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Vor der Morgenröte – Stefan Zweig in Amerika

Director and screenwriter Maria Schrader depicts four artfully composed segments that revolve around Stefan Zweig’s experiences in exile. The author of DIE WELT VON GESTERN and DIE SCHACHNOVELLE migrated to Brazil in the 1930s and committed ...

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It begins with a sea of flowers. The camera – breathtaking cinemascope by Wolfgang Thaler, who was also responsible for the camerawork in the Glawogger films WORKINGMAN’S DEATH and WHORE’S GLORY – goes back and the flowery sea is revealed to be a pompous table decoration. It is a reception in honor of Stefan Zweig (Josef Hader), the writer in exile, organized by the exclusive Brazilian Jockey Club. The Brazilian foreign minister is also present. It takes a while before the guest of honor is spotted among the other VIPs. It’s as though you first have to go through the official hullabaloo to arrive at the “truth” of Stefen Zweig.
The official hullabaloo is also the first theme of the four artfully composed vignettes director and screenwriter Maria Schrade and co-writer Jan Schomburg chose to depict Stefan Zweig’s experience in exile. The international writer’s congress in Buenos Aires takes place in August 1936. Zweig keeps being pressured to speak out against Hitler’s regime by journalists and friends. He refuses. Not because he supports Nazi politics, but rather because polemics from his safe position in exile seems to be in poor taste because he wants to insist on nuances in the face of increasing radicalization.
In other scenes we see Zweig and his second wife Lotte (Aenne Schwarz) looking at a sugar cane plantation. The sweaty author stands in his white summer suit, more fitting for Paris, between tall plants making notes. Everything seems absurd far away from Europe. We meet him in 1941 in New York with his first wife Friderike (Barbara Sukowa) and his two daughters who talk about their escape. Zweig gets letters from people every day who are also escaping. In Petropolis in Brazil, the last station of his trip, Zweig meets his colleague and friend Ernst Feder (Matthias Brandt) again. Though Zweig is enthusiastic about the tropical paradise, there’s a deep sadness in his mannerisms and gestures that only softens for a short time when he gets a dog for his birthday.
Every sequence stands alone and is akin to Zweig’s short story collection “Sternstunden der Menschheit.” There are no transitions between the chapters and no introductions of the many characters that encircle Zweig though together the detailed vignettes showcase the facets of being away and excluded which plagued the literary figure and which probably led to the double suicide of Stefan and Lotte Zweig in February 1942. In his suicide note he wrote: “Regards to all my friend! May they get to see the dawn after the long night! I, impatient as I am, am going ahead of you.”

Hendrike Bake (INDIEKINO MAGAZIN)

Translation: Elinor Lewy

Credits

Original title: Vor der Morgenröte – Stefan Zweig in Amerika
Deutschland/Österreich/Frankreich 2015, 106 min
Genre: Biography, Drama, Episodenfilm
Director: Maria Schrader
Author: Jan Schomburg, Maria Schrader
DOP: Wolfgang Thaler
Montage: Hansjörg Weißbrich
Distributor: X Verleih
Cast: Josef Hader, Barbara Sukowa, Aenne Schwarz, Matthias Brandt
FSK: oA
Release: 02.06.2016

Website

Screenings

Screenings

  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
All languages

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