We know it’s a poor living situation because the walls are dirty, and the women are taking in laundry as their work. Well-dressed wealthy people are waiting outside the school for their kids. People that take in laundry can’t take time off work to do that.
We know there’s a sense of anticipation because the woman is looking at the clock and sets the table with a great deal of care, laying the napkin in its napkin-ring just so next to the soup bowl. The camera shots down the empty stairwell remind me of an Escher drawing of an infinite staircase. It seems empty and downright hopelessly desolate.
Elsie is playing with her ball by the wanted poster which my limited German tells me says “Who Is The Murderer?”. A man approaches her and speaks. We’re supposed to believe he’s a villain because of the lighting of his silhouetted shadow against the poster.
The man buys her a balloon from a vendor who is whistling the Troll King’s theme from “Peer Gynt”. I’m guessing this has some specific meaning in the context of the film. We see time passing on the cuckoo clock. Later, we see Elsie’s mother calling down the stairs for her, and the shot of her ball rolling away in some grass and her balloon flying up, lost and tangled in overhead wires. This probably isn’t going to end well for Elsie.
My limited German didn’t permit me to understand all of the dialogue, but I did understand the good vs. bad, the innocent vs. predatory, and the sense of the passing of time, and anticipation and tension building. The music and lighting played heavily into these understandings.