Jutta Pfennig In Netflix’s ‘All the Light We Cannot See,’ Explained: Is Her Character Different From The Book?

All the Light We Cannot See, the Pulitzer-winning book written by Anthony Doerr, and the Netflix original miniseries do not have too many characters to begin with. This World War II drama takes the readers through a journey of changing perspectives and self-discovery as the characters evolve into different personalities by the end of the war. Though the treatment of the characters in the book and the show is different, at core, they are a transformative human story. The other characters shaped the way Marie LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig looked at the world around them. They needed people in their lives who grounded them instead of fanning their inclinations.

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Jutta Pfennig was one of the characters in the show and in the book whose presence had an impact on her brother Werner Pfennig. He went on to be a German Army officer, and at many junctures, he understood his sister’s words and never dismissed them. In the book, Jutta Pfennig is a crucial character in Werner’s life. The author spent a good amount of time describing the dynamics of this brother-sister relationship.

In the book, Jutta and Werner were being raised in an orphanage, and there was no indication of who their parents could be. The brother and sister are close, and the warden at the orphanage is kind enough to not separate them. In the books, Jutta was the one who picked up the foreign broadcast and spoke about how other European cities were being bombed as they stayed mostly unharmed in their country. Jutta was deeply affected by the kind of news she heard on the illegal broadcast, and she wondered whether the news fed to them in Germany were true or not.

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Listening to any kind of illegal broadcast from an enemy country was considered a crime in Germany at the time. The leaders wanted the people to know their version of the truth, which is a common sight in any dictatorial nation. In the show, written by Steven Knight and directed by Shawn Levy, the scenes between a younger Jutta and Werner is presented in flashback format. Just like in the books, there is no clarity on their parentage, and the kids are not very keen to find out if they are of Aryan or Jewish heritage.

A toddler named Jutta in the show requests her brother not to tune in to illegal broadcasts because of the law of the country. She did not want her brother to get caught. But Werner in the show got hold of 13.10 frequency on which he heard the voice of an elderly gentleman who spoke in a deep voice and reached out to as many in Europe as he could to talk about nature and its truth. Werner was addicted to this frequency because it allowed him to stay ahead of the curve and watch his surroundings from a different perspective instead of getting conditioned into believing the government-approved news. Jutta in the show was not fond of what he did to keep himself content, but she continued to be a witness to his illegal behavior and always spoke in his support.

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In Anthony Doerr’s work, as Jutta grew up in the orphanage, she could not help but notice why the country was changing, but she never let herself get carried away by what she heard. She grew up to understand why discrimination is wrong and Jews are not supposed to be executed. Jutta was a grounding factor in Werner’s life who allowed him to see the world from a point of view that would help him make the right decision. In the Netflix miniseries, Jutta had limited screen time. There was no understanding of the bond they shared and how the German army was the cause of their separation. As the war had begun, Jutta was aware her brother would eventually be asked to join the army and serve the country. The day had come when she had to say goodbye to him and be hopeful that he would come back alive from the war front.

In the book, Jutta was against Werner joining the National Political Institute of Education because she did not want him to become a radicalized Nazi who would carry out many unspeakable crimes. Though being a student at a government organization would offer him many perks, Jutta was not sure if this would be the right thing for him. Werner joined the academy in the hope of securing a better future, but Jutta was sure the academy was mass-producing hate-mongering young men who did not worry about the consequences of their actions. She wanted her brother to realize this could be a wrong move, but eventually she had to succumb to his wishes. 

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Jutta’s words in the book were prophetic, and Werner could see the lie the army was feeding everyone even though he saw a lot of hardships as he traveled across Europe. He quickly understood that war was futile and would probably lead to their defeat. Unfortunately for Jutta in the books, she could not meet her brother ever again. In the Steven Knight adaptation, the makers got Werner and his sister to communicate with each other through the 13.10 frequency. Jutta seems to have kept the frequency open in case he ever attempted to contact her through the radio. That day arrived, and he was able to convey his whereabouts to his sister. Jutta was more than eager to find out if he was alive, but she knew he would become a prisoner of war.

Jutta’s arc in the book involved her receiving all of Werner’s belongings as a soldier from the army after a few decades. All of them had moved on including Jutta, but at the cost of losing their loved ones. Jutta came into possession of details regarding Marie LeBlanc through Werner’s belongings. Jutta decided to pursue her in a bid to find out how much Marie knew about Werner. The two women eventually meet in Paris, and Marie discusses her brief encounter with Werner, a person she could never forget. Jutta could obtain closure in the book, and it allowed her to move on in life. Sadly, in the miniseries, there is no explanation as to what happened to Werner when he was captured or if Jutta sought some answers from anyone regarding his whereabouts.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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