Long Story Short
Bureaucracy and totalitarianism can close every border except one.
Magda Sorel is everywoman: daughter, wife, mother, victim, and heroine.
John Sorel, her husband, is a wanted enemy of the state.
His Mother and Baby live with Magda in a shabby apartment.
The Secret Police Agent is hot on John's trail.
Assan, a glass-cutter, is John's contact in the underground.
The Secretary works for the Consul and tries not to think about all those who need her help.
Some of them include: Nika Magadoff, a vaudeville magician; Anna Gomez, a concentration camp survivor; Mr. Kofner; Vera Boronel; and an older Foreign Woman.
Where and When?
An unidentified totalitarian state, mid 20th century.
What's Going On?
John Sorel bursts into the small apartment he shares with his family. He is bleeding. The secret police broke up a meeting he was having with fellow revolutionaries, injured him, and followed him home. When they enter to search the apartment, he hides, and his wife Magda covers for him. The Sorels' only real option is to flee the country. John goes into hiding and Magda goes to the Consulate of an unidentified country, hoping to emigrate legally so they can begin a new life where there is freedom and opportunity.
The only opportunity Magda finds, however, is a chance to fill out paperwork: forms, questionnaires, and applications. The secretary who guards the office of the unseen Consul is a nightmare: "These photos are not the right size." "This paper must be notarized." "No one is allowed to see the Consul, the Consul is busy." "I don't see how we can help you." "I can't make an exception, it would upset our system." "Next!" Magda takes her place as one of many people, all of them beset with terrible problems, lingering in the Consul's office, waiting, waiting, hoping beyond hope to hear good news.
Meanwhile, her life goes from bad to worse. With no money, no food, no heat in the apartment, her child grows sick and dies, as does John's old mother. The secret police wise up to the code Magda uses to pass messages to John's friends in the underground. And the police agent who stalks Magda is seen in the Consul's office, chatting companionably with the unapproachable bureaucrat. As Magda edges closer and closer to despair, John sneaks back into the country to try and rescue her. But the secret police arrest him, at the Consul's office, and in the end, it all comes down to whether the secretary will break the rules and do the right thing...