Director Alexander Kluge begins The Patriot where he left off in Germany In Autumn, with teacher Gabi Teichert digging into the ground of a snow-covered landscape. The image is a metaphor for digging into the past of German history, a recurring theme for Kluge.
Gabi, played by Hannelore Hoger, uncovers the skeleton of a dead soldier while digging, and his disconnected knee begins to speak to her.
The Knee - an actual anatomical joint - had belonged to Private Wieland, a soldier killed at Stalingrad during WWII. The Knee narrates the film, which is a disparate collection of documentary footage, fairy-tale illustrations, and fictional scenes with actors. Like a knee joins two parts of the leg, so the Knee in the film connects the various types of footage with its narration.