Katja (Tatjana Trieb) and Johann (Robert Gwisdek) are life-long friends who are embarking on the step between childhood friendship and adolescent desire. They spend their spare tim together at their hideout, set amongst the ruins of a castle, in a vast forest. The forest is the 'Green Desert' which forever pushes into the village; Katja hopes that one day it will envelope the houses completely so that only she and Johann will be left to live together in the trees. The children dream of uncovering the remains of their Knight. The legend states that a Knight died avoiding capture, whilst trying to save his 'White Lady'. The children find the story moving and frequently re-enact it amongst the ruins.
The hideout also acts as an escape from their family lives. Katja's mother (Martina Gedek) is overbearing and oppressive towards Katja, who demurs rather than sticking up for herself, which she desperately wants to do. Katja finds this lack of self-confidence particularly alarming when she discovers that her mother is having an affair with Johann's father and that her father knows, but will do nothing about it.
When Johann first becomes ill, the Knight fantasy is a way of keeping his spirits high, so the children build on the fantasy. Eventually it becomes too much for Johann, even though he has a remission from the disease, his life lacks too many qualities for him to be enthusiastic about anything. His priorities change, but Katja is still under the illusion that they share the same visions. When Johann collapses at school and is sent back to hospital, his friendship with Katja is strained. Both children have to learn to accept different kinds of pain in their lives and their childhood becomes a distant illusion.
Saul presents a compassionate view of the frustration imposed on everyday lives by routines, financial worries, minor scandals and grief. He intersperses beautiful images of the children playing and the 'Knight in shining armour', with the claustrophobic, lifeless village and the alien confines of the hospital. The image of the emerald forest evokes the fantasy world, whilst the grey village and hospital enforce the reality, so the photography is both austere and alluring. Saul then splices the more mundane images with the children's nightmares such as Katja's dream that her mother and Johann's father get married, so that she becomes sister to her best friend/boyfriend.
The story line evokes minimal sympathy for Katja's Mother (Gedeck is superb as the selfish and domineering vision of the mother which no teenager wants.). Johann and Katja's fathers are both lost causes, so the children's characters are left to shine. Both are seen to hope (as we all do) that they will not become like their parents. Trieb is excellent as the confused adolescent, who is desperate to cling on to the security of her fantasy, but who at the same time realises that she must take inevitable steps towards adulthood. Gwisdek is convincing as both the vibrant youth and sick child and so the two leads compliment each other with ease. Unnecessary sentimentality is well avoided and the audience is not provided with Hollywood-style happy endings, but is left to contemplate a very well made and sensitive film.