Escberg, a sleepy Alpine village, in the early 19th century. Seff Alder’s wife is about to give birth to her second son and is writhing in agony. The child doesn’t show any signs of life until the midwife starts hysterically singing the “Te Deum” and the people hear the first wail that is like the sound of a dying cat. Elias’ only pleasure is to creep into the church with Peter and play the organ as its sound sends him to raptures. A day a new sound overlays the music. It’s the heartbeat of Peter’s unborn sister, Elsbeth. When Elsbeth is being born, Elias, followed by the faithful Peter, is attracted to a strange stone on the banks of the river. While Elias is lying on the stone a miracle occurs. In a kind of trance Elias hears all the sounds of the universe in an intoxicating and haunting symphony, which makes him lose his senses. He will live a difficult relationship with Elsbeth that provoked him a big sadness and he played the organ no more. One day Goller, a choirmaster from the town of Feldberg, arrives in the village to inspect the organ. Elias, for the first time in a long while, sits at the organ and plays away his recent suffering with passionate music. Goller is very impressed and invites him to take part in the organist competition in Feldberg cathedral. Elias and his wonderful music are received with great jubilation, but Elias knows he must follow his destiny unimpeded. This leads to the magic stone that once opened his heart to all the sounds in the universe. Here his life comes to an end in Peter’s arms while he’s searching for security in eternity.
Joseph Vilsmaier was born in Munich in 1939. From 1953 to 1961, he worked at Arnold & Richter; at the same time he studied music at the Munich Conservatory, graduating in the piano. In 1961, he started work as a photography assistant at Bavaria Film. In 1988, Vilsmaier founded a production company, Perathon Film, debuting with the film Herbstmich. He has won the Bavarian Film Prize three times. In 1996, he won the City of Trento Grand Prize, the Golden Gentian, with the film Schlafes Bruder. His most recent productions include Leo und Claire (2001) and Drei Engel für Dr. No (2001).