translated into American English, means "to play possum"). Another proposed title for the film was "The Son of a Farm Worker Becomes a Mason and Builds Himself a House." In the story, a young farm laborer has improved his lot by studying hard and becoming a mason. Encouraged by his new standing, he marries. He has regular, well-paying work in his village. Driven by ambition, he accepts a job in the city with people he doesn't respect and who don't respect him, and he loses the support of his village boss as well. He begins to build a house for himself out of materials stolen from building sites. Overworked, and overextended, he is crushed by the resulting two courtroom trials and prison sentence and commits suicide.
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