Before the Dawn full movie review - As specific as it gets, but still a good achievement
"Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe" or "Vor der Morgenröte" is a co-production between Austria, Germany and France and this is also the reason why this film include several languages, not only German, French and English, but also Portuguese as the majority of the film plays in Brazil.
The English title already gives away that this is a movie about writer Stefan Zweig, but this is definitely not a biopic as it is about his final years, you could even say about his final two years if you ignore the very first act taking place in the 1930s. And 1930s and 1940s should already tell you that the Nazis and the War play a huge role in here, even if you never see them and the action takes place far far away from Nazi Germany and World War II. Zweig says on one occasion that he cannot comment on or judge anything that takes place so far far away and also I as an audience member had the impression of being very far away like Zweig all the time.
But first things first: The title character is played by Josef Hader, one of Austria's finest actors for sure, maybe even my personal favorite. German film buffs will find more familiar faces in here, such as Hübner, who shines in his one scene, Sukowa, Brandt and Szymanski. Fittingly with the language, there are also quite a lot Portuguese actors in here. This 105-minute film is definitely a drama, even if here and there you may find a moment or scene that will put a smile on your lips, such as the Mayor of a small town providing a warm welcome and reception for Zweig, which may have been the biggest comedic sequence of the movie. Hader shines as Zweig here for sure and it baffles me to see Sukowa get the only awards recognition here. She was as much over-the-top as she frequently is and lacks convincing subtlety completely once again, something she often does and it's ridiculous how awards bodies still see her approach as something artistic. Schrader, on the other hand, I have never been a big fan of either and I still think she is not a good actress, but here she delivers in the writing and directing department in a way that I definitely think she is among Germany's best female filmmakers these days. Nice to see her get a German Film Award nomination for it.
As a whole, I already wrote in the title that this is a very specific subject, the last years of Zweig, but at the same time it is a very complex one and I believe this film elaborated on this subject convincingly. It also shows how it is still possible to make good films about World War II if you find and follow the right idea. Schrader did here and she also found the perfect lead actor for the part. I would not say Hader saves this from being a bad watch, but he elevated the material considerably. But maybe that's also my personal bias speaking as I like him a lot like I said earlier. The film was maybe at its weakest when it moved away from Brazil to the United States for one sequence, but even this part was not really that bad, just not as interesting as the previous parts. I would disagree with the final part being described as an epilogue. Either leave it out or make it an act on the same level as these acts before. But I did like the scene when he gets a dog for his birthday and looking at his wife at that point on several occasions made obvious how bad things were already then. There is also one very telling quote there, namely when his pal comes to see Zweig and tell him that he moves to Brazil. Before that announcement and before they "physically" meet, we hear Zweig scream to him if he can help him, which shows his hopelessness with the overall situation and how he is lost outside his home in Germany, no matter how kind and caring Brazilians act towards him. So you could see the dog almost as something negative because it was the final thing that made him realize neither the love of people nor the love of animals can really make him happy again and give him a belonging far far away from home. I recommend this film here. Well done for the most part.