Ziggy Jepsen, a prisoner of the Hamburg colony for minors, receives a free German lesson for an unspoken essay on “The Joy of Executed Debt.” Yozvig himself, the beloved guard, escorts the youth to the punishment cell, where he is to “unlock the incombustible wardrobe of memories and push through the dormant past.” He sees his father, Jene Ole Jepsen, a rugby policeman with an empty, dry face. Ziggy returns to the April morning of 1943, when his father in a uniform cloak drives a bike to Bleeckenwarf, where his old acquaintance, artist Max Ludwig Nansen lives, to hand over the order received from Berlin forbidding him to paint. Max is eight years older, lower and more mobile than Jens. In the rain and bucket he is dressed in a gray-blue cloak and hat. Having learned, that the policeman is instructed to monitor the fulfillment of the prescription, the artist observes: “These half-wits do not understand that you can not forbid drawing… They do not know that there are invisible pictures!” Ziggy remembers how a ten-year-old boy witnessed tricks and dirty tricks, “the simple and intricate intrigues and intrigues that gave rise to the suspicion of a policeman” addressed to the artist, and decides to describe it in the penalty notebooks, adding, at the teacher’s request, the joys that get in the performance of duty.
Here Ziggy together with her sister Hilke and her fiancé Addi collects the eggs of gulls on the shore of the North Sea and, caught by a thunderstorm, is in the wooden booth of the artist, from where he watches the colors of water and sky, behind the “movement of fantastic flotillas.” On the sheet of paper he sees seagulls, and each one has “a long sleepy face of a rugby policeman”. The home of the boy is awaiting punishment: the father, with the tacit consent of a sickly mother, beats him with a stick for being delayed by the artist. There comes a new order for the seizure of paintings written by the artist over the past two years, and the police officer delivers a letter to the house of Nansen, when Dr. Busbeck’s sixtieth birthday is celebrated. The small, fragile Theo Busbeck was the first to notice and for many years supported the expressionist artist. Now, before his eyes, Jens compiles a list of seized canvases, warning: “Beware, Max!” Nansen from the soul turns from the policeman’s reasoning about the debt, and he promises to continue to paint pictures, full of light “invisible pictures” …
At this point, the memory of the supervisor interrupts the memory, and the young psychologist Wolfgang McEnroth appears in the cell. He is going to write a thesis “Art and crime, their relationship, represented by the experience of Ziggy I.”. Hoping for the help of the convict, McEnroth promises to stand up for him, achieve liberation and call that extremely rare feeling of fear, which, in his opinion, was the cause of past deeds, “the phobia of Jepsen.” Ziggy feels that among the one hundred and twenty psychologists who have turned the colony into a scientific arena, this is the only one who could be trusted. Sitting at his choppy table, Ziggy plunges into the sensations of a distant summer morning when he was woken by the older brother of Claas, who secretly made his way to the house after his, a deserter, twice shot his hand, was placed on the father’s denunciation to the Hamburg prison hospital. He is shivering with pain and fear. Ziggy hides his brother in an old mill, where he keeps his collection of pictures with riders, keys and locks in a hiding place. The brothers understand that the parents will do their duty and give Klaas to people in black leather coats that are looking for a... fugitive. In the last hope of salvation, Klaas asks him to take him to an artist who loved a talented young man, depicted on his canvases, demonstrating his “naive affection”.
Continuing to watch the artist, the policeman takes his folder with sheets of blank paper from him, suspecting that this is “invisible pictures.”
It has been three and a half months since Ziggy Yepsen began to work on writing about the pleasures of a fulfilled duty. Psychologists try to determine his condition, but the director, flipping through the written notebooks. Recognizes that such conscientious work deserves a satisfactory evaluation and Ziggy can return to the General System. But Ziggy does not consider his confession to be over and seeks permission to remain in the punishment cell to show in more detail not only the joys, but also the victims of the debt. From McEnroth he manages to learn along with cigarettes an essay about Max Nansen, which, according to the psychologist, had the strongest influence on Ziggy. Ziggy remembers how one evening, through an Inadequate blackout on the workshop window, the father looks at the artist who, with short, sharp strokes of the brush, touches the image of a man in a scarlet robe and someone else, filled with fear. The boy guesses that the fear of the face of his brother Klaas. Caught at work, the artist decides to do something incompatible with the hatred of his duty, tears his picture, glittering rags, this embodiment of fear, and gives it to the policeman as a material proof of spiritual independence. Jene recognizes the exclusivity of his deed, because “there are others – the majority – they obey the general order.”
The policeman suspects that his son is hiding from the artist, and this causes Klaas to change cover again. The day after the British air raid, Ziggy discovers a seriously wounded Claes in a peat quarry and is forced to accompany him home, where his father immediately notifies the incident to the Hamburg prison. “He will be cured to pronounce the verdict,” the artist says, looking at the indifferent parents. But his time also comes… Ziggy is witnessing the arrest of the artist, the way he tried to keep at least the last complete fear of the work “Gunner clouds.” Nansen does not know how to safely hide the canvas, and then, in the darkness of the workshop, a boy comes to his aid. He lifts his pullover, the artist wraps a picture around him, drops the pullover, covering the glitter of fire, devouring the pictures, and he hides them in a new hiding place. There he hides “Dancing on the waves”, which the father demands to destroy, because it shows the half-naked Khilke. The artist understands the state of Ziggy, but is forced to forbid him to visit the workshop. The father, from whom the boy protects the paintings, threatens to hide his son in jail and lets police follow him. Ziggy manages to deceive the pursuers, but not for long, and his, sleepy, helpless, is arrested in the apartment of Klaas.
Now, meeting on September 25, 1954, his twenty-first birthday, his age in the colony for the hard-to-learn, Ziggy Yepsen comes to the conclusion that he, like many teenagers, pays for what his fathers did. “None of you,” he says to psychologists, “will not raise his hand to prescribe the necessary course of treatment for the rugby policeman, he is allowed to be a maniac and maniacally perform his damned duty.”
Thus the German lesson is over, notebooks are postponed, but Ziggy is not in a hurry to leave the colony, although the director announces to him about his release. What awaits him, forever associated with the rugby plains, besieged by memories and familiar faces? He will suffer a wreck or win – who knows…