It's a real shame for an Emmy winning production that the lavish German DVD box does not have English subtitles. But for anyone interested in the story of the Mann family this is a must. The casting is sublime down to bit parts (Katharina Thalbach as Therese Giehse and the very tasty Torben Liebrecht as Klaus's lover Tomski are impressive) we see the best actors German film has to offer with Sebastian Koch (Klaus Mann) and Sophie Rois (Erika Mann) standing out. A little letdown is that Armin Mueller-Stahl is very subdued and passive, mumbling his words whereas Thomas Mann was a mercurial, often aggressive person with a very expressive way of talking. But lookwise he's got it and he has his magic moments. As his wife Katia Monica Bleibtreu does a great job, but is denied the esprit Katia had. She is only shown as a dedicated wife but she influenced Mann's work a great deal with her wicked wit and observation. But these flaws aside the mixture of movie and documentary scenes is mesmerizing. Elisabeth Mann, Thomas's last surviving child at the time of filming is a gift as a chaperone through the complex story of her family's life. Heinrich Breloer really was lucky to catch all the people interviewed as by now most of them have gone, the vivacious Klaus Pringsheim jr, Thomas' devoted secretary Hilde Kahn among others. Sadly Elisabeth has died by now also. The sensitive way Breloer digs deep when they both visit places of the Mann story (Klaus's grave!) without being intrusive and her long moments of silence and then again her hearty giggle about her family's ways when you don't expect it are great moments. The documentary "Unterwegs zur Familie Mann" which features more prolonged interviews with all involved but also short glimpses of the movie is more than complementary, you should even watch it first. Again, a shame that this DVD was not made for international viewing.
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