Before Dawn charts the years of exile in the life of famous Jewish Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, his inner struggle for the "right attitude" toward the events in war torn Europe, and his search for a new home.
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In 1936, Stefan Zweig, the illustrious author of " 24 Hours of a Woman's Life" and "Letter from an Unknown Woman", leaves Austria for South America. Being Jewish and hating the inhumanity that prevails in Germany while threatening his native country, he has decided to escape the specter of Nazism. Brazil is his chosen country. He is immediately hailed at Rio de Janeiro's Jockey Club by the local jet set. But whereas expect him to take sides and to make a statement against Hitler and his clique, Zweig refuses to renounce his humanity and to indulge in over-simplification: he just cannot condemn Germany and its people. On the other hand, the great writer literally falls in love with Brazil and undertakes the writing of a new book about the country. Accompanied by Lotte, his second wife he explores different regions, including the most remote ones...Written by
An almost documentary account of the exile dilemma of Stefan Zweig and many other German artists during the difficult nazi years.
This is a very sad film, but if the ambition was to give as correct and truthful a picture as possible of Stefan Zweig's exile dilemma, it has succeeded overwhelmingly well. The character of the film is as close to documentary as a feature film can be, it is almost overly realistic in catching every day life scenes of the author and his friends and family, and the introductory scenes in South America, especially the Pen conference in Buenos Aires in 1936 give insight enough into Stefan Zweig's public standing and views and his definite refusal to take any political standing at all. That was maybe his life's tragedy, he wanted to keep it pure of any commitment for or against any worldly state and ideology, but in the end he was forced to abandon his idealism to finally take a stand against nazism in his autobiography "The World of Yesterday" and his last work "Schachnovelle". That could be seen as a personal moral bankruptcy in giving up his idealistic view of humanity, and he committed his suicide almost directly after finishing the story. It was found after his death.
Of course, a film like this can't tell the whole truth but only give glimpses of it, but the glimpses are accurate and expressive enough and give a fairly good view of the whole picture. He actually contemplated suicide already much earlier in his career, he even asked his first wife Friederike to join him in suicide, but she had her two daughters (from a previous marriage) to live for, while his second wife was free to join him.
It's a beautiful picture for its infinite melancholy expressed only in suggestions but giving a very accurate interpretation of the very complex and tragic case of Stefan Zweig, who was the greatest writer of his time.
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