Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe (Vor der Morgenrote) (NR)

Drama 106 min. May 12, 2017
By Ali Arikan
Maria Schrader's excellent dramatic feature chronicles Stefan Zweig's final years. Born in Vienna to an upper-middle-class family in 1881, Zweig had become one of the most popular writers in the world by the 1920s. He was a passionate humanist, dedicated to a peaceful pan-Europeanism. Following World War I, his villa on the Alps, near Salzburg, became a cultural mecca for European artists. In his memoir, The World of Yesterday, he writes: "We spent so many happy hours with all our guests, sitting on the terrace and looking out at the beautiful and peaceful landscape, never guessing that directly opposite, on the mountain in Berchtesgaden, a man lived who would destroy it all."

Zweig's lodge represented everything that Hitler was determined to annihilate: It was the cosmopolitan, egalitarian ideal the Nazis detested. By 1934, less than a year after Hitler's rise to power, Zweig fled into self-imposed exile, first in England and then in Brazil, where he and his second wife took their own lives in 1942.

Written by Schrader and Jan Schomburg and divided into six chapters, the film charts Zweig's gradual sinking into despair at the rise of European fascism and the ensuing war. The delineation between episodes suggests a collection of monographs, which is intentional and apt, considering that the author's greatest expression of his talents came in his historical treatises. Through these, Zweig draws portraits of major figures of Western civilization, but also finds parallels between them and his own time. Schrader's movie has similar intentions, and Josef Hader, as Zweig, delivers one of the great performances of recent years.
Maria Schrader Josef Hader, Barbara Sukowa, Aenne Schwarz First Run Features

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