News from the Locarno Festival

Abschied von den Eltern

Concorso Cineasti del presente

Abschied von den Eltern



Novelist, playwright, artist and filmmaker, Peter Weiss stands tall as one of the German language’s most important artistic figures of the twentieth century. In his 1961 autobiographical, coming-of-age novel Abschied von den Eltern, Weiss describes his early peripatetic years in his native Germany and elsewhere, and his initial forays into artistic creation, framed as a struggle to escape both historical events and the reins of his family. Astrid Johanna Ofner’s first feature, years in the making, adapts Weiss’ novel, and is a literary adaptation unlike any other. The entirety of the film’s text comes from Weiss’ novel (with a new English translation by filmmaker Eve Heller) and is often spoken as voiceover, but sometimes read on camera in Straubian inspired stagings by an actor depicting the young Weiss (Sven Dolinski).

Although this could come across as distancing, in every frame of the film one feels the personal hand of its creator, foremost through impressionistic Super 8 photography, yet also in the way Ofner films Weiss’ underappreciated paintings and his personal documents. The novel is set during the rise of Nazi Germany and the Second World War, which Weiss had to flee because his father was Jewish, but Ofner makes no illusions that her film is shot in the present – often in the actual locations as the novel, transporting us to Germany, England, ex-Czechoslovakia, and Sweden. This historical disconnection effectively contributes to the overall ethos found in this delicate, highly moving and special work. To paraphrase Jean Renoir, nothing is more avant-garde than what comes from your heart.

Mark Peranson

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