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Philippe Thompson Written by Philippe Thompson
May. 7, 2017 | 10:46 AM

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Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe (2016)


“Each one of us, even the smallest and the most insignificant, has been shaken in the depths of his being by the almost unceasing volcanic eruptions of our European earth. I know of no pre-eminence that I can claim, in the midst of the multitude, except this: that as an Austrian, a Jew, an author, a humanist, and a pacifist, I have always stood at the exact point where these earthquakes were the most violent.”—Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday

Through a series of vignettes, director Maria Schrader tells the story of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig and his life in exile from 1936 to 1942 in her film Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe.  At the height of his fame, Stefan Zweig (played by Josef Hader) leaves his homeland, having fallen into despair at the sight of Europe’s downfall at the hands of the Nazi regime. In showing Zweig’s internal conflict, Schrader deftly parallels Zweig’s nomadic reality with a series of six key moments that she uses to frame Zweig’s life, including: his first visit to Brazil in 1936 (Jockey Club in Rio de Janeiro), his participation at the Poets/Essayists/Novelists International Congress in Buenos Aires in 1938, his time in Provinz Bahia, Brazil, his stay in New York with his first wife Friderike (played by Barbara Sukowa) in 1941, and his final days in Petrópolis, Brazil, where he befriends Gabriela Mistral, famous Chilean writer and consulate, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1945.

In an interview with Schrader, she explains that the episodic narrative style of the film was inspired by Zweig himself from his “Decisive Moments in History”, which gave rise to Schrader’s idea of “building a mosaic instead of developing a [traditional] linear narrative.” The narrative structure succeeds in creating an atmosphere of exile for Zweig, who, even in his new home in Brazil, never feels at peace in his surrogate surroundings and ultimately succumbs to his hopelessness.

Although the film lacks any significant treatment of Zweig’s writings, the biopic does convey his belief in and advocacy for internationalism, particularly through its depiction of Zweig’s life in Brazil. For this reason, the average viewer, not just literarians and those familiar with Zweig, will connect with Schrader’s film.

Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe opens in Los Angeles on June 16, 2017, at Laemmle Theatres:

Stefan Zweig, Farewell to Europe - Trailer from Films Distribution on Vimeo.

Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe
Directed by Maria Schrader
Running Time: 106 minutes
In German, Portuguese, French, English, and Spanish with English subtitles
MPAA Rating: NR

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