Vor der Morgenröte
Contemporary German cinema often draws from the a specific narrative repertory: the rise of national socialism and the Second World War, switching from famous protagonists to victims or minor dissidents, in its limitless need to rethink the Holocaust. For her third directorial feature, counting Meschugge (1998) which she co-directed with frequent collaborator Dani Levy, actress Maria Schrader makes an unconventional choice with Vor der Morgenröte: looking on all of this through the prism of distance derived from the American exile of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, the international literary superstar, who became a naturalized English citizen in order to escape from the Nazi regime and fled first to New York and then Brazil. Zweig, a prolific master of the biographical genre, becomes himself the subject of a biography, something he already did to himself, a year before his death, with the prophetic title Die Welt von Gestern. Erinnerungen eines Europäers (The World of Yesterday: Memories of a European). Not showing Europe, the continent where Zweig celebrated common identity and imagined a future without divisions or conflicts, conveys the tragedy of exile, the pain of an entire civilization’s loss, more than many dark period settings about ghettos and assemblies. The effect is amplified by the direction of Schrader, who being an actress knows perfectly how timing and long shots allow nuances to emerge, in this case expressly through the painful disorientation of Josef Hader in the main role. It’s inevitable and precious that a movie based on Zweig’s life, today more than ever, could make the audience think about the state of Europe, when menaces and divisions return to threaten the already weak unity: could we be able to once again call it a “spiritual homeland” like he did, or are we already in a domestic and unaware exile?