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.
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
The original title, Vor der Morgenroete, comes from the beautifully written letter Zweig leaves behind in the final episode, in which he says he puts it to others with more patience than he has, to wait for the early dawn that may finally come, after the long darkness of the ongoing war. See more »
What a masterpiece in quiet tones, insinuation and blank spaces. And the viewer needs to fill and interpret them. What Maria Schrader did not do is a biopic by numbers, but - by showing sketches of a few days of Austrian-Jewish writer Stefan Zweig's life in exile in Brazil during WWII - what happened without a doubt to many other artists, intellectals and others who had fled the German nazi regime. Josef Hader's acting is brilliant, how he hurries from government reception to PEN congress to press conference - always keeping up appearances but beyond his friendly and modest behaviour and the thankfulness to his hosts lies despair about the state of things in europe, his uprooting and depression. Only on occasion - when he speaks with his ex-wife (absolutely wonderful: Barbara Sukowa) and a befriended journalist (likewise: Matthias Brandt) who - coincindentially - moved into the neighbourhood of his last residence, Petropolis - he finally reveals it: 'How can anyone stand this at all?'. Or, in another scene you can see it in his touched-wistful gaze when an untalented brass band gives a poor performance of 'Auf der schönen blauen Donau" ('On the blue Danube') during an improvised (and very funny) reception in a province town in the jungle. The epilogue, shortly after his and his current wive's suicide, again shows the mastery of Maria Schrader's direction: dry police procedural, shocked neighbours and officials, mourning or praying friends, Matthias Brandt reading the suicide note - a panopticon in the wardrobe mirror that occasionally shows the two dead bodies. You only sit there and you are amazed and deeply moved. What a fantastic film!
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