CAPSULE: This film tells the story of writer/journalist/ playwright Stefan Zweig who was a German writer second only to Hermann Hesse in the 1920s and 1930s. The film is a very personal and introspective look at the man that may require a second or third viewing to completely understand. The viewer's task is made more complicated by subtitles camouflaged by the background. What is most lamentably missing is a feel for the great writer's writing style. Maria Schrader directs as well as co-writing the screenplay. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
At the end of GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL the writer/director Wes Anderson placed a credit that the story was "Inspired by the Writings of Stefan Zweig." Who is Stefan Zweig?
Zweig was a novelist, a playwright, a political writer, a journalist, and a biographer. He was one of the world's best selling and most known writers in the 1920s and 1930s. Zweig was a Jew born in Vienna in 1881. His personal philosophy included that Europe could be united into a single country with no borders. His love for Europe proved not to be returned during the days of Fascism coming to power in Germany, Austria, and Italy. With his beloved Europe becoming more and more dangerous for intellectuals and Jews, Zweig left Austria for England, then crossed the Atlantic spent time in New York literary circles, and eventually resettled in Brazil. With the coming of World War II he despaired of his bright future for Europe ever working out. In 1942, with his beloved Europe warring on itself and descending into barbarism, he ended his life in suicide.
This new biography and exploration of Zweig opens in Rio de Janeiro in 1936 with Zweig getting a grand royal reception. An admiring literary community is giving the reception for Zweig (Josef Hader). Most of the first half hour of the film we simply hear discussion by local intellectuals of Zweig's ideas and Zweig presents his own points.
The film is in six chapters with not much connective tissue to explain how each set of circumstances came about. Zweig travels with his wife, but in the New York chapter he is with another woman and it is several minutes before the script makes clear what is going on. Some time shifts are also difficult to follow.
This is a quality production and well acted, but it is dry and suffers from impediments that the screenplay put in the viewers' way. Zweig was a great man, and his fears for Europe were well- founded. But the film does not give a coherent picture of who the man was and what was he trying to do.
Hader plays Stefan Zweig, but not in any way to engender empathy. His reactions seem to be wooden with only his eyes shifting. Viewing the film one is often let watching a piece of scenery for several minutes and the viewer not shown or told why.
Zweig's primary question is how can people of so many different colors, religions, and cultures all get along with each other. Today that question seems even a flat cliche, but in truth we are no closer to a solution. The film rates a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. The film was released in New York City on May 12.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3397160/combined
What others are saying: https://tinyurl.com/void-rt-stefan-zweig
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper