American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Imagine a landscape that seems to contain no joy. An American soldier has been assigned here, far from his home. He is an uncomplicated man, not young anymore, who has never really felt that be belonged to anyone. Also living here is a single woman, not young, who tends to her dying mother in the home they have scraped together out of the rubble. It is shortly after the end of World War II.
The woman speaks Polish. She lives in an area of Europe that is perhaps Poland, perhaps Germany, depending on how the politicians are drawing their lines on the map. There was a time when she and her mother lived comfortably and were respectable, and now there is the terrible shame of having to wear torn clothes and live in a few rooms of a house that is falling to pieces. After the long years of war, there is no lightness in her life, no joy except for one thing: Sometimes she finds a little time to paint.
The soldier sees her painting. He is touched by her determination to find some small beauty in this landscape. They communicate awkwardly because neither speaks the other's language. They talk with their eyes.
The soldier has little to do - there are times when he seems half-forgotten in this backwater town - and he begins to court the woman. With his GI's pay and privileges, he is rich by the local standards, and he is able to help the mother and daughter. Soon he asks the woman to marry him.