I became intrigued with Stefan Zweig after falling in love with The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was inspired by his writing about Europe between the world wars. I went on to read an anthology of his work edited by Budapest director Wes Anderson, The Society of the Crossed Keys. Zweig was widely known and celebrated in his time; he deserves to be better known today.
Maria Schrader’s new film (which she wrote in collaboration with Jan Schomburg) is a vivid and often heartbreaking look at the author in exile during the 1930s and early 1940s, with telling episodes in New York City and Brazil. At a crucial meeting of P.E.N. (the international society of poets, essayists, and novelists) held in Buenos Aires in 1936 he refused to condemn the National Socialist party in Germany and struggled to isolate himself from politics. What concerned him was the demise of European civilization that he cherished, a situation he mourned no end in his later writings.
The triumph of this drama is that it seems utterly genuine and free of artifice, through its constant change of locations and years—intriguingly set before us in nonlinear fashion. We are transported back in time almost without being aware of it. The period detail is impeccable, enhanced by the understated performances by Josef Hader and his costars, including the gifted Barbara Sukowa as his ex-wife.
I was mesmerized by Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe. It was Austria’s official entry for the Academy Awards last year but is just now opening in New York and Los Angeles (at the Laemmle Royal). I came to it already interested in its subject, and with a particular interest in writers, but I can’t believe its audience is limited in any way. This is an exceptional piece of work, not to be missed.
If you want to learn more about the film and where it is playing, click HERE